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Facebook Whistleblower Says Governments Must Check if Company Really Does Scrap Face Recognition

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Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen welcomed Facebook’s announcement that it would scrap facial recognition, but urged close government oversight of the move to ensure the social network lived up to its pledge.

Facebook made the announcement on Tuesday, partly in response to growing scrutiny from regulators and legislators over user safety and abuses on its platforms. Activists have criticised faceprinting as a serious threat to privacy.

“I strongly encourage government oversight,” Haugen said.

“When they say we’ve got rid of this, what does that actually mean,” she asked. “There has to be more transparency on how these operations work to make sure they actually follow through.”

Ahead of a meeting with Germany’s justice minister, the whistleblower, who leaked a trove of damaging documents about Facebook’s inner workings, added that the European Union’s and Britain’s “principles-based” regulation was more effective in constraining technology companies than the United States’s more rigid rules-based approach.

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Europe also had a particular role to play in ensuring Facebook improves its monitoring of content in languages other than English.

Facebook has faced criticism for failing to act against hate speech in languages from Burmese to Greek even as it steps up its monitoring of English-language posts in the wake of the storming of the US Capitol on January 6.

“A linguistically diverse place like Europe can be an advocate for everybody around the world that doesn’t speak English,” she said. “The reality is that Facebook has radically under-invested in safety and security systems for all languages other than English.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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Snap Said to Shut Down Development of Pixy Flying Selfie Drone Camera: Report

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Snapchat parent Snap will stop future development of its Pixy flying selfie drone, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. Pixy, which costs $230 (roughly Rs. 18.300), will continue to be sold in its current iteration, according to the report.

The news comes nearly four months after the Santa Monica, California-based company launched the pocket-sized Pixy camera, which can fly a few feet above its user to take photos and videos.

Snap declined to comment on the report.

Rising costs and other economic woes have forced companies to curb their marketing spend, hurting ad-reliant online companies such as Snap, Facebook-parent Meta, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Last month, Snap had warned of “incredibly challenging conditions” due to the current economic turmoil and increasing competition after reporting disappointing results.

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The company, which is reeling from privacy changes made to Apple’s iPhone, had also said it would significantly slow hiring, invest in its advertising business and find new sources of revenue as part of its belt-tightening efforts.

On Monday, Snap said it had reached 1 million subscribers for its Snapchat premium subscription, after launching the service in June as a new source of revenue.

Social media companies including SnapTwitter, and Meta Platforms, which all earn the majority of revenue from selling digital advertising, are facing a weakening ad market due to record-high inflation causing brands to reign in their marketing spending.

Snap’s shares dropped 25 percent last month after disappointing second quarter earnings, as it suffered from weaker advertising demand than Wall Street had expected. Chief Executive Evan Spiegel said the company would work to speed up revenue growth, in part through new sources of revenue.

See also  Social Media Marketing Trends To Watch In 2022

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Vietnam Orders Technology Firms, Telecom Operators to Store User Data Locally, Set Up Local Offices

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Vietnam’s government has ordered technology firms to store their users’ data locally and set up local offices, its latest move to tighten cybersecurity rules.

The new rules, issued in a decree on Wednesday, will apply to social media companies like Alphabet’s Google and Meta’s Facebook, and telecommunications operators, and will take effect on October 1.

“Data of all Internet users ranging from financial records and biometric data to information on peoples’ ethnicity and political views, or any data created by users while surfing the internet must be to stored domestically,” the decree stated.

Authorities will have the right to issue data collection requests for purpose of investigation and to ask service providers to remove content if it is deemed to violate the government’s guidelines, the decree added.

Foreign firms will have 12 months to set up local data storage and representative offices after receiving instructions from the Minister of Public Security, and will have to store the data onshore for a minimum period of 24 months, according to the decree.

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Two tech firms contacted by Reuters, Google and Meta, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Vietnam is run by the Communist Party, which maintains tight media censorship and tolerates little dissent. It has tightened Internet rules over the past few years, culminating in a cybersecurity law that came into effect in 2019 and national guidelines on social media behaviour introduced in June last year.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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Government Orders to Block 8 YouTube Channels for Alleged Disinformation

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The government on Thursday ordered blocking of eight YouTube channels, including one operating from Pakistan, for allegedly spreading disinformation related to India’s national security, foreign relations and public order.

The blocked YouTube channels had over 114 crore views; and 85.73 lakh subscribers and the content was being monetised, an official statement said.

The channels that were blocked under the Information Technology Rules-2021 include seven Indian news channels. The blocked YouTube channels made false claims such as demolition of religious structures by the Government of India, ban on celebration of religious festivals, declaration of religious war in India, an official statement said.

“Such content was found to have the potential to create communal disharmony and disturb public order in the country,” it said.

It said the YouTube channels were also used to post fake news on various subjects such as the Indian Armed Forces and Jammu and Kashmir.

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“The content was observed to be completely false and sensitive from the perspective of national security and India’s friendly relations with foreign States,” the statement said.

It has been revealed that fake anti-India content was being monetised by the blocked channels on YouTube.

Earlier on April 25, the government had blocked 16 YouTube news channels including 10 Indian and 6 Pakistan-based channels for spreading disinformation related to India’s national security, foreign relations, and public order.

According to information shared by minister of state for electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar in a written reply to Rajya Sabha earlier this month, the government has issued 105 directions to social media platforms under the new IT rules that came into effect in February last year. The directions were issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under the new rules.

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The data shared by the minister shows that 94 directions to block content was issued to YouTube between December 2021 and April 2022, five to Twitter, and three each to Facebook and Instagram.

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