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Twitter Ordered to Censor Tweets, Handles Critical of Indian Government’s Internet Censorship, More: Report

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Twitter was allegedly ordered by the Indian government in 2021 to block 2020 tweets by Freedom House in India that reported the declining Internet freedom in the country. The social media company is said to have only enforced the order on Sunday. It also blocked some tweets and/ or handles of various other users who are said to be critical of the India government. Various users have shared screenshots of emails they received from the microblogging platform explaining that the content they shared has been blocked in India. Furthermore, some auxiliary accounts of users have shared screenshots which read that their accounts have been “withheld in India in response to a legal demand.” However, in some cases Twitter has not taken any action after a removal request from the Government of India.

The development was first reported by Entrackr, and the publication claimed that the content removal requests came in 24 batches but were disclosed (and apparently enforced) by Twitter on Sunday. It is to be noted that the content of accounts and handles that are blocked in India are visible in other countries. Gadgets 360 has reviewed the list of tweets that the Indian government ordered Twitter to block, citing Information Technology Act, 2000 as the reason for removal, via the Lumen database – which tracks removal requests for online content. Moreover, we reached out to Twitter for a statement on the move, and received this statement, “As explained in our Country Withheld Policy, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in response to a valid legal demand. The withholdings are limited to the specific jurisdiction/country where the content is determined to be illegal.”

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Specific content posted by the handles of Freedom House (@freedomhouse), which is a pro-democracy organisation dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, as per its bio, has been restricted in India. The tweets withheld in India include one that discussed the declining state of Internet freedom in India, part of the organisation’s Freedom in the World 2021 report, the publication notes.

One of the withheld tweets by Freedom House included a link to a report which consisted of the names of countries (including India) that blocked people from websites as well as social media and its impact on curbing their access to information during Covid-19.

A user further highlighted that the Freedom House has taken down India’s Democracy Score from its interactive database, retaining only Global Freedom and Internet Freedom scores. The claims have not been independently confirmed by Gadgets 360.

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Certain content posted by handle of Pieter Friedrich (@FriedrichPieter), a journalist and expert on South Asia affairs, was also withheld. Separately, Rana Ayyub, a journalist associated with The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Time, New York Times, The Guardian, among other publications, posted a screenshot of an email she received from Twitter in which the platform has informed her that some content (or tweet) she posted via her account has been withheld in India under Information Technology Act, 2000.

The email clearly says that it is Twitter’s policy to notify account holders in case they receive requests from authorised entities such as law enforcement or a government agency to remove content from their account.

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Other than Ayyub, Furthermore, Twitter accounts of a Kuwaiti Lawyer who has Twitter handle @MJALSHRIKA, who has a history of speaking against the “atrocities on Indian Muslims”, CJ Werleman (@cjwerleman) (via CJwerlemanshow) and @tTractor2twitr, which supported farmers movement (via) have been “withheld in India in response to a legal demand.”

Meanwhile, Twitter has also informed some users that they received a request from the Indian government regarding their account violating the laws of India but the company hasn’t taken any action against them. Journalist Mohammed Zubair, who recently was in the news for sharing a clip in which ex-BJP leader Nupur Sharma allegedly passed some derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad in a debate, shared a screenshot in which Twitter clearly mentions that it has “not taken any action on the reported content at this time” because “it believed in defending and respecting the voice of our users.” Zubair was arrested last evening by Delhi Police for a 2018 tweet.

As per a 2021 report by Twitter, India was among the five countries which represented 95 percent of the total global volume of legal demands, which include a combination of court orders and other formal demands to remove content, from both governmental entities and lawyers representing individuals. India accounted for 11 percent of global legal demands, down from 18 percent in the previous reporting period.

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Twitter reportedly saw a surge in government demands worldwide in 2020 to take down content posted by journalists and news outlets. India submitted most of the removal requests, followed by Turkey, Pakistan, and Russia.


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Mark Zuckerberg Calls Apple’s App Store Moderation Rules a ‘Conflict of Interest’

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Meta Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said that Apple’s App Store presents a conflict of interest, adding his voice to a flurry of criticism of the iPhone maker’s software policies. “It is problematic for one company to be able to control what app experiences end up on a device,” Zuckerberg said Wednesday in an interview at the New York Times DealBook conference. The “vast majority of profits in mobile ecosystem go toward Apple,” he added.

App Store policies and fees implemented by Apple, and to a lesser extent Google parent Alphabet, have long been a point of contention for technology companies looking to reach broad mobile audiences. Billionaire Elon Musk added to the chorus after his acquisition of Twitter, sending a flurry of tweets this week denouncing Apple’s fees and restrictions on what apps can be sold.

Zuckerberg echoed some of Musk’s points. He called Apple’s content moderation rules for apps a “conflict of interest” since they are often pointed at rivals. It makes Apple “not just a governor looking out for people’s interests.” Revenue at Meta, which owns social networks Facebook and Instagram, has taken a hit since Apple tightened its privacy policies to restrict how users can be tracked and targeted with advertising.

Though Zuckerberg seemed to back up his objection to Apple’s policies, Musk on Wednesday walked back some of his criticism of the iPhone maker, saying he met with CEO Tim Cook at the company’s headquarters and had a “good conversation” that resolved a “misunderstanding” about Twitter’s place in the App Store.

As for Musk’s approach to running Twitter, Zuckerberg hedged his comments — he said he guesses that some approaches will work and others won’t. “I think it’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out,” he said.

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On whether Meta would allow former US President Donald Trump back onto Facebook, Zuckerberg didn’t answer, but pointed to prior guidance the company has gotten from its external Oversight Board, weighing in on difficult content decisions. Meta is expected to make a decision in January.

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Wall Street has become increasingly bearish on Meta’s investment in its money-losing virtual reality business amid slowing ad revenue. Earlier this month, Zuckerberg said the company would slash more than 11,000 jobs, and took personal responsibility for decisions that led to the need to cut costs. In April, Meta reported its first-ever quarterly revenue drop.

The interview Wednesday began with a recorded conversation between Zuckerberg and the moderator as avatars in the immersive digital world the company calls the metaverse. Still, Zuckerberg said the idea that Meta is wholly focused on the metaverse is “basically wrong.” Messaging program WhatsApp will be his next major monetization target, he said, as that platform is “largely untapped.”

He cited progress in Reels, the company’s short video feature, saying some estimates show it has half the traffic of viral video-sharing app TikTok outside of China.

Zuckerberg also raised the issue of TikTok’s ownership by Beijing-based ByteDance, adding that there are “real questions” about the influence of China’s government on TikTok. “In a lot of countries, all data goes to the government,” the CEO said.

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© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.


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Twitter Faces Ban Over Content Moderation, EU Chief Warns Elon Musk: Report

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The European Union has threatened Elon Musk’s Twitter with a ban unless the billionaire abides by its strict rules on content moderation, setting up a regulatory battle over the future of the social media platform, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton made the threat during a video meeting with Musk on Wednesday, the FT reported, citing people with knowledge of the conversation.

Breton told Musk he must adhere to a checklist of rules, including ditching an “arbitrary” approach to reinstating banned users and agreeing to an “extensive independent audit” of the platform by next year, according to the report.

Twitter and the EU did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Breton had previously urged Musk to comply with landmark EU rules against online hate speech and disinformation. The European Commission’s justice chief Didier Reynders had also voiced similar comments.

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Reuters reported in October that Elon Musk had assured the European Commission that Twitter will continue to abide by tough European rules on illegal online content policing now the social network has passed under his ownership.

The assurances from Musk appeared to suggest a pragmatic attitude from the CEO of electric car maker Tesla, who has previously expressed his desire to see Twitter have fewer limits on content that can be posted.

In May this year, EU industry chief Thierry Breton met Musk in Texas and the two signalled agreement on EU digital media regulation ahead of Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

The previous meeting came weeks after the world’s richest man clinched a deal to buy the social media company for $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,40,270 crore) in cash.

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In a video with the two men posted on Twitter by Breton, the EU official tells Musk that he explained the Digital Services Act to Musk. “It fits pretty well with what you think we should do,” Breton tells Musk in a tweet that included the hashtag #DSA.

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“I think it’s exactly aligned with my thinking,” Musk responds.

The two did not go into detail on the new law, which levies hefty fines on companies if they do not control illegal content. The rules ban advertising aimed at children or based on religion, gender, race, and political opinions, for example.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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Twitter Not Safer Under Elon Musk Leadership, Says Former Head of Trust and Safety

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Twitter’s former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth on Tuesday said the social media company was not safer under new owner Elon Musk, warning in his first interview since resigning this month that the company no longer had enough staff for safety work.

Roth had tweeted after Musk’s takeover that by some measures, Twitter safety had improved under the billionaire’s ownership.

Asked in an interview at the Knight Foundation conference on Tuesday whether he still felt that way, Roth said: “No.”

Roth was a Twitter veteran who helped steer the social media platform through several watershed decisions, including the move to permanently suspend its most famous user, former US President Donald Trump, last year.

His departure further rattled advertisers, many of whom backed away from Twitter after Musk laid off half of the staff, including many involved with content moderation.

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Before Musk assumed the helm at Twitter, about 2,200 people globally were focused on content moderation work, said Roth. He said he did not know the number after the acquisition because the corporate directory had been turned off.

Twitter under Musk began to stray from its adherence to written and publicly available policies toward content decisions made unilaterally by Musk, which Roth cited as a reason for his resignation.

“One of my limits was if Twitter starts being ruled by dictatorial edict rather than by policy … there’s no longer a need for me in my role, doing what I do,” he said.

The revamp of the Twitter Blue premium subscription, which would allow users to pay for a verified checkmark on their account, launched despite warnings and advice from the trust and safety team, Roth said.

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The launch was quickly beset by spammers impersonating major public companies such as Eli Lilly, Nestle and Lockheed Martin.

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Roth also said Tuesday that Twitter erred in restricting the dissemination of a New York Post article that made claims about then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son shortly before the 2020 presidential election.

But he defended Twitter’s decision to permanently suspend Trump for risk of further incitement of violence after the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“We saw the clearest possible example of what it looked like for things to move from online to off,” Roth said. “We saw people dead in the Capitol.”

Musk tweeted on November 19 that Trump’s account would be reinstated after a slim majority voted in favour of the move in a surprise Twitter poll.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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