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WhatsApp, Snapchat Fined in Russia for Failing to Store Users’ Data on Local Servers

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Russian regulators have fined chat service WhatsApp and Snapchat for failing to store Russian users’ data on local servers, part of government efforts to control online activity.

A Moscow court on Thursday imposed an 18 million ruble (roughly Rs. 2,40,00,00) fine on chat service WhatsApp and a 1 million ruble penalty on disappearing message platform Snapchat. The fines followed a complaint by Russia’s state communications regulator, Roskomnadzor.

The Russian government has been trying for years to establish greater control over the internet and social media, an effort that has intensified in recent months as it tries to limit the flow of information about Ukraine.

Neither Facebook parent Meta Platforms, which owns WhatsApp, nor Snap, which runs the Snapchat app, responded to a request for comment.

The court said it was fining WhatsApp for repeatedly refusing to localize data of Russian users. WhatsApp received its first Russian fine, for 4 million rubles (roughly Rs. 52,15,000), in August 2021.

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A Moscow court also fined Apple 2 million rubles (roughly Rs. 27,00,000) earlier this month over the data storage issue. Airbnb, Pinterest were fined the same amount last month.

Russia’s competition authority said earlier this month it would fine US tech giant Apple for violating Russian antitrust laws and abusing its dominant position in the app store market. The federal anti-monopoly service (FAS) said it would levy a turnover-based fine against Apple, the size of which would be determined during the course of an administrative investigation. Moscow has long objected to foreign tech platforms’ influence in the Russian market, but the simmering dispute has escalated since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

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“The company has abused its dominant position in the iOS app distribution market,” the FAS said in a statement.

“Apple prohibits iOS app developers from telling clients inside the app about the possibility of paying for purchases outside the App Store or using alternative payment methods,” said the statement.


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Facebook Bans Major US Anti-Vaccination Group Children’s Health Defense for Spreading Covid-19 Misinformation

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Facebook-owner Meta said Thursday it had kicked one of the most influential US anti-vaccination groups off the social media network for spreading Covid-19 misinformation. The Children’s Health Defense (CHD), which has been a critic of Covid vaccines, immediately accused Meta of stifling its free speech rights. “Facebook is acting here as a surrogate for the federal government’s crusade to silence all criticism of draconian government policies,” CHD founder Robert Kennedy Jr., nephew of late president John F. Kennedy, said in a press release.

Meta spokesperson Aaron Simpson told AFP that the group’s accounts at Facebook and Instagram were shuttered on Wednesday. The ban came after repeated violations of Meta’s misinformation rules.

CHD said its social media accounts were followed by hundreds of thousands of people, and claimed the action by Meta came as a surprise.

In a release, the group shared a screen capture showing messages stating the accounts were suspended for violating Meta policies regarding “misinformation that could lead to real world harm.”

CHD contended that the ban could be related to a lawsuit it filed against Meta accusing the tech giant of infringing free speech rights by relying on US Centers for Disease Control regarding what Covid-19 information is scientifically backed.

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The anti-vaccine group has appealed a lower court ruling against it in the litigation, according to legal filings.

In other news, US teens have left Facebook in droves over the past seven years, preferring to spend time at video-sharing venues YouTube and TikTok, according to a Pew Research Center survey data out Wednesday. TikTok has “emerged as a top social media platform for US teens” while Google-run

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YouTube “stands out as the most common platform used by teens,” the report’s authors wrote.Pew’s data comes as Facebook-owner Meta is in a battle with TikTok for social media primacy, trying to keep the maximum number of users as part of its multi-billion-dollar ad-driven business.

The report said some 95 percent of the teens surveyed said they use YouTube, compared with 67 percent saying they are TikTok users.Just 32 percent of teens surveyed said they log on to Facebook — a big drop from the 71 percent who reported being users during a similar survey some seven years ago


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Elon Musk Said to Target Advertising Tech Firms in Twitter Suit Over Takeover Deal

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Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is attempting to walk away from his deal to acquire Twitter, is seeking documents from advertising technology firms as part of his quest to gain more information on bot and spam accounts on Twitter, according to filings in a Delaware court on Thursday. Twitter has sued the Tesla chief executive, who has accused Twitter of hiding information about how it calculates the percentage of bots on the service, for attempting to walk away from the $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,50,900 crore) agreement. A trial is scheduled for October 17.

Musk’s lawyers have subpoenaed both Integral Ad Science (IAS) and DoubleVerify for any documents or communications on their involvement in reviewing accounts or participation in any audit of Twitter’s user base.

IAS and DoubleVerify, which are both based in New York, use technology to independently verify that digital ads are viewed by real people. Advertisers use the services to ensure the ads they pay for are seen by potential customers and not automated bots.

Twitter, IAS and DoubleVerify did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In response to a tweet by a user who questioned how Twitter audits its service and also linked to a Reuters story on Musk targeting the ad firms, Musk tweeted: “Those are the questions that Twitter is doing everything possible to avoid answering …”

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In a countersuit earlier this month, Musk claimed that Twitter’s monetizable daily active users are 65 million lower than what the company has touted. Twitter has said it stands by its disclosures.

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The metric measures users who log onto Twitter through the website or apps that are able to serve ads or used paid products like subscriptions, according to Twitter filings.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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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  Elon Musk Said to Question Twitter Employees Responsible for Counting Bots, Spam Accounts

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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