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WhatsApp Requested to Delay Launch of Communities Feature in Brazil Till January

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Brazilian prosecutors on Friday called on messaging platform WhatsApp to delay the launch in Brazil of its new feature called Communities until January to avoid the spread of fake news during and immediately after the country’s election in October.

The federal prosecutors said the expanded reach of the new tool comes “at a time when fake news about the functioning of institutions and the integrity of the Brazilian voting system could jeopardize the democratic stability of the country.”

The MPF, as the federal prosecutors office is known, said Communities could undermine the efficient steps taken by WhatsApp in recent years to contain the spread of fake news.

WhatsApp is one of the messaging platforms that supporters of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro most use to communicate, organize rallies, and divulge their views. Bolsonaro is seeking re-election but is trailing leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil’s most polarized election in decades.

The messaging service owned by Meta agreed in April to postpone the launch of the new platform until after an expected second-round run-off vote at the end of October.

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But the MPF said in a statement this was not enough to mitigate the “serious risks that an increase in disinformation can generate … in the last two months of the year.”

A WhatsApp spokesperson said the company will continue to carefully evaluate the best time to launch the new platform and would duly reply to the authorities’ request.

The MPF said WhatsApp is installed on 99 percent of the smartphones in Brazil.

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The new feature would expand the number of users from 256 at present to 512, allowing messages to be sent to 2,560 people at once. This would increase users’ ability to viralize content, the MPF said.

The prosecutors noted WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption prevents those responsible for the platform from monitoring and moderating the content of the messages exchanged on it.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022


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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.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022

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