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Uber Riders in Delhi-NCR Can Now Book Cab via Chatbot on WhatsApp

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Uber has announced that it has launched and extended its partnership with WhatsApp, which will now allow users in Delhi NCR to book a ride via a chatbot on the instant messaging app. Riders will no longer need to download or use the Uber app for booking a ride, and everything will be managed within the WhatsApp chat interface. The feature was first launched as a pilot in Lucknow in December 2021, and now it is being rolled out to a wider audience.

Uber announced that it has officially launched and expanded the WhatsApp to Ride (WA2R) product feature for users in Delhi NCR. Users in one of Uber’s top cities globally by volume, can now use WhatsApp for user registration, booking of a ride, and getting a trip receipt. They are not needed to download the Uber app for the same. Users can choose from English and Hindi languages to book a cab on WhatsApp.

As per WhatsApp the Lucknow Pilot revealed that “the WA2R audience is younger than the average Uber App user with almost 50 percent of them being less than 25 years old. The fact that 33 percent of the inbounds during this pilot were received from new users shows the potential of new user acquisition through this partnership.”

How to book an Uber cab via WhatsApp

  1. A new or existing user who has registered with only a phone number on Uber can book a ride via WhatsApp.
  2. They can send ‘Hi’ on Whatsapp to +91 7292000002, or Click to Whatsapp (Mobile phone only), or scan the code below.
  3. Users will be asked to provide pickup and drop off locations.
  4. Users will also receive upfront fare information and the driver’s expected time of arrival.
  5. They can then confirm their ride.
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Photo Credit: Uber

Uber’s official chatbot on WhatsApp is powered by Infobip and the feature is built on the WhatsApp Business Platform. Furthermore, the Meta-owned platform says that riders will get the same safety features and insurance protection as those who book trips via the Uber app directly. These include the name of the driver, licence plate of the car, ability to track the location of the driver en route to the pickup point, and ability to speak to the driver anonymously using a masked number.

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“The WhatsApp chat flow will inform the rider about safety guidelines, including how to reach Uber in case of emergencies (type help on-trip). If the user selects the ‘emergency’ option while on the trip, they will receive an inbound call from Uber’s customer support team. Uber riders will also have access to its safety line number to call, if needed, until 30 mins after the trip ends. This video explains the WA2R flow while booking an Uber ride,” Uber said.

The ride-hailing platform also said that future product iterations of WA2R will allow existing users of the Uber app to also book trips through WhatsApp.


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Biden Administration Tells US Supreme Court Section 230 of Communications Decency Act Has Limits

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The Biden administration argued to the US Supreme Court on Wednesday that social media giants like Google could in some instances have responsibility for user content, adopting a stance that could potentially undermine a federal law shielding companies from liability.

Lawyers for the US Department of Justice made their argument in the high-profile lawsuit filed by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old American citizen killed in 2015 when Islamist militants opened fire on the Paris bistro where she was eating.

The family argued that Google was in part liable for Gonzalez’ death because YouTube, which is owned by the tech giant, essentially recommended videos by the Islamic State group to some users through its algorithms. Google and YouTube are part of Alphabet (GOOGL.O).

The case reached the Supreme Court after the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Google, saying they were protected from such claims because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

Section 230 holds that social media companies cannot be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by other users.

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The law has been sharply criticised across the political spectrum. Democrats claim it gives social media companies a pass for spreading hate speech and misinformation.

Republicans say it allows censorship of voices on the right and other politically unpopular opinions, pointing to decisions by Facebook and Twitter to ban dissemination of a New York Post article about the son of then-Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s adult son, Hunter, in October 2020.

The Biden administration, in its filing to the Supreme Court, did not argue that Google should be held liable in the Gonzalez case and voiced strong support for most of Section 230’s protections of social media companies.

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But the DOJ lawyers said that algorithms used by YouTube and other providers should be subject to a different kind of scrutiny. They called for the Supreme Court to return the case to the 9th Circuit for further review.

Attorneys for Google could not be reached for comment on Wednesday night.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022


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WhatsApp Avatar Feature Rolling Out to Users With Support for 36 Customisable Stickers

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WhatsApp has begun rolling out Avatars, a feature that allows users to make a digital representation of themselves. The Meta-owned instant messaging service previously rolled out the Bitmoji-like feature to beta testers on Android and iOS. The feature which is now making its way to all users as part of a full-scale rollout, will allow users to curate their digital representation or personal avatar from a combination of hairstyles, facial features, and outfits, according to the company. WhatsApp will also provide 36 custom stickers that reflect different emotions and actions.

The instant messaging platform announced the new Avatars feature via a blog post on Wednesday. A user can set an Avatar as their WhatsApp profile photo, or use them as stickers. Meta says that these stickers will be available in 36 versions of popular emojis and actions, adding that avatars could provide users “a fast and fun way to share feelings with friends and family.”

Personalised avatars were first made popular on social media by Snapchat which now owns Bitmoji which was initially created by Bitstrips. Instagram, which is also owned by Meta, previously added support for Avatars, just like Facebook and Facebook Messenger.

WhatsApp’s support for Bitmoji-like 3D avatars appears to be the same set of models that are available on other Meta-owned apps. Facebook was the first amongst the Meta family to be introduced to Avatars through Messenger and the News Feed in 2019. A year later in 2020, the company added support for adding these digital avatars on Facebook comments and stories.

The company intends to serve Avatars as a mode for fun and creative expression as well as a privacy feature. Avatar can be a “great way to represent yourself without using your real photo so it feels more private,” added the company blog post.

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Users may access the Avatars feature by updating their WhatsApp to the latest version and navigating to Settings > Avatar > Create Your Avatar.

WhatsApp is also promising to bring future enhancements in the form of lighting, shading, hairstyle textures, and more that will improve the experience.

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The feature was previously tested with a few beta testers on WhatsApp beta version 2.22.23.9 for Android, about a month before it was eventually rolled out to all users.


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Instagram to Inform Creators When Posts Are Blocked From Being Recommended to Other Users

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Instagram, the Meta-owned photo and video-sharing social networking service, will now tell users if a post they have uploaded will not be recommended to other users. Instagram’s Head recently announced that the service will show creators and businesses if their posts are being blocked from appearing in certain parts of the app. Users and businesses will reportedly be able to appeal blocking of users posts from being recommended to other users on the service.

According to a tweet by Instagram Head Adam Mosseri, professional accounts on the photo and video-sharing service can now check if any of their posts are blocked from being recommended to users who don’t follow them. The feature to check the status of post recommendations can be accessed via the settings menu, under Account > Account status.

✅ Account Status Update ✅

We’re expanding Account Status so professional accounts can understand if their content may be eligible to be recommended to non-followers.

Here’s how to get to it: Profile -> Menu -> Settings -> Account -> Account Status pic.twitter.com/QbxjQF06vR

— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) December 7, 2022

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Instagram shows users recommendation in places like the explore page and home feed. These recommendations are posts from accounts not followed by a user. Instagram is also facing increasing competition from rivals such as TikTok, which has grown in popularity in the US and other markets this year.

Meta reportedly has plans to more than double the amount of recommended content users see on the app by the end of next year.

In order to be eligible to appear on Explore and other places, Instagram posts must follow the platform’s Community Guidelines and rules around recommended content, according to the company.

For example, Instagram allows users to post content depicting violence, but the service may block those posts from being suggested to other users, which would reduce their reach. However, creators and businesses will reportedly be able to edit, delete, or appeal Instagram’s decision on posts flagged as being ineligible for recommendations.


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