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Twitter Says 50-60 Percent of Tweets in Government Takedown Orders Are ‘Innocuous’: Details

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The High Court of Karnataka on Monday heard a petition by microblogging platform Twitter against the Central government’s orders asking it to block some accounts, URLs, and tweets. Twitter had challenged the orders on grounds of violation of freedom of speech and the authorities not issuing notice to the alleged violators before asking Twitter to take down content. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had on September 1 filed a 101-page statement of objection to Twitter’s petition. Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for Twitter on Monday online, argued the company was following the rules laid out in the Information Technology Act.

He contended that Twitter as a platform was affected by the Centre asking it to take down accounts without issuing notice to the alleged violators.

The Centre was asking for wholesale blocking of accounts which will affect its business, according to him.

He said several prominent persons have accounts on Twitter.  Another contention Datar raised was that instead of blocking the tweet that was deemed improper, it was being told to block the account itself because of political content.

He cited the example of farmers’ protest in Delhi and claimed content that was telecast in the news media was asked to be blocked on Twitter.

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“During the farmers’ protest I was told to block accounts. TV and print media are reporting. Why ask me to block accounts?,” he argued.

Datar cited the Supreme Court in the ‘Shreya Singhal’ case where the IT Act Blocking Rules were upheld and said it was mandatory for notice to be issued even to intermediaries like Twitter and hear them before blocking orders are passed.

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Therefore, he claimed that all blocking orders issued by the MeitY were against the SC judgement and the IT Act Blocking Rules 6 and 8.  The senior advocate presented the example of a particular blocking order in which Twitter was told to block 1,178 accounts. The government did not inform them (account holders) and Twitter was also not allowed to inform them.  Datar argued that requirements of Section 69A of the IT Act were not followed. He cited the example of one Tweet which the government ordered to be removed.   Datar argued that Twitter itself blocks tweets which it considers wrong.

He said tweets promoting “Khalistan ” are blocked by Twitter.  However, 50 to 60 per cent of tweets that are asked by the government to be blocked are “innocuous”.  Datar said Twitter accepts that there are tweets which are not acceptable and Twitter routinely removed them. Even in government orders there were tweets that were justifiable to be blocked. All that Twitter was seeking was following procedure and issuing notices before blocking tweets. It was also stressed that blocking the account instead of the individual tweets was the cause of concern.  A Delhi High Court judgement was cited in which the owner of a blocked account approached the court. The Centre was also made a party which had argued that blocking the entire account was wrong. The HC had given a judgement that Twitter cannot suspend an entire account unless a majority of the tweets from that account is unlawful.

The High Court adjourned the hearing to October 17.

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Elon Musk Hints at Plans to Increase Character Limit for Tweets in Response to Twitter User

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Twitter could expand its character limit from 280, according to a tweet by new owner Elon Musk. The world’s richest man and Twitter’s new CEO responded to a user on the microblogging platform requesting the higher character limit, stating that it was part of the company’s plan. Twitter is also working on adding encrypted direct messages (DMs), and payment services, according a set of slides recently shared by Musk on Twitter. However, it is currently unclear whether the increased character limit will be the same as the longform tweet feature teased by the company’s CEO.

On Monday, Musk responded to a Twitter user asking him to expand the 280-character limit for on tweets on Twitter to 1,000 characters. Musk responded, stating :It’s on the todo list.”

Twitter, which is referred to as a “microblogging service”, originally had a 140-character limit for tweets, which was expanded to 280 characters in 2017. At the time, the company’s blog stated that “many people Tweeted the full 280 limit because it was new and novel, but soon after behaviour normalised…We saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they Tweeted more easily and more often.”

The platform is one of the few services that limits users’ posts to a few hundred characters. Rival Facebook allow users to upload posts with thousands of characters.

Musk has shown interest in the idea of increasing the character limit on a number of occasions since his takeover of the platform, as per a report by Mashable.

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On November 27, a Twitter user suggested to Musk to increase the platform’s word limit from 280 to 420. “Good idea” Musk wrote in response.

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Prior to that, another user had suggested “get rid of character limits,” to which Musk responded: “Absolutely”.

Musk recently announced another major change for the platform with its multi-coloured verification system. A new three-coloured verification check mark system would replace the previous ‘Twitter Blue’ service which had to be pulled off within days of its release due to rising number of accounts impersonating well-known brands and personalities while carrying the ‘verified’ check. The new Twitter Blue verification service will tentatively be relaunched on December 2, according to Musk.


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WhatsApp ‘Message Yourself’ Feature Rolling Out on Android and iOS: Report

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WhatsApp is rolling out its Message Yourself feature to users globally. The app will now let you send a text to yourself, to store messages and files. Many users around the globe rely on WhatsApp chats to jot down quick notes or reminders, or crucial information. Until now, users would use a workaround to message themselves, or use a second WhatsApp account registered to another phone number, or rely on a chat window of a defunct WhatsApp account to store messages. WhatsApp will now let you do it easily via one of its new in-built features called Message Yourself.

According to a report by TechCrunch, the Meta owned messaging app has begun to roll out the ability to message yourself. The ‘Message Yourself’ feature will be similar to sending a text to another user, except that the message will remain in a separate chat on your phone.

Once the feature is rolled out, users will see a separate chat with their name followed by “(You)”. You will be able to jot down notes, shopping lists, keep reminders, store bookmarks. You will also be able to forward messages from other users, just like you can for other chats.

You can tap on the new chat button from the WhatsApp home screen and select your name. Once you tap on it, you will be able to send texts to yourself. If you are in another app, you can also use the sharing menu to send files, images, and other media to yourself.

WhatsApp says that the Message Yourself feature is now rolling out and should reach most Android and iOS users in the coming weeks, as per the report. Users can download the latest version of the app on Android and iOS to use the Message Yourself feature.

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Recently, the messaging app also introduced a new feature that will let iOS and Android users create polls in personal and group chats to get opinions or answers from their friends and contacts. Users’ responses to a poll’s question are protected via end-to-end encryption, according to the company.

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Facebook Fined EUR 265 Million by Irish Data Privacy Regulator After Investigation Into Data Scraping

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Ireland’s data privacy regulator imposed an EUR 265 million (roughly Rs. 2,250 crore) fine on social media giant Facebook on Monday, bringing the total it has fined parent group Meta to almost EUR 1 billion (roughly Rs. 2,250 crore). The penalty resulted from an investigation, started last year, into the discovery of a collated set of personal data that had been scraped from Facebook between May 2018 and September 2019, and made available online. Facebook was also ordered to make a range of corrective measures.

Meta said it had cooperated fully with the investigation by Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) and made changes to its systems during the time in question, including removing the ability to scrape its features in this way using phone numbers.

Monday’s fine is the fourth the DPC has levied against one of Meta’s companies. It is Meta’s lead privacy regulator within the European Union, and has 13 more inquiries into the social media group outstanding.

In September the watchdog hit its Instagram subsidiary with a record fine of EUR 405 million (roughly Rs. 3,435 crore), which Meta plans to appeal. Meta added in its statement on Monday that it was reviewing the decision related to the latest fine.

The DPC regulates Apple, Google, Twitter, Tiktok and other technology giants due to the location of their EU headquarters in Ireland. It currently has 40 inquiries open into such firms, including the 13 involving Meta.

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The regulator has the power to impose fines of up to 4 percent of a company’s global revenue under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) “One Stop Shop” regime introduced in 2018.

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The DPC said mitigating factors in Monday’s decision – which had been approved by all other relevant EU regulators – included the actions Facebook had taken.

“We’ll keep going until the behaviour does change,” Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) Helen Dixon told Irish national broadcaster RTE on Monday.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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