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Google, Netflix Under Scrutiny in South Korea Over Network Fees

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South Korea’s parliament saw heated debate on Friday over proposed legislation to make global content providers such as Netflix and Alphabet’s Google pay South Korean network fees.

The deliberations mirror attempts in Europe by some countries that want the European Commission to come up with legislation that ensures Big Tech firms partly finance telecoms infrastructure, as video streaming and other data usage surges.

Various versions of legislation have been proposed in South Korea in the hope of making the companies pay what supporters of the reform call a fair price.

The hearing is expected to be concluded late on Friday but the proposal is still seen as some way away from moving forward to the next stage of the legislative process.

Google and Netflix account for more than a third of domestic traffic … It befits global companies to review the issue more proactively,” lawmaker Hong Suk-joon said during the hearing.

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Others disagreed, saying imposing fees on the big tech companies could mean they could raise their own fees and undermine South Korean content creators.

“It risks the collapse of domestic content providers while trying to protect a small number of domestic internet service providers,” said Jung Chung-rae, head of the parliament committee overseeing the issue.

Google’s YouTube has campaigned against the bill and more than 259,824 people have signed a petition opposing the legislation, according to activist group Opennet.

“It will be necessary to deeply review the way the business is run,” Google South Korea’s country director Kyoung Hoon Kim told lawmakers, referring to what would happen if such legislation was introduced.

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Liz Chung, a director at Netflix’s South Korean unit, said her company was looking for ways to handle surging traffic.

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“We are developing a number of technical measures to efficiently utilise networks and respond appropriately to traffic growth,” Chung said.

In Europe, a regulators’ plan to make Google, Meta and Netflix bear some telecoms network costs has been welcomed by big telecoms operators, but smaller ones warned it would distort the telecoms market and harm competition.

It costs money to establish and maintain subsea cables and infrastructure that bring data from one place to another and the exploding popularity of global video content has raised the costs of bringing data stored overseas, experts said.

YouTube has 41.8 million active South Korean users, out of a population of 51.6 million. They used YouTube for a combined 1.38 billion hours in September, according to data provider Mobile Index.

Global mobile data traffic reached 67 exabytes per month by the end of 2021, projected to reach 282 exabytes in 2027, Sweden’s Ericsson said in a June report. Video traffic accounts for about 69% of the traffic, and is expected to rise to 79% in 2027.

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South Korean network provider SK Broadband has gone to court in the hope of making Big Tech pay fees.

SK declined to comment.

“(Legislation) could have repercussions including content providers passing on costs to end-users,” said Kim Hyun-kyung, professor at Seoul National University of Science and Technology.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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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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