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A Challenge to Corporate ‘Raj’

By  Neera Kuckreja Sohoni

On June 15, the Anti-trust regulator in the UK announced it has opened a year-long probe into Google’s and Apple’s mobile ecosystems (iOS and Android) suspecting a possible stifling of competition.

Facebook is facing a challenge in the European Union on the issue of use of cookies to track users without their prior consent. Its user privacy infringement through use of cookies is in direct breach of EU data protection regulations.

Tik Tok is being sued by a Parents Group in the Netherlands for illegally accessing data on their children and compromising their privacy and safety. The UK similarly is suing the company over the use of data on millions of children.

India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has sought a report from Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram regarding posts on these sites offering illegal adoption of children tragically orphaned from the Corona pandemic. A Parliamentary Committee has asked Twitter to appear before it to discuss safeguarding of citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social media platforms.

Across the world, with misuse of social networking sites posing a threat not only to individual but also to national security, social media behemoths are at last facing extra scrutiny for everything ranging from mergers, acquisitions and monopoly behavior, to privacy and free speech infringement.

While other countries are recognizing and taking legal steps to counter the threat, the US has been slow to take off. Some experts and legislators here have questioned whether these social media platforms are fulfilling their obligation as neutral digital public forums.  Among them, liberals have expressed concern these sites are not doing enough to counter violent or false speech, while conservatives have argued that the platforms are unfairly restricting and banning public access to potentially valuable conservative speech.

Existing federal law does not offer recourse for users seeking to challenge a social media provider’s decision about whether and how to present a user’s content. Legal challenges to these sites remain largely unsuccessful absent federal law provisions that can make these private companies accountable for violating free speech.

Claims against social media companies are anyway barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity to social media providers, both for decisions to host content created by others, and for actions taken “voluntarily” and “in good faith” to restrict access to “objectionable” material. Those fine but ambiguous terms provide enough elbow room to the companies to act freely, even irresponsibly.

India’s challenge to the mighty Social Media Empire Raj has accelerated with Twitter losing the coveted “safe harbor” immunity over its failure to appoint statutory officers on the company’s roll in line with the new IT rules.

But unrest among users is growing with liberals complaining not enough is done to exclude harmful incendiary and hate content posted by conservatives, and the latter protesting the bias against conservatives of the almost wholly liberal Silicon Valley controlled media platforms that work against Republican Party and favor Democrats.

Trump, who had often spoken against Section 230, did issue an executive order directing the executive branch to ask independent rule-making agencies whether new regulations could be placed on the social media companies. But that symbolic order meant little, with Trump’s own access to the Twitter and Facebook platforms ironically getting blocked!

That these bans are more political than principled is clear from Facebook’s recently announced  decision to ensure Trump stays barred until slightly beyond the midterm elections at which point the company will revisit the ban’s extension. Only a fool would believe it will not be extended once again to prevent Trump from using his powerful internet potential to dislodge Biden. Hardly innocent, Facebook’s and Twitter’s actions clearly are a favor to Biden and Democrats.

While as Biden supporters we may welcome that outcome, regardless of our party affiliation, we should be horrified at the stranglehold placed by social media mandarins on public discourse and behavior. The selective use of banning in favor of one person, party, or cause is not only despicable but scary. That such unrestrained power of censorship can impact not only our politics and elections, but also destroy vital other sectors of our life such as public health, education, religious pursuit, and the economy, as was clearly demonstrated in the wake of the Corona pandemic, makes the threat to each of us personal.

As pressure intensifies for making these companies liable not only for third-party content posted on the platform but also for their biased interference with and manipulation of speech, it has finally provoked some Congressional action. Twitter and Facebook have been questioned in several Congressional committee hearings over their impartiality and excessive power to restrict free speech, and their ability to monopolize public discourse and commerce. Republican Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill last June that would eliminate the Section 230 immunity unless tech companies submitted to an external audit certifying that their content moderation practices were politically neutral. But further progress is stalled on that and other legislative ventures due to difficulty in finding cross-party support.

Lobbyists meanwhile have aggressively sought to derail any attempt to legislate reform and placed a stranglehold on lawmakers by the corrupting power of money. Elected representatives and even bureaucrats in America in many cases depend directly or indirectly on the financial backing, charity, and goodwill of those powerful social media companies. If you dare to cross the imaginary and ambiguous red line they have arbitrarily set, you get cancelled, de-platformed, and de-funded.

At state level luckily, Florida’s Governor and legislative leaders have announced they intend to set new requirements for social media companies, including clearing the way for lawsuits and financial penalties against platforms that violate the requirements. The Texas Attorney General’s request to Twitter to explain their content guidelines is another example of state initiatives aimed at restraining social media platforms gaining momentum.

The discourse around Corona as we all noticed was and is heavily controlled, with the media platforms suspending or banning contrarian views on anything to do with Corona’s origins, diagnosis, therapeutics, and mitigation. By arbitrarily censoring whatever clashed with the versions advocated by the official infectious disease bureaucracy and scientists, they abused public trust. Worse, they likely colluded with the bureaucracy and the scientists to perpetuate one-sided discourse, as seen in the recently revealed email exchanges between National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Fauci and Facebook’s Zuckerberg.

After 18 months of highly manipulated information dissemination on Corona, as the Wuhan origin of the virus theory is becoming plausible, and some treatment therapies that were outlawed by the media companies as “Trump-speak” are beginning to be accepted as beneficial, there is ground not merely for recrimination but also monetary compensation for the socio-economic damages caused to the global community from excessive use of discretionary power and abuse of authority by the media.

President Biden’s appointment of Lina Khan, who has been a fierce critic of Big Tech’s market monopoly, to head the Federal Trade Commission is a promising development. But her impact is likely to be more on market fairness than on challenging suppression of free speech. (Photo courtesy AP)

Biden’s appointment of Lina Khan, who has been a fierce critic of Big Tech’s market monopoly, to head the Federal Trade Commission is a promising development. But her impact is likely to be more on market fairness than on challenging suppression of free speech. The same possibly is true of the multi-bill legislation introduced on June 10 2021 in the US House, which if passed would be the most daring Congressional venture to curtail the power of Amazon, Apple,  Facebook and Google over online commerce, information, and entertainment.

In contrast, India’s challenge to the mighty Social Media Empire Raj has accelerated with Twitter losing the coveted “safe harbor” immunity over its failure to appoint statutory officers on the company’s roll in line with the new IT rules. Its top executives, including the country managing director, could face police questioning and criminal liability under Indian Penal Code over ‘unlawful’ and ‘inflammatory’ content posted on the platform by any user.

One can imagine Google, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram etcetera facing a similar fate.

.

Based in California, the published author contributes opeds and essays regularly to  The South Asian Times.

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Is your name lucky for you?

By Sidhharrth S Kumaar

The letters of your name have the power to help you build a successful life. Owing to the benefits that the study of numerology offer, several celebrities and business tycoons have paved their way to success by changing their names.

Celebrity name changes

Not many people know this, but even the most respected and renowned celebrity, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, changed his name from Inquilab Srivastava (birth name) to what he is recognized as today. It was his father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, who made the change in his name. This industry name is also said to have paved a way for success.

Sometimes people also add or subtract certain letters in their name to procure the benefits of numerology. For instance, formerly known as ‘Rani Mukherji’, the actress changed the spelling of her name to Rani Mukerji, as suggested by her numerologist. This change of only a single letter has worked wonders for her life. There are several other celebrities in Bollywood as well as Hollywood who have made small or big changes to their names to seek the benefits of numerology.
Lucky Names in Businesses

Even the most popular of tech giants or businesses today have changed the names of their businesses/corporations. For instance, Instagram which is one of the most popular social media sites in the world was earlier named as Burbn. Similarly, Google was not the first choice, the tech-giant was earlier named BackRub. Hence, people from all walks of life have adapted to name changes for their business’s success.
How to Find Your Lucky Name?

Numerology is a scientific art. Hence numerology provide an insight on how you can benefit from a change in your name based on your lucky letters.

As per Chaldean numerology, every alphabet has been assigned a number and every number is known to have a positive or negative impact on your lives.

What are the Core Numbers for every Alphabet?

The following table shows what number is assigned against each alphabet.  This number can be modified to synchronize with your Date of Birth.

Steps to follow:

  • First Name Number and Compound Number: Based on the letters of your first name, allocate a number to each alphabet. See table below. In name number, both two-digit name number and single digit sum is equally important.
  • Name Number and Name Compound: Assign number to each alphabet of an individual’s last name.
  • For instance- First Name – 29 is compound and 2 is First name number
thesatime | The Southasian times

Hence, 15

Name number – 44 is compound and 8 is name number

Name Number: 29+15 = 44 (8)

This is how you can calculate your name number. Based on the astrological implications of the number, a numerologist can choose the best name for you. There are several other intricacies of finding a name number which is best understood by someone who has studied numerology.

Remember your name is your identity, the signal that one telecasts to world and it carries a purpose much more than that. Hence, one must focus on these aspects of life to foster one’s growth trajectory.

(Sidhharrth S Kumaar is an astro numerologist in India )

Not many people may know but even the most respected and renowned Indian celebrity, Amitabh Bachchan, changed his name from Inquilab Srivastava (birth name) to what he is recognized as today. (Photo courtesy Pinterest)
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CEO Satya Nadella steps in as Microsoft Chairman too

San Francisco: Microsoft board has elected CEO Satya Nadella as Chairman of the tech giant, a first in two decades when Microsoft’s chairman will also be its CEO.

Bill Gates was the only other Chairman and CEO of Microsoft who stepped down as CEO in 2000. He stepped down as chairman in 2014 and the board then elected John Thompson as independent chairman. Thomson now takes over as lead independent director,

In his role as Chairman, Nadella will lead the work to set the agenda for the board, leveraging his deep understanding of the business to elevate the right strategic opportunities and identify key risks and mitigation approaches for the board’s review, the company said in a statement Wednesday.

In addition to these role changes, the board declared a quarterly dividend of $0.56 per share.

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Coca-Cola loses $4 billion after Ronaldo gesture

London: Coca-Cola has said that “everyone is entitled to their drink preferences” after football star Cristiano Ronaldo removed two of the company’s soft drink bottles from his press conference. The incident happened during Ronaldo’s press conference.

At the pre-match press conference for UEFA Euro 2020, the Portuguese star wasn’t pleased with the fact that two Coca-Cola bottles were kept in front of him. 

So, he moved the bottles out of the camera view and encouraged people to drink water instead. 

This gesture took $4 billion from Coca-Cola’s market value and its shares dropped 1.6 per cent.

Later, in a statement, a Coca-Cola spokesperson said, “Players are offered water, alongside Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, on arrival at our press conferences.” The spokesperson added that people have different “tastes and needs”.

Coca-Cola is one of the official sponsors of Euro 2020.

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Twitter loses status of intermediary platform in India

New Delhi: Social media platform Twitter has lost its status of intermediary platform in India over non-compliance to the new intermediary guidelines.

As a result of the development, the company has lost its legal shield in the country from prosecution over posts.

“Twitter has lost its status as an intermediary platform in India as it has not complied with new guidelines,” an official source said.

Further, in a series of Tweets, Union Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that there are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision.

“However, the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May,” he added.

On Tuesday, the micro-blogging platform said that it has appointed an interim Chief Compliance Officer, the details of which would be soon shared with the IT Ministry directly.

On the row over an alleged fake video in Uttar Pradesh, the minister said: “What happened in UP was illustrative of Twitter’s arbitrariness in fighting fake news.”

He was of the view that while Twitter has been over enthusiastic about its fact checking mechanism, it’s failure to act in multiple cases like UP is perplexing and indicates its inconsistency in fighting misinformation.

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Adani Group cos say FPI accounts not frozen

New Delhi: Denying freezing of accounts of three foreign portfolio investors (FPI) holding shares in Adani Group companies by the NSDL, group companies have said that such reports are “erroneous” and “misleading”.

In separate communications to the BSE and the National Stock Exchange (NSE), all the listed Adani Group companies said that it has confirmation from the Registrar and Transfer Agent that the accounts have not been frozen.

“Given the seriousness of the article and its consequential adverse impact on minority investors, we requested Registrar and Transfer Agent, with respect to the status of the Demat Account of the aforesaid funds and have their written confirmation vide its e-mail dated 14th June, 2021, clarifying that the Demat Account in which the aforesaid funds hold the shares of the Company are not frozen,” said the letter.

“We regret to mention that these reports are blatantly erroneous and is done to deliberately mislead the investing community. This is causing irreparable loss of economic value to the investors at large and reputation of the group.”

Adani Power, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone, Adani Enterprises, Adani Total Gas, Adani Green Energy and Adani Transmission have written separate but similar letters to the exchanges.

The companies said that they are issuing these letters in the larger public interest and for the protection of minority investors’ interest.

Shares of Adani Group companies tumbled to their lower circuits on Monday after the reports of National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) freezing the three FPI accounts.

As per the NSDL website, the depository has frozen the accounts of Albula Investment Fund Ltd, Cresta Fund Ltd and APMS Investment Fund Ltd as of May 31, 2021.

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Innovation came to rescue during Covid: Modi

New Delhi: Inviting investors to the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that innovation came to the rescue during Covid as he highlighted India’s major benefits for both investors and innovators.

Delivering his keynote address at the 5th edition of VivaTech, one of the largest digital and start-up events in Europe, he said: “Covid-19 put many of our conventional methods to test. However, it was innovation that came to the rescue. By innovation, I refer to: Innovation before the pandemic. Innovation during the pandemic.”

“When I speak about innovation before the pandemic, I refer to the pre-existing advances which helped us during the pandemic. Digital technology helped us cope, connect, comfort and console. Through digital media, we could work, talk with our loved ones and help others,” he said.

Modi stated that the second part, innovation for the pandemic refers to how humanity rose to the occasion and made the fight against it more effective and in this, the role of the country’s start-up sector, has been paramount.

“India’s strides in the world of tech and start-up are well-known. Our nation is home to one of the world’s largest start-up eco systems. Several unicorns have come up in recent years,” he said.

The Prime Minister said: “India offers what innovators and investors need.I invite the world to invest in India based on the five pillars of Talent, Market, Capital, Eco-system and Culture of openness.”

Citing reforms in different sectors, he said: “We, in India, implemented huge reforms across sectors, be it mining, space, banking, atomic energy and more. This goes on to show that India as a nation is adaptable and agile, even in the middle of the pandemic.”

Stressing India’s extensive relation with France, he said: “India and France have been working closely on a wide range of subjects. Among these, technology and digital are emerging areas of cooperation.”

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India’s forex reserves rise by over $5 billion

Mumbai: India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $5.271 billion during the week ended May 28.

According to the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) weekly statistical supplement, the reserves increased to $598.165 billion from $592.894 billion reported for the week ended May 21.

India’s forex reserves comprise foreign currency assets (FCAs), gold reserves, special drawing rights (SDRs), and the country’s reserve position with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

On a weekly basis, FCAs, the largest component of the forex reserves, edged higher by $5.010 billion to $553.529 billion.

Similarly, the value of the country’s gold reserves gained by $265 million to $38.106 billion.

Besides, the SDR value gained by $2 million at $1.515 billion.

On the other hand, the country’s reserve position with the IMF inched lower by $5 million to $5.016 billion.

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Infosys regrets glitches on ITR portal: Nilekani to Nirmala

New Delhi: Responding to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharamans call to attend to the complaints of the taxpayers regarding issues on the newly launched ITR e-filing portal and improve the service quality, Infosys Co-Founder and Chairman Nandan Nilekani said the company regrets the initial glitches and is working to resolve the issues.

In a tweet, Nilekani also said that the system is expected to stabilize during the week.

“The new e-filing portal will ease the filing process and enhance end user experience. @nsitharaman ji, we have observed some technical issues on day one, and are working to resolve them. @Infosys regrets these initial glitches and expects the system to stabilize during the week,” Nilekani said.

The Finance Minister called out the software major and Nilekani for the problems faced by the taxpayers while using the newly launched portal.

Citing the complaints on her Twitter timeline, the Finance Minister said that ease of compliance for the taxpayers should be of higher priority.

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