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WhatsApp sues Indian govt over chat ‘traceability’

New Delhi: Taking the user privacy war to the court over new IT rules, Facebook-owned WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the Indian government in the Delhi High Court, saying that user privacy is in its DNA and requiring messaging apps to “trace” chats undermines people’s right to privacy.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had asked social media platforms to abide by the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 by May 25, or face strict action.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said that requiring messaging apps to “trace” chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp.

“It would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy. We have consistently joined civil society and experts around the world in opposing requirements that would violate the privacy of our users,” the spokesperson stressed.

The company said that in the meantime, “we will also continue to engage with the Government of India on practical solutions aimed at keeping people safe, including responding to valid legal requests for the information available to us”.

The Indian government was yet to react to the lawsuit.

The tussle between Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook and the Union government has reached its nadir, with cops raiding Twitter offices in the pandemic earlier this week over the ToolKit controversy.

WhatsApp has gone to the court as the deadline to comply with the new IT (intermediary) rules meant for big social media platforms in India ended on May 25.

WhatsApp said that new rules infringe on users’ privacy.

The MeitY had announced its draft new IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules for social media platforms on February 25.

As per the new rules, the social media platforms will have to remove offending content within 36 hours after a government directive or a legal order.

Twitter asks IT Ministry for 3-month extension on new rules

New Delhi: With WhatsApp suing the Indian government over the new IT rules for social media platforms, Twitter requested the IT Ministry to consider a minimum of three-month extension in order for the company to implement the new intermediary guidelines.

Twitter, which witnessed a police raid on its offices in Delhi and Gurugram early this week related to the alleged Congress toolkit controversy, said that it reaffirms that Twitter continues to accept grievances from users and law enforcement via its existing grievance redressal channel available under the new IT Rules.

Stressing that it will strive to comply with applicable law in India, a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement that right now, “we are concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve”.

“We, alongside many in civil society in India and around the world, have concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global Terms of Service, as well as with core elements of the new IT Rules,” Twitter said in its first reaction after the police raids on its offices.

Need to maintain law & order: IT Minister

Electronics & IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said the government is committed to the right to privacy, but simultaneously it also has to maintain law and order and ensure national security.

“The Government of India is committed to ensure the Right of Privacy to all its citizens but at the same time it is also the responsibility of the government to maintain law and order and ensure national security,” an official statement quoted the IT Minister Prasad as saying.

The statement said that the government respects the right of privacy and has no intention to violate it when WhatsApp is required to disclose the origin of a particular message.

It however, added that as per all established judicial dictum, no fundamental right, including the right to privacy, is absolute and it is subject to reasonable restrictions.

“The requirements in the Intermediary Guidelines pertaining to the first originator of information are an example of such a reasonable restriction,” it said.

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India comes up with stricter norms for social media, OTT

New Delhi: The Union government on Thursday came up with new stringent guidelines for social media platforms along with code of ethics for over-the-top (OTT) platforms and digital media.

Addressing the media, the Union Minister for Electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad said that social media platforms will be classified under two categories – social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries – with the latter being subject to greater obligations.

The government will soon notify a list of significant social media intermediaries soon, the minister said, adding that platforms with a “significant” number of users will be classified as significant social media intermediaries. A benchmark number would be set for the classification, he said.

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 mandate that the intermediaries, including social media intermediaries must establish a grievance redressal mechanism for receiving resolving complaints from the users or victims.

Intermediaries will have to appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints and share the name and contact details of such officers. Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within twenty-four hours and resolve it within fifteen days from its receipt, said an official statement.

As per the new norms “an intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the appropriate government should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.”

The norm would be applicable to offences under which an offender would be punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years.

Intermediary shall not be required to disclose the contents of any message or any other information to the first originator, said the statement.

The platforms would also have to publish a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints as well as details of contents removed proactively by the significant social media intermediary.

Users must be provided an adequate and reasonable opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary, as per the new norms.

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Twitter rival Koo woos Indian users amid data leak row

New Delhi: Homegrown, vernacular microblogging platform Koo, which has emerged as a favourite among a section of users who want to quit Twitter, has found itself in the midst of several controversies including a data leak row and Chinese investment.

These issues have emerged at a time when the platform is trying to keep its systems up in the face of a sudden influx of users, including several cabinet ministers and various ministries in the wake of the ongoing Twitter-government war of words.

The issue of data leak row rocked the platform after a French security researcher who goes by the name Elliot Alderson claimed that the platform was leaking user data like date of birth, marital status, etc.

Koo Co-founder and CEO Aprameya Radhakrishna denied that there was any data leak.

“Some news about data leaking being spoken about unnecessarily. Please read this: The data visible is something that the user has voluntarily shown on their profile of Koo. It cannot be termed a data leak. If you visit a user profile you can see it anyway,” Radhakrishna said in a tweet.

Another controversy that has hit the platform is the issue of investment from China as the platform pitches itself as an “AatmaNirbhar (self-reliant) App”. However, the Koo CEO clarified that the Chinese investor, which had invested in the earlier brand Vokal, was on its way out.

“Koo is an India registered company with Indian founders. Raised earlier capital 2.5 years ago. Latest funds for Bombinate Technologies is led by a truly Indian investor 3one4 capital. Shunwei (single digit shareholder) which had invested in our Vokal journey will be exiting fully,” Radhakrishna said.

Koo earlier this month announced that it has raised $4.1 million as part of its Series A funding.

Koo currently has about 3 million users and traffic to the platform rose as much as by 30 times on Wednesday, according to a source who is familiar with the matter.

The growth comes amid a controversy surrounding Twitter which refused to fully comply with the government’s order for blocking some tweets and Twitter accounts, citing the right to freedom of expression.

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Amazon to start manufacturing in India

New Delhi: E-commerce and technology major Amazon will soon start manufacturing of its electronics products including the ‘Fire TV’ stick in India.

After a virtual conversation with Amit Agarwal, Global Senior Vice President of Amazon and Country Head for India and Chetan Krishnaswamy, Vice President, Public Policy of Amazon India, the Union Minister for Electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad took to Twitter and the homegrown social media platform Koo, to make the announcement.

“Held a very good conversation with @AmitAgarwal and @Chetankrishna of @amazonIN today. Delighted to share that soon Amazon will commence manufacturing of electronics products like FireTV stick in India,” Prasad said.

Further, Amazon also announced its plans to begin manufacturing Amazon devices in India. In a blog post, the company said that it will commence its manufacturing efforts with contract manufacturer Cloud Network Technology, a subsidiary of Foxconn in Chennai and start production later this year.

As per the blog, the device manufacturing programme will be able to produce hundreds of thousands of Fire TV Stick devices every year. Amazon will continuously evaluate scaling capacity to additional marketplaces or cities depending on the domestic demand, it added.

The minister during his conservation with the Amazon India executives also asked them to help in taking products made by India’s artisans and Ayurvedic products to global markets through e-commerce.

“@amazon is a global company but Amazon India must evolve as a truly Indian company deeply connected with Indian business community and culture,” Prasad tweeted.

Agarwal said that Amazon is committed to partner with the Indian government to advance the vision of an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.

“Amazon is committed to partner with the Indian government to advance the vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. We have pledged to invest US $1 billion to digitize 10 million small and medium businesses, help Indian businesses sell worldwide thereby enabling US $10 billion in cumulative exports, and create an additional 1 million jobs by 2025,” he said.

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Action to be taken if Twitter, FB platforms are misused: Govt

New Delhi: The government on Thursday categorically cautioned social media platforms against spreading fake news or anything inciting violence, as Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said action will be taken if Indian laws were flouted.

“There is freedom of speech but Article 19A says that this is subject to reasonable restrictions,” the Minister for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology told in the Rajya Sabha as he reminded platforms like Twitter and Facebook to comply with Indian rules while carrying out business.

“We respect social media a lot, it has empowered common people. Social media has a big role in the Digital India program. However, if social media are misused to spread fake news and violence, then action will be taken on the misuse of social media in India whether Twitter or else,” said Prasad.

He said all the social media platforms will have to adhere to the constitution of India. The Indian constitution allows criticism of the government and the Prime Minister, but spreading fake news will not be allowed, he said.

Prasad said, “We have flagged certain issues to Twitter and social media has to take into consideration of the Indian Laws if they want to do business in the country”.

The Indian government has expressed displeasure over Twitter’s delayed compliance on its order to remove “provocative” tweets amid the ongoing farmers’ protests.

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Here’s Lord Ram’s photo from original copy of Constitution

New Delhi: On the special occasion of the ‘Bhumi Pujan’ of Ram Mandir, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who has been a long standing lawyer of the Ram Lalla deity, shared an original document of the Constitution.

He said, “Original document of the Constitution of India has a beautiful sketch of Lord Ram, Mata Sita and Laxman returning to Ayodhya after defeating Ravan. This is available at the beginning of the chapter related to Fundamental Rights. I felt like sharing this with you all,” said the minister. The Union Minister also termed the day as a day of India’s self respect.

Prasad had represented ‘Ram Lalla’, a petitioner in the Ayodhya title suit which was decided in September 2010 by the Allahabad High Court. The court had ordered the disputed site to be equally distributed among the claimants.

Prasad, a persuasive debater on news television, are known as Lord Ram’s lawyer. After the Supreme Court gave its verdict, where lawyer K. Parasaran led the argument for Ram Lalla, Prasad had called it a “historic verdict”.

On Wednesday, when the union minister shared the photo of lord Ram from the original document of Constitution, after “defeating Ravan”, the political message was also unmistakable.

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Trump offers to mediate between India, China

New York: Despite his tensions with Beijing, US President Donald Trump has offered to “mediate or arbitrate” the border dispute between India and China as the situation heated up with threats from both Beijing and Islamabad.

He tweeted: “We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute. Thank you!”

The offer came as tensions between the US and China are rising with high-level diplomats of both countries exchanging Cold War-style rhetoric making Trump’s offer political showmanship rather than a realistic one.

Though China has been aggressive against India at the border in the eastern sector in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, its latest offensive at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the western sector in Ladakh has resulted in Indian and Chinese soldiers locked in a face-off in Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie.

Trump’s diplomacy came a day after both China and Pakistan issued open threats of war on India’s both fronts. The Pakistan Army also initiated an unprovoked ceasefire violation with intense mortar-shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Balakote sector of Poonch district in Jammu & Kashmir early Tuesday.

Posturing as an international statesman Trump has been keen to bring his style of diplomacy to India and has repeatedly offered to mediate between India and Pakistan.

Last year he made the dubious claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to “mediate or arbitrate” between India and Pakistan.

India has denied that such a request was ever made and pointed out that it holds that disputes between India and Pakistan are bilateral issues under the 1972 Simla Agreement between Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and then Pakistan President, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Trump did not know that India and China shared a border, according to a book published earlier this year by two journalists from The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

On Tuesday, China’s President Xi Jinping was quoted by state news agency Xinhua, as saying: “It is necessary to explore ways of training and preparing for war” and “to step up preparations for armed combat, to flexibly carry out actual combat military training, and to improve our military’s ability to perform military missions.” His statement was preceded by a decision to increase the budget for the Chinese military by 6.6 per cent.

No one can threaten Modi’s India: Ravi Shankar Prasad

New Delhi: Amidst the rising tension in east Ladakh along the Sino-India border, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that no one can threaten Narendra Modi’s India.

Prasad was addressing a press conference in Delhi. On being asked about the face-off at the Line of Actual Control, he gave a one-liner reply: “No one can dare to stare at Modi’s India.”

Prasad refused to elaborate on the Sino-India face-off and centred his attack on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

Prasad’s reply on the border tension came at a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping had on Tuesday ordered his military to scale up the battle preparedness, considering the worst-case scenarios and asked them to resolutely defend the country’s sovereignty.

The political slugfest between the BJP and the Congress was triggered by the continuing face-off between India and China in eastern Ladakh after a clash between soldiers from both sides on two occasions. According to reports, Indian and Chinese Army personnel clashed along the northern bank of the Pangong Lake in Ladakh on May 5. Four days later, a face-off between the two sides was witnessed near Naku La Pass in Sikkim.

This is the first major stand-off between India and China after the Doklam episode in 2017 when Indian and Chinese forces saw a major face-off over construction of a road by China.

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