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India Journalism Tech

Talking India on our Tech News Briefing Podcast

I joined host Amanda Lewellyn on the Monday edition of our Tech News Briefing podcast to talk about my recent story about U.S. tech giants facing new rules in India.

Click through to listen online and or via Apple Podcasts, Spotify and more, or just look for the show wherever you get your to podcasts.

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Newley's Notes

NN252: Goldens and Grannies

Sent as an email newsletter February 28, 2021. Sign up to receive future dispatches in your inbox.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

📉 Chart of the week, above: It seems hard to believe, but coronavirus infections in the U.S. are plummeting.

Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, writes in The WSJ that the decline is down to 1) increasing numbers of people having built up natural immunity because they were infected earlier, and 2) vaccines becoming widespread.

⭐ “At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life,” Makary writes.

I hope he’s right.

💉 Meanwhile, the latest vaccine stats: about half of people in the U.S. who are over the age of 65 have gotten a vaccine, and almost 20% of the population overall has gotten a first dose.

My latest in The WSJ:

✍️ I had two stories out this week, both about tech in India.

🐦 The first is an analytical look at Twitter’s new challenges in India, where the San Francisco firm faced a standoff with New Delhi over Twitter accounts posting material critical of the government. India is Twitter’s fastest growing market, according to analysts, and yet it’s never had so stiff a test there.

🇮🇳 The second story is about sweeping new rules the government is imposing on the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Netflix. The goal, authorities say: to make these U.S. tech titans accountable for problematic content in India.

👉 The big picture: the trend is clear. India continues to try to increase its control of Big Tech, a phenomenon I wrote about in a page one story in December 2019, when it was first emerging.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 🇺🇸 For all of the potential good news about falling rates of infection – see above – the U.S. passed a sad milestone during a pandemic full of sad milestones: More than 500,000 people in America have now died from the coronavirus. Globally, more than 2.5 million have perished. Reuters has a graphic illustrating the scale of the death toll.

2) ✈️ Boeing told some carriers to ground its wide-body 777 jets after an engine in a United flight from Denver to Honolulu failed after takeoff. The plane returned to Denver, with no injuries. Check out a video of the ailing engine shot by a passenger.

3) 🇸🇦 An unclassified report from the U.S.’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence says Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

4) 🇭🇰 The stark headline on an important story by my colleague Wenxin Fan: China’s Campaign to Crush Democracy in Hong Kong Is Working.

5) 📖 RIP Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “a poet, publisher and political iconoclast who inspired and nurtured generations of San Francisco artists and writers from City Lights, his famed bookstore.” He was 101.

6) 📷 File under: Everything old is new again. An up and coming photography app called Dispo replicates the experience of…a disposable camera. There’s a viewfinder and no editing; images “develop” and appear the next day.

7) 🎨 Art-meets-tech story of the week: Digital artist Mike Winkelmann – a father of two in Charleston, S.C. who goes by the name Beeple – makes millions auctioning his otherworldly creations online, Mickey Rapkin reports in Esquire. See Beeple’s work here.

8) 🎥 New-to-me tool of the week: JustWatch, a search engine for content across a multitude of streaming platforms. Want to know where to find a particular show or flick you’ve heard about? Check out JustWatch’s website or app. (Via Jordan Calhoun on a recent episode of the excellent Cool Tools podcast.)

9) 🦇 Heartwarming story of the week: Statler is a 33-year-old fruit bat who cuddles his human minders. (Thanks, Caitlin C.!)

10) 💅 Canine fashionistas (or, more accurately, their owners, who dress them up in adorable duds) are taking over Instagram – and powering pet clothing sales, the FT’s Kate Finnigan reports. Case in point: Tika the Iggy.

•••

🐶 Dog-related video of the week: “5 months old puppy makes his 100 years old granny very happy.”

•••

📕 What I’m Reading

I’ve just finished Martin Gurri’s “The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium.” If you’re interested in the media studies, government, science, sociology, or just the world at large, it’s worth a read.

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” – Mark Twain

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
India Journalism Tech

Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter Face New Rules in India

That’s the headline on my latest story, out Thursday. It begins:

India is establishing new rules to govern internet firms like Facebook Inc., WhatsApp and Twitter Inc., a fresh challenge for the American giants in a huge market that is key to their global expansion.

The new guidelines, unveiled Thursday, say that in order to counter the rise of problematic content online like false news and violent material, intermediaries must establish “grievance redressal mechanisms” to resolve user complaints about postings and share with the government the names and contact details for “grievance officers” at the firms. These officers must acknowledge complaints within a day and resolve them within 15.

Social media firms must take down material involving explicit sexual content within 24 hours of being flagged. Firms must also appoint officers and contact people—who live in India—to coordinate with law enforcement agencies and address complaints. Some firms must also help identify the “first originator” of some messages, the rules say.

“We appreciate the proliferation of social media in India,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s minister of electronics and information technology, said Thursday. “We want them to be more responsible and more accountable,” he said.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
India Journalism Tech

Twitter’s High Hopes for India Waver Under Government’s Heavy Hand

2021 02 24twitter india

That’s the headline on my newest story, out Tuesday. It begins:

As Twitter Inc. looks overseas for growth, India stands out as its fastest-growing major market, one filled with opportunity—and increasingly thorny political challenges.

The San Francisco company in recent weeks blocked, unblocked and then blocked again hundreds of accounts in the South Asian nation for posting material New Delhi called inflammatory amid long-running protests by farmers. Twitter’s moves came after the government threatened the company with legal action, which could have resulted in a fine or imprisonment for Twitter executives, if it didn’t remove the handles.

Twitter finds itself in an awkward position, analysts say, as it publicly stands by its commitment to allow individuals to express opinions while also abiding by New Delhi’s increasing assertiveness over social media. Twitter’s balancing act highlights a growing conundrum for social-media companies as they run up against governments in key markets where they seek growth as developed countries become saturated.

“The problem they face is striking the right balance between ideology and being pragmatic,” said Ashutosh Sharma, a New Delhi-based vice president at research firm Forrester. “Should they be taking sides? They have to be consistent.”

Click through to read the rest.

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Newley's Notes

NN251: Sweet Spaniels

Ramen Pringles

Sent as an email newsletter February 21, 2021. Sign up to receive future dispatches in your inbox.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

🍜 Image of the week, above, spotted recently in a 7-Eleven here in Hong Kong: Miso-flavored Pringles chips. I haven’t tried them. Yet. I mean, that sounds like an amazing combination!

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) ❄️ Severe winter weather forced parts of the Texas power grid offline for days. What happened? The single-digit temps prompted huge demand for electricity, but many power plants were shut down because they couldn’t safely operate in such cold. That left millions of people (including Texas Senator Ted Cruz) without juice for days.

2) 🦠 “World Health Organization investigators are honing their search for animals that could have spread the new coronavirus to humans, identifying two – ferret badgers and rabbits – that can carry the virus and were sold at a Chinese market where many early cases emerged,” my colleagues Betsy McKay, Jeremy Page and Drew Hinshaw report.

3) 🚀 After a nearly seven-month journey over 293 million miles, NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance touched down on the red planet, marking “the most elaborate and challenging feat in the annals of robotic spaceflight,” Reuters reported.

4) 🗞 Local journalism-related read of the week: “Corruption is flourishing in the rural corners of South Carolina as newspapers fold or shrink coverage amid a financially crippling pandemic,” Glenn Smith and Tony Bartelme report in The Post and Courier. Read more from a special report on public corruption in the state.

5) 🥾 Forget 10,000 steps. Focus instead on 120 minutes in nature every week. Spending time outside, called “forest bathing” in Japan, is linked to “lower blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones and decreased anxiety, depression and fatigue,” my colleague Betsy Morris reports.

6) 🔘 Control Panel is a photoblog dedicated to “dials, toggles, buttons, and bulbs.”

7) 😂 💀 The laughing/crying emoji is for old people, according to Gen Z internet observers. The skull – aka “I’m dead” or “I’m dying” – is much cooler.

8) 👽 Kickstarter product of the week (assuming it’s real), dedicated to Covid–19 prevention and personal privacy: Blanc, “the only full-face modular mask.” Click through for must-see pics.

9) 🌍 Shot: This week’s antidote to a world in which we can’t travel: WindowSwap. Click a button to see the view from a window somewhere else in the world.

10) 🍺 Chaser: I Miss My Bar lets you re-create the sounds of your favorite watering hole.

•••

Dog-related video of the week: “So gentle.”

•••

📕 What I’m Reading

I’m working my way through, and very much enjoying, Martin Gurri’The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium.”

•••

💡 Quote of the Week

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN250: Protective Pooches

Ginger Happy Valentine's Day

Sent as an email newsletter February 14, 2021. Sign up to receive future dispatches in your inbox.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

♥️ Image of the week, above: Ginger (and her owners) are wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day from Hong Kong!

📆 Administrative note: this is the 250th edition of NN.

Yes: the 250th! I sent the very first NN in February, 2015. (Among items in that dispatch: my newfound love for country musician Sturgill Simpson, the death of New York Times media critic David Carr, and a WSJ column with simple rules for personal finance.)

Here’s to another 250, and another five years. Thank you for reading!

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) ☎️ Everyone seems to be talking about Clubhouse, the invite-only audio chat app. The San Franisco-based service has been big among Silicon Valley elite for some time, but more recently gained traction around the world. This week China’s censors appeared to shut it down following vigorous debate about political issues.

2) 😷 Is Covid–19 here to stay? We might need to start thinking of it as an endemic disease, my colleagues Daniela Hernandez and Drew Hinshaw write. A telling quote:

“Going through the five phases of grief, we need to come to the acceptance phase that our lives are not going to be the same,” said Thomas Frieden, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I don’t think the world has really absorbed the fact that these are long-term changes.”

3) 🦠 Related longread of the week: Atul Gawande, in The New Yorker, reporting on Ward County, North Dakota: “Inside the Worst-Hit County in the Worst-Hit State in the Worst-Hit Country.”

4) ⚡ Elon Musk’s Tesla bought $1.5 billion of bitcoin, sending the cryptocurrency soaring.

5) 🏈 🐐 Tom Brady, at age 43, won the Super Bowl with his Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “He prevailed not through any great flourish of athleticism but by making sound decisions and avoiding mistakes,” wrote the Financial Times’s Joshua Chaffin “It was a vintage, old man performance that this old man could appreciate.”

6) 💻 Another item to file under: how Covid–19 is changing work. Salesforce – San Francisco’s biggest private employer, with some 54,000 staff around the world – anticipates most of its employees will “work remotely part or full time after the pandemic” and that the company will “reduce its real-estate footprint as a result,” my WSJ colleague Katherine Bindley reported.

7) 🔭 Want to feel insignificant? There is now a 10 trillion pixel map of the sky, complete with a billion galaxies.

8) 🍕 Pizza-related quote of the week: “Pizza was the perfect food for the pandemic, but I think it’s also the perfect food for all time." That’s from the chief executive of Domino’s, in a New York Times story about a boom in sales amid Covid–19.

9) 🐱 Zoom-related quote of the week, from a Texas lawyer who inadvertently appeared as a feline in proceedings on a Zoom call: “I’m here live, I’m not a cat.” Enjoy the video.

10) 🌍 An antidote to a world in which we can’t travel: City Guesser. Click the video, try to determine the place.

•••

🐕 😭 Dog-related video of the week: “No one can stop dog from protecting its owner.”

•••

📕 What I’m Reading

I’ve just picked up “The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium,” a 2014 book by a former media analyst for the CIA, Martin Gurri. The upshot of the work, which portended the rise of Trump, Brexit and other trends: The internet and social media have triggered an explosion of information, undermining elites, top firms, and global institutions.

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“You can have it all. Just not all at once.” – Oprah Winfrey

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN249: Contrite Canines

Mai Po Nature Reserve

Sent as an email newsletter February 7, 2021. Sign up to receive future dispatches in your inbox.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above: on a walk Saturday through Hong Kong’s Mai Po Nature Reserve. More on this soon!

🐦 TLDR: we saw a ton of birds, including two spoonbills. And the weather was amazing.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

1) 🇲🇲 Myanmar’s military on Monday staged a coup, marking “a major blow to the country’s transition from military rule to democracy, which began about a decade ago,” my colleagues Niharika Mandhana, Feliz Solomon and Sabrina Siddiqui wrote…

2) 💬 …and I pitched in with an exclusive about Facebook removing a Myanmar military television network page from its platform. Facebook banned the network in 2018 as part of a wider crackdown, but it reappeared. From the story:

After The Wall Street Journal asked Monday why the Myawaddy page was operational given its earlier ban, Facebook removed it and it now displays a message saying “This Page Isn’t Available.”

3) 💻 And more on Facebook in Myanmar: it was blocked on Thursday, as I wrote, after some people took to the platform to challenge the coup.

🚨 Meanwhile, the latest on the situation as of today (Sunday): tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Yangon, the country’s largest city, my colleague Niharika Mandhana wrote.

4) 🐦 Elsewhere, on another topic, my colleague Rajesh Roy and I had a story out Wednesday about Twitter in India. The lede:

India threatened to punish Twitter if it doesn’t comply with a government request to restore a block on accounts connected to tweets about farmers’ protests that the government says are inflammatory.

5) 🛒 And hey: How about Jeff Bezos saying he’ll step down as Amazon chief executive to become executive chairman? Andy Jassy, the head of Amazon’s massive AWS cloud business, will take over later this year.

👉 The company’s success has been without parallel, but “The walls of [Bezos’] highly compartmentalized empire have been crumbling for some time,” writes Bloomberg’s Brad Stone, author of the excellent book about Bezos and Amazon, “The Everything Store.” “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to be Jeff Bezos (at least by Bezos’s standards),” Stone writes.

6) 🦠 File under: heartbreaking: This WSJ story on Covid–19’s toll on essential workers – delivery drivers, grocery workers – contains one of the hardest-hitting ledes you’ll ever read.

7) 🗣 Invitation-only group voice chat app Clubhouse is all the rage among tech types. It is, writes Will Oremus at OneZero, the opposite of the flat, open Twitter: it’s “hierarchical and closed — more oligarchic than democratic.”

8) 👏 Longread of the week: “Louis Theroux’s Weird America,” by Anna Russell in the New Yorker.

🎧 I love Theroux’s work, including his pandemic-inspired podcast, “Grounded with Louis Theroux.” (Don’t miss his episodes with Boy George, Watford FC’s Troy Deeney, and actress Leah Remini.)

9) 👕 An interesting quantified self-meets-fashion project from digital consultant Olof Hoverfält: “Why I’ve tracked every single piece of clothing I’ve worn for three years.

10) 💯 A roundup of life tips from the Metafilter community: “What do you always recommend to people?

•••

🐕 Dog-related video of the week: “The you on social media vs. The you in real life.

•••

📕 What I’m Reading

I’m a day or two away from finishing “Facebook: The Inside Story," a 500-page-plus look at the history and future of the world’s biggest social media platform. It has been an enlightening read.

For fiction, I’ve been delving into a Dan Brown’s first novel, the 1998 thriller “Digital Fortress.” What pacing!

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“The enemy is a very good teacher.” – The Dalai Lama

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley

Categories
India Journalism Tech

India Threatens Twitter With Penalties If It Doesn’t Block Accounts

Twitter India

That’s the headline on my latest story, out Wednesday with my colleague Rajesh Roy. It begins:

India threatened to punish Twitter if it doesn’t comply with a government request to restore a block on accounts connected to tweets about farmers’ protests that the government says are inflammatory.

On Monday Twitter blocked more than 250 accounts from being seen within India following a government request after Indian officials said the tweets could incite violence. The officials singled out the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmersGenocide, which some Twitter users have been using to bring attention to the government’s crackdown on protesters.

The demonstrations have been going on for more than two months as farmers protest new laws as the first step in removing the government support they rely upon. New Delhi says the laws will help farmers and consumers by modernizing and streamlining the agricultural supply chain.

The blocking of the accounts on Monday, which included some respected news organizations and political activists, triggered an outcry on Twitter.

Twitter reversed the ban within 12 hours, saying the tweets in question should be allowed as part of free speech. The company said protecting public conversation and transparency was fundamental to its work.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Journalism Tech

After Myanmar Coup, Facebook Removes National Military TV Network’s Page

Facebook in Myanmar

That’s the headline on an exclusive story I wrote, out Tuesday. It began:

Facebook Inc. banned a Myanmar military television network page following Monday’s coup, the social media giant’s latest move in a country where its platform has been connected in previous years to physical violence.

A page for the television network has since at least early last year posted photos that publicize efforts of the nation’s military, drawing likes from more than 33,000 people, before it was removed late Monday. Facebook first removed the Myawaddy television network from its platform in 2018 as part of a crackdown on hundreds of pages, groups and accounts—some tied to Myanmar’s military—that it said had abused its services, but a page promoting the station later reappeared.

After The Wall Street Journal asked Monday why the Myawaddy page was operational given its earlier ban, Facebook removed it and it now displays a message saying “This Page Isn’t Available.”

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Newley's Notes

NN248: Brilliant Border Collies

GameStop Stock

Sent as an email newsletter January 31, 2021. Sign up to receive future dispatches in your inbox.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

📈 Image of the week, above: GameStop’s stock price over the last year. Say what? Read on…

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

1) 🤑 The big markets-related story of the week: Day traders on Reddit’s Wall Street Bets subreddit (tagline: “Like 4chan found a bloomberg terminal”) have been piling into GameStop – yes, the videogame retailer – sending its stock up skyward, and putting hedge funds that have shorted it in a pickle. “The power dynamics are shifting on Wall Street,” my WSJ colleagues write. “Individual investors are winning big – at least for now – and relishing it.”

👉 For more, check out this WSJ interview with Keith Gill, aka “DeepF—ing Value,” a prominent member of the group on Reddit. And for an explanation of what’s going on, listen to this episode of our The Journal podcast with my colleague Gunjan Banerji, who’s been covering the phenomenon.

2) 💻 John Seabrook, writing in The New Yorker: “Has the Pandemic Transformed the Office Forever?”

3) ✈️ ICYMI: China flew a bunch of warplanes off southwestern Taiwan last weekend, “its largest show of aerial force toward the island democracy in four months,” my colleague Chun-Han Wong reports.

4) 👃 Longread of the week, in the New York Times Magazine: “What Can Covid–19 Teach Us About the Mysteries of Smell?,” by Brooke Jarvis.

5) 🎳 The Ringer has a list of the 50 best cult movies. (Number one is absolutely correct.)

6) 🗺 Fascinating: “Inuit cartography.”

7) 🔥 A thing that now exists, that I absolutely want to eat: Hot Tamales flavored Peeps. (Thanks, Colin R.!)

8) 🍞 Absurd slideshow of the week, courtesy of The Onion: “Watch What Happens When You Zoom In On This Bread”.

9) 🐼 Absurd(ly awesome) panda-related content of the week: “This is the most important video I’ve ever seen.” (Thanks, Anasuya!)

10) 👏 Photo gallery of the week: a global roundup of sniffer dogs being trained to detect Covid–19.

•••

🐕 Dog-related video of the week: “Border Collies, often cited as the most intelligent of all domestic dogs.”

•••

📕 What I’m Reading

I’m almost finished with Steven Levy’s excellent “Facebook: The Inside Story." For fiction, I’ve been dipping into Kim Stanley Robinson’s acclaimed climate change-themed sci-fi novel “The Ministry for the Future,” which I’m enjoying.

•••

💡 Quote of the week:

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” – Dolly Parton.

•••

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,

Newley