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Hong Kong Journalism Tech

Facebook, Twitter, Google Threaten to Quit Hong Kong Over Proposed Data Laws

That was the headline on an exclusive I had out Monday. It begins:

HONG KONG–Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have privately warned the Hong Kong government that they could stop offering their services in the city if authorities proceed with planned changes to data-protection laws that could make them liable for the malicious sharing of individuals’ information online.

A letter sent by an industry group that includes the internet firms said companies are concerned that the planned rules to address doxing could put their staff at risk of criminal investigations or prosecutions related to what the firms’ users post online. Doxing refers to the practice of putting people’s personal information online so they can be harassed by others.

Hong Kong’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau in May proposed amendments to the city’s data-protection laws that it said were needed to combat doxing, a practice that was prevalent during 2019 protests in the city. The proposals call for punishments of up to 1 million Hong Kong dollars, the equivalent of about $128,800, and up to five years’ imprisonment.

“The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering the services in Hong Kong,” said the previously unreported June 25 letter from the Singapore-based Asia Internet Coalition, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

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India Journalism Tech

Facebook Ends Ban on Posts Asserting Covid-19 Was Man-Made

Facebook Covid

That’s the headline on a story I wrote that ran Thursday. It begins:

Facebook Inc. has ended its ban on posts asserting Covid-19 was man-made or manufactured, a policy shift that reflects a deepening debate over the origins of the pandemic that was first identified in Wuhan, China, almost 18 months ago.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, according to a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report.

“In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps,” Facebook said in a statement on its website Wednesday.

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India Journalism Tech

WhatsApp Says It Filed Suit in India to Prevent Tracing of Encrypted Messages

WhatsApp India lawsuit WSJ

That’s the headline on a story out Wednesday by my colleague Jeff Horwitz and me. It begins:

Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp said it filed a lawsuit in India to stop new government rules that would require the company to trace users’ encrypted messages, escalating a battle over online speech between American tech firms and the South Asian nation’s ruling party.

The messaging service, by far the largest in India, said in a statement that it filed the suit late Tuesday with the New Delhi High Court. The company has argued that the new rules violate Indian law because tracing individuals’ messages would violate their fundamental right to privacy.

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India Journalism Tech

Indian Police Visit Twitter’s Office After Politician’s Tweet Is Labeled as Misleading

Twitter India

That’s the headline on a story I wrote that run on Tuesday. It begins:

Indian police visited Twitter Inc.’s office in New Delhi to investigate the company’s labeling of tweets from a ruling party spokesman as misleading, the government’s latest move against U.S. tech platforms amid criticism over its handling of the pandemic.

Sambit Patra, a spokesman for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, in posts last week shared what he said was a document from the main opposition party purporting to show instructions for criticizing Mr. Modi’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. India has in recent weeks reported record highs of daily cases and deaths, making it the world’s worst current outbreak.

Twitter appended a label to Mr. Patra’s tweets stating that they contained “manipulated media.” A company policy prohibits the posting of images or videos that Twitter determines may be doctored and could cause harm.

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India Journalism Tech

India’s Covid-19 Crisis Tests the World’s Back Offices

India IT firms and Covid

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

India’s giant outsourcing firms are facing a two-front challenge: protecting the health of millions of employees as the nation suffers the world’s worst Covid-19 crisis, and ensuring that their work continues as usual for the big Western companies on their client lists.

Companies like Infosys Ltd., Wipro Ltd. and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., known as TCS, have built up armies of workers who serve global clients like Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc.’s Citibank and Vanguard Group, doing everything from running call centers to writing computer code. The companies, along with Western tech businesses with large India-based staffs, are dealing with absences of sick workers, trying to help stricken employees find oxygen and getting vaccine shots for others at a time when such resources are scarce.

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India Journalism Tech

India Accused of Censorship for Blocking Social Media Criticism Amid Covid Surge

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

India’s government ordered Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc. and Instagram to block about 100 social media posts criticizing its handling of the exploding Covid-19 surge in the country, sparking public anger and allegations of censorship in the world’s most populous democracy.

Officials said the legally binding order was designed to tackle what it called attempts in recent days to spread coronavirus-related misinformation and create panic by posting images of dead bodies taken out of context. Twitter, which received many of the takedown requests, blocked the posts in India, though they remained visible outside the country.

“Certain people are misusing social media to create panic in society,” India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in a statement Monday, when asked about the blocks. It didn’t specify which laws were used to issue the orders.

Many people on social media reacted with outrage. They said that the posts and others—some from senior opposition politicians—were political speech, arguing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi hasn’t done enough to curb India’s mammoth coronavirus surge, which shows no signs of slowing down from setting global records.

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Journalism Tech

Facebook Staff Fret Over China’s Ads Portraying Happy Muslims in Xinjiang

That’s the headline on my newest story, an exclusive that went online Friday and was in Saturday’s print WSJ. It begins:

Facebook Inc. is blocked in China, but Beijing is a big user of the platform to spread its political views to hundreds of millions of people overseas, sometimes via advertisements.

Now, some Facebook staff are raising concerns on internal message boards and in other employee discussions that the company is being used as a conduit for state propaganda, highlighting sponsored posts from Chinese organizations that purport to show Muslim ethnic minority Uyghurs thriving in China’s Xinjiang region, according to people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. and some European governments say Beijing is committing genocide against the Uyghurs, citing a campaign that includes political indoctrination, mass internment and forced sterilizations.

Facebook hasn’t determined whether to act on the concerns, say people familiar with the matter. The company is watching how international organizations such as the United Nations respond to the situation in Xinjiang, one of the people said. The U.N. this week called on firms conducting Xinjiang-linked business to undertake “meaningful human rights due diligence” on their operations.

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Hong Kong Journalism Tech

Facebook Drops Plan to Run Fiber Cable to Hong Kong Amid U.S. Pressure

That’s the headline on my newest story, with my colleague Drew FitzGerald, out Wednesday. It begins:

A Facebook Inc. consortium withdrew its bid to build a new internet conduit between California and Hong Kong after months of pressure from U.S. national-security officials, the latest sign of a deepening rift between the two governments.

The social-media giant told the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in a filing it would withdraw its application to land the Hong Kong-Americas project, known by its abbreviation HKA, pending a new request for “a possibly-reconfigured submarine cable system.”

Facebook and several telecommunications-industry partners first filed for permission to build the fiber-optic cable in 2018. It would have connected two sites in California with branches to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

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India Journalism Tech

India Threatens Jail for Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter Employees

That’s the headline on my latest story, an exclusive out Friday with my colleague Jeff Horwitz.

It begins:

India’s government has threatened to jail employees of Facebook Inc., its WhatsApp unit and Twitter Inc. as it seeks to quash political protests and gain far-reaching powers over discourse on foreign-owned tech platforms, people familiar with the warnings say.

The warnings are in direct response to the tech companies’ reluctance to comply with data and takedown requests from the government related to protests by Indian farmers that have made international headlines, the people say. At least some of the written warnings cite specific, India-based employees at risk of arrest if the companies don’t comply, according to some of the people.

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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.