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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

Me on ‘The Journal’ Podcast Talking India, Covid-19, and Social Media

Journal podcast -- India, Covid, social media

I was on Tuesday’s edition of our “The Journal” podcast talking about my recent story on India, Covid-19, and accusations that the government is censoring social media over its handling of the crisis.

You can listen online here or find it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or other services. It was out May 4 and is called “India’s Social Media Crackdown.”

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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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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

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.

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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.”

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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.

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Hong Kong Journalism Tech

Facebook, Twitter, Google Face Free-Speech Test in Hong Kong

That’s the headline on my newest story, with my colleague Eva Xiao, out Friday. It begins:

U.S. technology titans face a looming test of their free-speech credentials in Hong Kong as China’s new national-security law for the city demands local authorities take measures to supervise and regulate its uncensored internet.

Facebook Inc. and its Instagram service, Twitter Inc. and YouTube, a unit of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, operate freely in the city even as they have been shut out or opted out of the mainland’s tightly controlled internet, which uses the “Great Firewall” to censor information.

In Hong Kong many citizens have grown accustomed to freely using their accounts to speak out on political matters, voice support for antigovernment protests, and register their anger at China’s increasing sway over the city.

Now the U.S. tech companies face a high-wire act, analysts say, if authorities here ask them to delete user accounts or their content. Refusal could invite Beijing’s scrutiny and potentially put them at risk of legal action under the new national-security law. Complying would alienate longtime users in the city, some of whom continue to speak out on their platforms, and leave the companies open to criticism from politicians in the U.S. or U.K.

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Tech

Excellent Pics of Old Lego Space Crafts, Delivered Via Twitter

2017 04 10lego

My new favorite Twitter bot is @LegoSpaceBot, which every couple of hours tweets “Lego Space stuff from the Classic and System eras.”

I had several of these sets a kid. Like the 1986 Lunar Scout shown above.

Nostalgia FTW!

Categories
Newley's Notes

Newley’s Notes 87: China vs. U.S. in India; Apple’s iPhone Plans; RIP Ashley :(

2017 04 09 NN

Edition 87 of my email newsletter, Newley’s Notes, went out to subscribers Thursday.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox before I post them, enter your email address here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes.

Sorry to begin with some sad news, but even though it’s been a few weeks, it’s still top of mind…

WHAT I WROTE AT NEWLEY.COM

Ashley, 2008–2017 – Our beloved dog Ashley, whom we adopted in Bangkok in 2009, died last month. A and I are still recovering. We really miss her.

In the post linked to above, I shared the story of her sudden illness and posted some of my favorite photos from our nearly eight years with her. I still can’t believe she’s gone.

But: Onward and upward.

WHAT I WROTE IN THE WSJ:

Twitter Launches Leaner Service Aimed at India – The story begins:

Twitter Inc. launched a new version of its service in India tailored for users with slow and unreliable internet connections, hoping to encourage expansion in the South Asian market as growth stalls at home.

TLDR: Twitter wants to gain new users in emerging markets like India, where web connections are often patchy.

Amazon and Facebook Hit Unexpected Obstacle in India: China – A story about how Chinese tech firms like Alibaba and Tencent are backing Indian startups, which are themselves challenging U.S. tech titans.

Apple to Start Making iPhones in India Over Next Two Months – A scoop with my colleague Rajesh Roy that begins:

Apple Inc. will soon start assembling iPhones in India for the first time, say government officials familiar with its plans, boosting the company’s chances of gaining a foothold in the fast-growing market.

Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron Corp. will likely start making iPhone 6 and 6S models here in the next four-to-six weeks at its plant in Bangalore, said an official of the southern state of Karnataka where the tech hub is located. It will add Apple’s cheapest iPhone model, the SE, to its assembly line in about three months, the official said.

Apple is struggling to boost sales in India, and making its smartphones here would help bring down the cost of the devices here.

Uber Rival Grab Hits the Road in Myanmar – Grab, a ride-sharing startup focused on Southeast Asia, has launched in Myanmar.

5 ITEMS THAT ARE WORTH YOUR TIME THIS WEEK:

1) Care about the communal good? Stop trudging up escalators. Research suggests that the system, often used in public transportation, in which riders stand on one side while others walk on the other actually creates congestion and slows things down for everyone. We’d all be better off just standing two-abreast and riding up together in one group, it seems.

2) Why are Japan’s white-gloved rail system staff always pointing at stuff? The answer, according to an interesting explainer at Atlas Obscura, has to do with ritualized safety checks:

Known in Japanese as shisa kanko, pointing-and-calling works on the principle of associating one’s tasks with physical movements and vocalizations to prevent errors by “raising the consciousness levels of workers”—according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Japan. Rather than rely on a worker’s eyes or habit alone, each step in a given task is reinforced physically and audibly to ensure the step is both complete and accurate.

3) Musical find of the week: Radiooooo.com, where you can explore popular music by world geography and decade. E. P. Licursi has the back story on this “hit tune time machine” in The New Yorker.

4) “Which Tech CEO Would Make the Best Supervillain?” Zuck? Elon Musk? Travis Kalanick? Jeff Bezos? Larry Page? Bill Gates? Peter Thiel? Click here to read more and decide for yourself.

5) Wondering how to quit social media? Here’s a round-up of several new books to help you unplug and explore the world around you. Among the titles: “Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World,” “The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit,” and “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.”

What’d I miss? Send me links, rants, raves, juicy news scoops and anything else! My email: n@newley.com

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Newley