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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!

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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

Categories
Journalism Tech

By Me Last Week: Twitter Outshines Facebook — in Japan

The story begins:

Twitter Inc. is now bigger than its rival Facebook — in Japan, at least.

A week after quarterly earnings fueled investors’ concerns that Twitter’s user growth has stalled, the company for the first time Thursday broke out its user numbers for a country outside the U.S., saying it had 35 million monthly active users in the world’s third-largest economy as of the end of last year.

Facebook, a major competitor for advertising dollars, had 25 million monthly active users in Japan as of the end of 2015, a Facebook spokeswoman said Thursday.

Twitter’s user base has long been compared to Facebook’s, which is much larger globally. Twitter last week said 320 million users signed into the platform at least once a month in the fourth quarter, the same as in the previous three months. Facebook, by comparison, said it had 1.59 billion monthly active users as of the end of last year, up 3% from the previous three months.

It was the first time Twitter’s closely watched user growth flatlined from the previous three-month period. More troubling: the number of users in the U.S. fell to 65 million from 66 million.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Journalism Tech

By Me Last Week: Twitter to Beef up Singapore Office

The story, which ran on Thursday, began:

Twitter Inc. plans to double its staff in Singapore over the next two years as it seeks to lure new users and advertisers in Asia, an executive said.

Shailesh Rao, Twitter’s vice president for Asia Pacific, the Americas and emerging markets, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Wednesday that the company will hire more than 100 new staff in Singapore, doubling its current workforce of about 80 employees. Twitter opened a small office in Singapore in 2013 and in recent weeks has moved to a larger space, which has now become the company’s Asia-Pacific headquarters.

“We need more capabilities and more people doing what they’re doing already,” in jobs such as sales, marketing, finance and more, Mr. Rao said.

Twitter is focusing on fast-growing Asian countries like India and Indonesia as it seeks to attract new users and advertising dollars, analysts say. The company, which derives most of its revenue from advertising, is looking for a boost from such emerging markets as user growth levels off in developed markets like the U.S. and the U.K.

Meanwhile, the big story on Friday was that Chief Executive Dick Costolo is stepping down. Here are the first few grafs of my colleague Yoree Koh’s story:

Dick Costolo is stepping down as Twitter Inc.’s chief executive after five years, as Wall Street began losing faith in him and the social-media company’s future growth.

The move puts a spotlight back on co-founder and Chairman Jack Dorsey, who will serve as interim CEO while he remains chief executive of payments startup Square Inc. Mr. Dorsey was Twitter’s first CEO from May 2007 to October 2008.

Twitter said it would be looking both inside and outside the company for a new chief.

Stay tuned for more.

Categories
Journalism Tech

By Me Today: How Tech Companies Like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Viber are Helping Connect People Following the Nepal Earthquake

UPDATE: Embedded above and online here: a video I recorded with WSJ Live about the story.

The story begins:

Global technology firms are pitching in on earthquake rescue efforts in Nepal with services such as free calls to and from the country to functions that track survivors and relay the news to worried relatives and friends overseas.

Search giant Google Inc. on Saturday launched its Person Finder service, which allows users to post and search for information about missing friends and loved ones. The feature, which Google created in response to the destructive 2010 earthquake in Haiti, showed it was tracking 5,100 records as of early Monday afternoon Asia time.

Facebook Inc. activated Safety Check, which allows users in areas affected by the earthquake to select a notification alerting friends on the social network that they are OK.

“When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe,” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote Saturday in a post on his Facebook page, referring to the feature developed last year. “It’s moments like this that being able to connect really matters.” The post was shared more than 41,000 times and received more than 263,000 likes.