Twitter to WhatsApp: Social media companies standing up to Indian government

Twitter offices in New Delhi were raided by the police in an act denounced as “intimidatory” by the US company. (Shutterstock/File)
Twitter offices in New Delhi were raided by the police in an act denounced as “intimidatory” by the US company. (Shutterstock/File)
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Updated 01 August 2022

Twitter to WhatsApp: Social media companies standing up to Indian government

Twitter to WhatsApp: Social media companies standing up to Indian government
  • US social media giants have filed lawsuits against the government after it requested to remove content and weaken encryption

LONDON: Twitter and WhatsApp are pushing back against the Indian government’s request to remove content and weaken encryption in a move that could see Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government further tighten its grip on media freedom in the country, experts claim.

“The Modi government’s tactic of trying to stamp out encrypted messaging and social media posts under the guise of public safety and lawfulness could spread elsewhere,” said Daphne Keller, director of the Program on Platform Regulation at Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center.

“We should consider it a canary in the coal mine for other faltering democracies, including our own,” she added.

The number of internet users in India has grown dramatically in the last few years, sparking the government’s concerns about disinformation, hate speech and other dangers online. However, critics say the recent moves are simply a cover for cracking down on free speech and dissent.

Over the last few years, New Delhi has introduced a series of regulations and laws to curb freedom of speech, including new information technology rules that “required any large social media firm to appoint chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer in the country to address local concerns.”

“Official regulations are increasingly beside the point. The government doesn’t follow its own rules,” says Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia policy director for the civil rights group Access Now. “The government doesn’t follow due process. The system is rotten to the core.”

In July, Twitter announced it filed a lawsuit against the Indian government, accusing it of abusing its power “by ordering it to arbitrarily and disproportionately remove several tweets from its platform.”

“Blocking of such information is a violation of the freedom of speech guaranteed to citizen-users of the platform. Further, the content at issue does not have any apparent proximate relationship to the grounds under Section 69A,” Twitter argued in a statement.

Twitter offices in New Delhi were subsequently raided by the police in an act denounced as “intimidatory” by the US company.

Twitter is not the only tech giant to have confronted the Indian government. Last year, WhatsApp sued New Delhi, challenging new regulations that “could allow authorities to make people’s private messages ‘traceable,’ and conduct mass surveillance.”

Because of its growing internet base, US social media giants see India as a critical market, but due to the current climate, they have encountered increased difficulties.

However, it seems clear that companies have no intention of standing by and obeying the government’s orders and have started putting up some resistance.


Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack

Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack
Updated 26 November 2022

Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack

Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack
  • Hacker group appears to have obtained staff personal information and government data

LONDON: Iran’s state media outlet Fars was hit by a cyberattack, the agency reported on Saturday.

The incident seems to be part of a larger operation aimed at discrediting the outlet, which is managed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and exposing sensitive government information.

Fars said that its website had been disrupted late on Friday by a “complex hacking and cyberattack operation.”

“Removing possible bugs may cause problems for some agency services for a few days,” it said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel.

“Cyberattacks against Fars news agency are carried out almost daily from different countries, including the occupied territories (Israel),” it added.

Fars has been heavily criticized for what critics say is its distorted reporting of recent protests that have swept Iran since the death of Mahsa Amini in mid-September.

The 22-year-old was arrested for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code for women and died while in the custody of the country’s morality police.

Hackers appear to have targeted the Twitter account of one of Fars’ managers and published a video on his profile.

The hacker group Black Reward on Friday claimed to have breached the agency’s database, and said it had obtained confidential bulletins and directives sent by the news agency to the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Iran has been targeted by several anonymous hacker groups in recent years.

In October, Black Reward published documents from Iran’s nuclear program after the government ignored hackers’ demands to release all political prisoners and protesters arrested during recent demonstrations.

In past weeks, the group has also hacked the emails of state-affiliated press and TV managers and employees, obtaining personal information.


Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage
Updated 26 November 2022

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage
  • Video shows Palestinian Laila Odeh surrounded by people chanting anti-Arab slogans

LONDON: France24 correspondent Laila Odeh was harassed and verbally attacked by Israeli extremists as she spoke Arabic during live coverage from West Jerusalem on Wednesday.
A video of the incident shows the Palestinian journalist being heckled while covering the recent bomb attacks that took place in West Jerusalem.
The reporter was broadcasting live from Givat Shaul, one of the blast sites, when about 30 people tried to interrupt the live coverage.
In the video, Odeh is seen exchanging some words with a group of young people before they start surrounding the crew, stepping in front of the camera to block the broadcast.
“Excuse me, we’re live,” she said, to which one of the people replied: “I don’t care.” Odeh added: “You’re annoying me. Move away from here.”

 

 

Then the video shows her engaging in a verbal exchange before people around her started chanting anti-Arab slogans, forcing Odeh to cut the broadcast.
Some people in the group shouted “Death to Arabs”, “Arabs go to Russia” and “This is an Arab explosion.”
According to reports published by France24 following the incident, after the live broadcast people shouted to Odeh to “go to Gaza,” continued their insults and increased their aggressive behavior. France24 also reported that some people punched its cameraman and broke the camera tripod.
This is not the first time Odeh has been targeted by Israeli extremists. She was hit on the head and verbally abused while covering the Israeli nationalist Flag March in Jerusalem in May.
On Wednesday, Israeli police said bombs were detonated at two bus stops in West Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul and Ramot junctions, killing one Israeli and injuring 14 people, three of them seriously.
While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, Israeli authorities imposed a broadcast ban on the investigation.

 


Elon Musk says Twitter’s ban on Trump after Capitol attack was ‘grave mistake’

This file combination photo shows Elon Musk (L) listening to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (AFP)
This file combination photo shows Elon Musk (L) listening to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (AFP)
Updated 26 November 2022

Elon Musk says Twitter’s ban on Trump after Capitol attack was ‘grave mistake’

This file combination photo shows Elon Musk (L) listening to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (AFP)
  • Twitter said it permanently suspended him because of the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the Capitol

WASHINGTON: Twitter’s ban on then President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters was a “grave mistake” that had to be corrected, Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Friday, although he also stated that incitement to violence would continue to be prohibited on Twitter.
“I’m fine with Trump not tweeting. The important thing is that Twitter correct a grave mistake in banning his account, despite no violation of the law or terms of service,” Musk said in a tweet. “Deplatforming a sitting President undermined public trust in Twitter for half of America.”
Last week, Musk announced the reactivation of Trump’s account after a slim majority voted in a Twitter poll in favor of reinstating Trump, who said, however, that he had no interest in returning to Twitter. He added he would stick with his own social media site Truth Social, the app developed by Trump Media & Technology Group.
Republican Trump, who 10 days ago announced he was running for election again in 2024, was banned on Jan. 8, 2021, from Twitter under its previous owners.
At the time, Twitter said it permanently suspended him because of the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the Capitol. The results of the November 2020 presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden were being certified by lawmakers when the Capitol was attacked after weeks of false claims by Trump that he had won.
Trump repeatedly used Twitter and other sites to falsely claim there had been widespread voter fraud, and had urged supporters to march on the Capitol in Washington to protest.
The attack is being investigated by US prosecutors and a congressional committee.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday on Musk’s statement that Trump did not violate any Twitter terms of service when his account was suspended.
Earlier on Friday, Musk tweeted that calling for violence or incitement to violence on Twitter would result in suspension, after saying on Thursday that Twitter would provide a “general amnesty” to suspended accounts that had not broken the law or engaged in spam.
Replying to a tweet, Musk said it was “very concerning” that Twitter had taken no action earlier to remove some accounts related to the far-left Antifa movement. In response to another tweet asking if Musk considered the statement “trans people deserve to die” as worthy of suspension from the platform, the billionaire said: “Absolutely.”
Change and chaos have marked Musk’s first few weeks as Twitter’s owner. He has fired top managers and it was announced that senior officials in charge of security and privacy had quit.

 


More security for UK-based Iran International after threats

More security for UK-based Iran International after threats
Updated 25 November 2022

More security for UK-based Iran International after threats

More security for UK-based Iran International after threats
  • Concrete barriers have been erected
  • Last week, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that armed police vehicles had been deployed outside the TV studios

LONDON: The Iran International TV channel on Friday said that further security measures have been put in place around its London offices after threats from the regime in Tehran.
Concrete barriers have been erected similar to those at key government buildings and tourist spots in the British capital, to prevent vehicle attacks.
The barriers were “guaranteed to stop a 7.5 ton truck at 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour,” a spokesman for the Persian-language channel said.
Vehicle access in and around the site would also be controlled and checks carried out, he added.
The threats were an escalation of years of intimidation because of its broadcasting of protests in Iran, the spokesman told AFP.
“We’re the only channel running 24/7 coverage of the protests,” he said.
But he added: “We’re not the voice of the protests. We’re the only means that people in Iran can see them.”
The spokesman, who asked not to be identified, stressed that Iran International was not an opposition channel and its staff were not activists.
“We were set up as a service for people in Iran and the diaspora,” he said.
Last week, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that armed police vehicles had been deployed outside the TV studios.
That followed “severe and credible” death threats against two of its UK-based journalists from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The UK government promptly hauled in Iran’s highest-ranking diplomat to the country for a dressing-down.
MI5, the UK domestic intelligence agency, has uncovered at least 10 plots by Iran to kill UK-based individuals deemed to be “enemies of the regime” so far this year, its boss said last week.
The channel employs about 100 staff in London, whose coverage of the protests largely involves sifting through and verifying social media content of the demonstrations.
Iranian staff were “more anxious” than panicked about the threats and more worried about the safety of their families back home, as well as the wider impact of the protests, said the spokesman for the channel.
“We all don’t know what the hell is going to happen. That’s stressful,” he said.


Musk announces gold, gray and blue badges for Twitter accounts

Musk announces gold, gray and blue badges for Twitter accounts
Updated 25 November 2022

Musk announces gold, gray and blue badges for Twitter accounts

Musk announces gold, gray and blue badges for Twitter accounts
  • CEO apologized for the delay and said users verification coming back next week

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter’s billionaire owner Elon Musk announced Friday that the platform would be launching differently colored badges to distinguish between accounts.
“Sorry for the delay, we’re tentatively launching Verified on Friday next week,” he tweeted.
“Gold check for companies, grey check for government, blue for individuals (celebrity or not) and all verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates.”
In another tweet, Musk said that all verified individual accounts would have the same blue check, but some would eventually be able to display a “secondary tiny logo showing they belong to an org(anization) if verified as such by that org(anization).”
The Tesla and SpaceX boss’ proposal for users to be able to pay to be “verified” and obtain a blue badge on their profiles has caused confusion since he acquired the social media giant last month.
Musk proposed a subscription fee of $8 a month to allow users to obtain the blue check — which was previously free but reserved for organizations and public figures in an attempt to avoid impersonation and misinformation.
The first rollout of Musk’s subscription plan in early November quickly went south, with many accounts paying for the blue check and then impersonating world leaders, celebrities or companies.
Responding to the backlash, Musk initially postponed the launch date to November 29, before delaying it once more. It now appears the feature will launch on December 2.
Musk has said that he wants to charge users for subscriptions to the social media platform to diversify its income stream. Twitter currently depends on advertising for 90 percent of its revenue.
Several major brands have withdrawn from advertising on the platform since Musk bought it, fearing that his promised relaxation of content moderation could open their companies up to being associated with objectionable content.
According to the NGO Media Matters, half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers have announced that they are suspending or “have apparently suspended” their spending on the social network.