Posts Tagged ‘Whatsapp’

Tech giants face hefty fines under Australia cyber laws

August 14, 2018

Tech companies could face fines of up to Aus$10 million (US$7.3 million) if they fail to hand over customer information or data to Australian police under tough cyber laws unveiled Tuesday.

The government is updating its communication laws to compel local and international providers to co-operate with law enforcement agencies, saying criminals were using technology, including encryption, to hide their activities.

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Encryption within messaging apps has become a major headache for law enforcement agencies

The legislation, first canvassed by Canberra last year, will take into account privacy concerns by “expressly” preventing the weakening of encryption or the introduction of so-called backdoors, Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor said.

Taylor said over the past year, some 200 operations involving serious criminal and terrorism-related investigations were negatively impacted by the current laws.

“We know that more than 90 percent of data lawfully intercepted by the Australian Federal Police now uses some form of encryption,” he added in a statement.

“We must ensure our laws reflect the rapid take-up of secure online communications by those who seek to do us harm.”

The laws have been developed in consultation with the tech and communications industries and Taylor stressed that the government did not want to “break the encryption systems” of companies.

“The (law enforcement) agencies are convinced we can get the balance right here,” he told broadcaster ABC.

“We are only asking them to do what they are capable of doing. We are not asking them to create vulnerabilities in their systems that will reduce the security because we know we need high levels of security in our communications.”

The type of help that could be requested by Canberra will include asking a provider to remove electronic protections, concealing covert operations by government agencies, and helping with access to devices or services.

If companies did not comply with the requests, they face fines of up to Aus$10 million, while individuals could be hit with penalties of up to Aus$50,000. The requests can be challenged in court.

The draft legislation expands the obligations to assist investigators from domestic telecom businesses to encompass foreign companies, including any communications providers operating in Australia.

This could cover social media giants such as Facebook, WhatsApp and gaming platforms with chat facilities.

The Digital Industry Group (DIGI), which represents tech firms including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Oath in Australia, said the providers were already working with police to respond to requests within existing laws and their terms of service.

DIGI managing director Nicole Buskiewicz called for “constructive dialogue” with Canberra over the adoption of surveillance laws that respect privacy and freedom of expression.


WhatsApp limits forwarding in India after mob lynchings

July 20, 2018

WhatsApp announced limits on Friday on the forwarding of messages by its 200 million Indian users in an effort to stop a spate of horrific lynchings and to assuage government threats of legal action in its biggest market.

More than 20 people have been butchered by crazed mobs in the past two months across India after being accused of child kidnapping and other crimes in viral messages circulated wildly on WhatsApp.

Late Thursday, India’s government, scrambling to find a response, threatened to take WhatsApp to court, saying the “medium” for spreading malicious rumours “cannot evade responsibility and accountability”.

“If (WhatsApp) remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action,” the information technology ministry said.

The Facebook-owned firm responded on Friday with an announcement it will test limiting the ability to forward messages and cap at five the number of contacts or groups that messages can be forwarded to.

It addition, it said it will remove the “quick forward button” next to media messages, making sending on messages more cumbersome.

An Indian newspaper vendor reading a newspaper with a full back page advertisement from WhatsApp intended to counter fake information
WhatsApp published full-page advertisements in leading Indian newspapers

“We believe that these changes — which we’ll continue to evaluate — will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app,” a statement said.

Worldwide, the company will limit the number of forwards to 20 other groups, a spokesman said.

Under pressure from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the firm had already announced new features to help users identify messages that have been forwarded.

It bought full-page adverts in Indian newspapers with tips on how to spot misinformation.

Read: When a text can trigger a lynching: WhatsApp struggles with incendiary messages in India

The ministry also called on WhatsApp to enable the “traceability” of messages when an official request is made.

But the platform on Friday said its messages would stay “end-to-end encrypted”.

Chocolates to kids

Lynchings are nothing new in India, but the spread of smartphones — there are a billion plus handsets, and data is cheap — to even the most remote corners has enabled rumours to be shared at lightning speed.

In India, people forward on WhatsApp more messages, photos, and videos, than any other country in the world, the company says.

Gopal Chandra Das, father of lynching victim Nilotpal Das, with a picture of his son at his residence in Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, pictured on July 9. ─ AFP
Gopal Chandra Das, father of lynching victim Nilotpal Das, with a picture of his son at his residence in Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, pictured on July 9. ─ AFP

The latest incident last Friday saw a 27-year-old software engineer beaten to death by a crowd of more than 2,000 people in the southern state of Karnataka after he and his friends offered chocolates to local children.

Fatal attacks have also been carried out on Muslims by “cow protection” groups roaming highways and inspecting livestock trucks. Cows are sacred to the majority Hindu community.

Indian authorities have launched awareness campaigns and patrols and imposed internet blackouts in some areas but the impact has been limited.

One official “rumour buster” was himself beaten to death in the north-east in June.

In China WhatsApp is subject to major disruption, prompting people to use the homegrown WeChat. But elsewhere in Asia and beyond, WhatsApp and other tech firms have come under fire for the spread of “fake news”.

Major media organisations, often in partnership with big technology and social media corporations, have stepped up fact-checking and other steps to support credible journalism.

Internet firms, after initial reluctance to define themselves as “media”, have stepped up efforts to identify false news and to “curate” stories from “trusted” news sources.

In Pakistan, WhatsApp this week began a week-long publicity campaign offering tips to spot fake news ahead of elections on July 25.

In India, the firm is in discussions with the government on how to tackle spam messages ahead of upcoming elections and bringing in a fake news verification model similar to one used recently in Mexico, the Economic Times reported on Friday.

This week, the Supreme Court told the government to enact new legislation. Commentator and former magazine editor Paranjoy Guha Thakurta told AFP that just criticising WhatsApp was insufficient.

“You can shoot the messenger but the primary responsibility lies with the government to take action against the perpetrators,” he told AFP.

For more live updates, follow’s official news Instagram



‘Fake news often goes viral’: WhatsApp ads warn India after mob lynchings

WhatsApp curbs India service after lynchings

July 20, 2018

WhatsApp announced curbs on its service in India on Friday in an effort to stop a spate of horrific lynchings and to assuage government threats of legal action in its biggest market.

More than 20 people have been killed by mobs in the past two months across the country after being accused of child kidnapping and other crimes in viral messages circulated on WhatsApp.

The Facebook-owned firm said on Friday that in India it will test limiting the ability of users to forward messages, and will also experiment with a lower limit of five chats at once.

Image may contain: phone

It addition, it said it will “remove the quick forward button next to media messages,” a statement said.

“We believe that these changes – which we’ll continue to evaluate – will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app,” it added.

Under pressure from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the firm had already announced new features to help users identify messages that have been forwarded.

WhatsApp had also bought full-page adverts in Indian newspapers with tips on how to spot misinformation.

But in a strongly worded statement released late Thursday, India’s information technology ministry said the action taken was not enough.

“Rampant circulation of irresponsible messages in large volumes on their platform have not been addressed adequately by WhatsApp,” the ministry said.

“When rumours and fake news get propagated by mischief-mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability,” it said.

“If (WhatsApp) remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action.”



‘Fake news often goes viral’: WhatsApp ads warn India after mob lynchings

Facebook to remove violence-inciting misinformation from site

July 19, 2018
A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against the mob lynchings in the India

Facebook told the New York Times on Wednesday that it will soon begin extracting misinformation circulating on the social media platform that is inciting existing tensions into physical violence globally.

The details: Facebook has been under scrutiny for being used to propagate false information and hateful rhetoric which can lead to deadly violence in countries like IndiaSri Lanka and Myanmar. The company has already been working with local civil groups to identify false information for removal. However, other social platforms Facebook owns such as Instagram and WhatsApp, won’t adopt the policy, even though they are also being used to circulate false news, the Times notes.–1a73a25b-62ca-4b19-a08d-b5ec57da82d2.html

Image result for WhatsApp, on iPhone, photos

New York Times

The policy expands Facebook’s rules about what type of false information it will remove, and is largely a response to episodes in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and India in which rumors that spread on Facebook led to real-world attacks on ethnic minorities.

“We have identified that there is a type of misinformation that is shared in certain countries that can incite underlying tensions and lead to physical harm offline,” said Tessa Lyons, a Facebook product manager. “We have a broader responsibility to not just reduce that type of content but remove it.”

Facebook has been roundly criticized over the way its platform has been used to spread hate speech and false information that prompted violence. The company has struggled to balance its belief in free speech with those concerns, particularly in countries where access to the internet is relatively new and there are limited mainstream news sources to counter social media rumors.



‘Fake news often goes viral’: WhatsApp ads warn India after mob lynchings

Military looms large over divisive Pakistan election — Bajwa behind the scenes?

July 19, 2018

Accusations of military interference, encroaching extremism and a series of deadly attacks have cast an alarming shadow over Pakistan’s hopes for a rare democratic transition of power in next week’s election.

Observers have slammed “blatant” attempts to manipulate the ballot, which will see the brother of a recently jailed three-time prime minister face off against a former World Cup-winning cricketer for leadership of the nuclear-armed nation, whose short history is peppered by coups and assassinations.

A series of deadly attacks in mid-July has further darkened the mood, denting optimism over hard-won security for the country of 207 million.

© AFP | The ruling party’s biggest challenger is Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by former World Cup cricketer Imran Khan

“Whatever its result, the July 25 election will only increase Pakistan’s instability,” says former Pakistan diplomat Husain Haqqani. “It will be an election without winners.”

Nearly 106 million Pakistanis, including more than 19 million new voters, will choose a successor to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which took power in 2013 and hopes for a new mandate under leader Shahbaz Sharif.

Its biggest challenger is the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by former national cricket captain Imran Khan, seen in the West as a celebrity playboy but who turns a devout face towards Pakistan.

A third choice, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — son of slain premier Benazir Bhutto — could become kingmakers, forming a coalition with the winner.

– ‘Silent coup’ –

The brief, acrimonious campaign has been overshadowed by a tug-of-war between two actors who cannot even hold office: former premier Nawaz Sharif, ousted over corruption and banned from politics; and the military.

Sharif — older brother of Shahbaz — accuses the generals of targeting his party, including intimidating his candidates to switch allegiances, particularly in Punjab province.

Punjab holds the key to power under Pakistan’s first-past-the-post system, with a potential 141 out of 342 seats in the National Assembly, 272 of which are directly elected.

The stand-off between Sharif and the military peaked earlier this month, when he was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison for corruption.

One week later, he returned to Pakistan from London, where his wife is receiving cancer treatment, and was promptly imprisoned. Analysts say the PML-N’s fate rests on his ability to frame himself as the victim of a military conspiracy.

He is not alone in his accusations against the generals. Major Pakistani media outlets and activists have increasingly complained of kidnappings and intimidation in recent months.

The pressure, branded a “silent coup” by one think tank, seeks to censor coverage of certain topics and parties ahead of the election, they say.

The PML-N appears to be the main focus, though Bhutto has also complained his campaign is being hampered.

There is a widespread belief that the generals prefer a weak civilian government who will not seek to rebalance the power between it and the security establishment.

“The military is clearly trying to create a new generation of leadership,” says security analyst Ayesha Siddiqa.

Khan is seen as the beneficiary of that favour, allowed to move freely around Pakistan and proclaim his ambition to build an “Islamic welfare state”. His chances of running the country are considered the best they have ever been.

The military, which has ruled Pakistan for roughly half its history, denies the allegations and says it takes “no direct role” in the election. It is set to deploy more than 370,000 soldiers on polling day.

– Urgent challenges –

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has declared itself “gravely concerned over what it sees as blatant, aggressive and unabashed attempts to manipulate” the elections.

“While it is critical that the polls are held as scheduled, there are now ample grounds to doubt their legitimacy -? with alarming implications for Pakistan’s transition to an effective democracy,” it said this week.

Even if it escapes a slide back in to insecurity and authoritarianism, Pakistan faces pressing challenges.

One of the most acute is the economy, with analysts warning the next government has little time to avert a balance-of-payments crisis, likely requesting Pakistan’s second IMF loan in five years.

It will also have to tackle one of the fastest population booms in Asia, negating economic and developmental gains, and particularly alarming when combined with the threat of absolute water scarcity as soon as 2025.

Security has improved dramatically since a military crackdown. But analysts have long warned of Pakistan’s failure to address the root causes of extremism.

Militants still carry out spectacular attacks — including a suicide blast last week that killed 149 people, the second most deadly attack in Pakistan’s history.

In such a context, Khan in particular has raised eyebrows by increasingly catering to religious hardliners, spurring fears his leadership could embolden extremists.

Military interference in the ballot prevents people from voting out bad leaders who don?t address the country?s needs, says the diplomat Haqqani.

“The solution to Pakistan’s problems is letting democracy run its course,” he said.



WhatsApp seeks to stem fake news ahead of Pakistan election

July 18, 2018

The hugely popular WhatsApp messaging service began a week-long publicity campaign in Pakistan Wednesday offering tips to spot fake news, days before the country holds a general election.

“Together we can fight false information,” says the full-page ad in Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English-language daily, listing ten tips on differentiating rumours from fact.

“Many messages containing hoaxes or fake news have spelling mistakes. Look for these signs so you can check if the information is accurate,” it says.

“If you read something that makes you angry or afraid, ask whether it was shared to make you feel that way. And if the answer is yes, think twice before sharing it again.

© AFP/File | WhatsApp is trying to clamp down on fake news in Pakistan

WhatsApp also announced the implementation in the country of a new feature allowing recipients to see if a message is original or forwarded.

The company had bought full-page advertising in India on July 10 after a wave of lynchings in the country were linked to viral “fake news” spread by WhatsApp about alleged child kidnappings.

WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, had come under pressure from Indian authorities to put an end to the spread of rumours, which have caused the deaths of more than 20 people in the past two months.

Millions of people use WhatsApp in neighbouring Pakistan, where rumours, false information and conspiracy theories are ubiquitous. Such messages spread quickly, with no real way for recipients to check their veracity.

Pakistan also has a history of mob violence, and videos such as the murder of Mashal Khan — a journalism student accused of blasphemy who was killed by a mob in April 2017 — circulate rapidly.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for July 25.

India: Google engineer latest victim of mob lynchings fueled by WhatsApp rumors

July 15, 2018

At least 25 people have been killed since May in incidents of mob violence triggered by rumors circulated on WhatsApp. The authorities are clueless as to who is behind the hoax messages.

A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against the mob lynchings in the India

A 32-year-old Google engineer was beaten to death and three others were severely injured in the southern Indian state of Karnataka on Friday in the latest incident of mob violence fueled by fake social media messages.

The victims were assaulted after one of them reportedly offered imported chocolates to school children, according to local media reports. The assailants assumed the group were trying to kidnap the children — the attack bore terrifying similarity to a string of mob lynchings in recent weeks.

Police arrested 25 people on Sunday.

Since May, at least 25 people have become victims of vigilante justice triggered by fake warnings of kidnappers or organ harvesters circulated on the Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp.

The perpetrators in most cases are villagers, many of them first time smartphone users unable to discern between real and fake videos sent via the platform.

Technology-driven menace

An explosion in smartphone use is widely regarded as a major cause of the problem.

Nearly one in three Indians own a smartphone. Last year, 134 million smartphones were sold in India, which is the world’s second-biggest market, after China.

The smartphone revolution has changed the way people access information. Political parties, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, are increasingly harnessing the new medium to garner support — in many cases through incendiary content.

Read moreIndia’s Dalits outraged at increase in caste-motivated attacks

Earlier this month, a mob killed five men in the western state of Maharashtra after videos circulated on WhatsApp warning about the presence of organ harvesters. The videos were fake, with one showing children who died from a nerve-gas attack in Syria.

On July 6, the army had to be called in the eastern state of Assam to rescue three priests who were under attack from a mob, incensed by hoax messages about child kidnappers carried on WhatsApp.

In June, two young men were lynched in the state on similar suspicions.

Alarmed by the string of lynchings, the Electronics and Information Technology Ministry has called on WhatsApp to remain “accountable, responsible and vigilant” and act immediately to curb the spread of false information.

“WhatsApp needs to recognize India offers a huge market for them. They are making good money out of India operations,” Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said earlier this month. “Therefore, they must focus on the security-related aspects of people of India.”

Read moreAttacks on Africans expose India’s racist inclinations

An Indian newspaper vendor reading a newspaper with a full back page advertisement from WhatsApp intended to counter fake informationWhatsApp published full-page advertisements in leading Indian newspapers

WhatsApp media blitz

Earlier this week, WhatsApp, which counts India as its biggest market, with more than 200 million users, published full-page advertisements in leading newspapers offering tips to users on how to identify false information.

“We are starting an education campaign in India on how to spot fake news and rumors,” a WhatsApp spokesman said in a statement. “Our first step is placing newspaper advertisements in English and Hindi and several other languages. We will build on these efforts.”

WhatsApp also launched a new feature that will label forwarded messages as such, informing receivers that the sender is not the creator of the message.

“It’s a good beginning,” Altaf Halde, cybersecurity global business head at the cybersecurity consulting firm Network Intelligence, told DW. “We need a mix of technology and people awareness to deal with the problem. More education is needed, but it will not happen overnight.”

Unlike its parent company, Facebook, messages on WhatsApp are difficult to monitor, as they are encrypted. This makes it hard for law enforcement agencies to trace the creators of the false content.

Tagging forwarded messages with the originating number is not an option, experts warn.

“That’s going to pose serious privacy-related questions,” Saket Modi, the chief executive of online cyber security firm Lucideus, told DW. “I don’t want my number to be flashed every time my message is forwarded.”

Saket Modi also feels awareness is key as the majority of WhatsApp users in the country are first-time smartphone users.


‘Fake news often goes viral’: WhatsApp ads warn India after mob lynchings

Indian police arrest 25 in latest WhatsApp rumor-led lynching

July 15, 2018

Image result for india, police, photos

Police in India have arrested more than two dozen men who were part of a mob that lynched a 32-year-old man after rumors spread over WhatsApp that he was a child-kidnapper, police said on Sunday.

The killing of Mohammed Azam, who police said was a call center employee, in the southern state of Karnataka on Friday, was the latest in a series of assaults in India triggered by false messages about child abductors spread through Facebook Inc-owned WhatsApp.

At least three people have been killed and more than a dozen assaulted over such rumors this year, according to media reports.

Dileep Sagar, a police inspector in Karnataka, said a mob of at least 50 people attacked Azam and a relative after they were spotted offering chocolates to children in a remote village.

India is WhatsApp’s biggest market, with more than 200 million users.

The Information Technology ministry wrote to WhatsApp this month asking it to take measures to curb the spread of such fake messages.

WhatsApp put out advertisements in newspapers last week announcing an “education campaign” on how to spot fake news, adding it would also start labeling forwarded messages.

A spokeswoman for the company contacted on Sunday declined to make an immediate comment.

The inspector, Sagar, said at least 10 police officers, including him, were inured as they tried to control the attackers. Azam’s relative was injured.

Police have also arrested the administrator of a WhatsApp group on which the false messages were spread.

India: villagers lynch visitor for offering chocolate to girl

July 15, 2018


Villagers beat a person to death and injured two others with sticks and stones because they suspected them to be child-lifters.

The incident Friday night happened at Thoul hamlet and Murki village in Aurad taluk, Bidar district, India.

fake news

Facebook owned messaging service WhatsApp on July 10, 2018 published full-page advertisements in Indian dailies in a bid to counter fake information that has sparked mob lynching attacks across the country. PHOTO |

India blames an uptick of mob violence and lynchings on fake news and widely spread rumours on social media.

Read more at:
‘Fake news often goes viral’: WhatsApp ads warn India after mob lynchings

When fake news sparks violence: India grapples with online rumours, mob violence

July 14, 2018

India has been shaken by a spate of mob killings sparked by a hoax about child kidnappers spread on WhatsApp.

In just two months, 20 people have been murdered in such attacks. Officials and social media platforms have so far been powerless to stop the violence.

But who is to blame? And why is a rumour turning people to violence?

– A rumour is born –

An online hoax emerged more than a year ago in eastern India claiming strangers were sedating and abducting children. Six men falsely accused of snatching kids off the streets were killed by mobs in Jharkhand state, police said.

© AFP/File | India is fertile ground for fake news to take hold and spread

In February this year, the rumours resurfaced nearly a thousand miles away in western India. By May, it had reached the country’s southern states, often accompanied by a grainy video purporting to show men on motorbikes stealing kids.

This falsehood spread like wildfire via WhatsApp, which boasts 200 million users in India who send a billion messages a day.

Later, a grisly video claiming to show Indian children killed by organ-harvesting gangs went viral. The macabre images were Syrian infants killed in a gas attack five years ago.

Translated into regional languages, the rumour triggered violence across India, particularly in rural areas where distrust of outsiders is entrenched and digital literacy is poor.

By early July, at least twenty people had been killed in the previous two months. Among the victims were homeless people, two picnic goers and an elderly woman handing out chocolates to children.

– Police powerless –

India’s police rounded up suspects and formed patrols, driving village to village to quash the rumours. In some areas, travelling musicians sung about the scourge of fake news.

Authorities in some states shut down internet access in a desperate bid to stop the hoax from spreading.

But the awareness campaigns had limited effect. In one instance, an official “rumour buster” was himself beaten to death.

Anger turned to WhatsApp, blamed by authorities for spreading “irresponsible and explosive messages”.

– Seeking penance –

WhatsApp said it was “horrified” by the violence and assured Indian authorities it was taking action.

The Facebook-owned company said it was working with Indian researchers to better understand the problem and had introduced changes which it said would reduce the spread of such messages.

But some pointed out that WhatsApp as a medium was not to blame, and urged the authorities to tackle the violence.

– Mob rule –

India is no stranger to mob violence, with well-documented cases of crowds turning on victims for every manner of transgression, real or imagined.

In recent years, for example, there has been a sharp escalation in “cow vigilantism” — Hindu extremists murdering Muslims and thrashing low-caste Dalits accused of killing cows or eating beef.

Many of the victims in other vigilante killings, such as those over child kidnapping rumours, are targeted because they are outsiders.

– Facts vs. Fiction –

India is fertile ground for fake news to take hold and spread.

It has a billion-plus mobile phone users — more than any other country on earth — and close to half a billion people with internet access, most via their smartphones.

Cheap handsets and data plans are bringing more Indians online but many are first-time internet users unskilled in discerning fact from fiction.

Indian police say there is no substance to the child kidnapping rumours, but the viral videos may not appear outlandish to some.

More than 120,000 children were abducted or went missing in 2016, according to the most recent Indian government figures. There is no data available on the number of children who were found.