Posts Tagged ‘Whatsapp’

India Pushes Back Against Tech ‘Colonization’ by Internet Giants

September 4, 2018

In India, American companies dominate the internet. Facebook’s WhatsApp is the most popular app on phones. Virtually every smartphone runs on Google’s Android system. YouTube is the favorite video platform and Amazon is the No. 2 online retailer.

For some Indian political leaders, it is as if their nation — which was ruled by Britain for a century until 1947 — is being conquered by colonial powers all over again.

And they are determined to stop it.

“As a country, we have to all grow up and say that, you know, enough of this,” Vinit Goenka, a railways official who works on technology policy for India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, said at a conference last week.

In recent months, regulators and ministers across India’s government have declared their intention to impose tough new rules on the technology industry. Collectively, the regulations would end the free rein that American tech giants have long enjoyed in this country of 1.3 billion people, which is the world’s fastest-growing market for new internet users.

India is trying to establish strong data protections for its citizens, as Europe did, while giving the government the right to obtain private information as it sees fit. Credit Sanjit Das/Bloomberg

The proposals include European-style limits on what big internet companies can do with users’ personal data, a requirement that tech firms store certain sensitive data about Indians only within the country, and restrictions on the ability of foreign-owned e-commerce companies to undercut local businesses on price.

The policy changes unfolding in India would be the latest to crimp the power — and profits — of American tech companies, and they may well contribute to the fracturing of the global internet.

In May, Europe put into effect a sweeping new privacy law that gives Europeans more control over what information is being collected on them. In the United States, California just passed a privacy law that gives state residents more protections than Americans at large.

As India sets the new rules of the game, it is seeking inspiration from China. Although India does not want to go as far as China, which has cut off its internet from the global one, officials admire Beijing’s tight control over citizens’ data and how it has nurtured homegrown internet giants like Alibaba and Baidu by limiting foreign competition. At the same time, regulators do not want to push out the American internet services that hundreds of millions of Indians depend on.

Read the rest:

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/31/technology/india-technology-american-giants.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Technology

Advertisements

UAE used Israeli spyware ‘to target Qatari emir, Saudi prince’

September 1, 2018

Emails obtained by the New York Times appear to show purchase of software created by Israeli NSO group.

NSO has been implicated in a series of digital break-in attempts, including a campaign against journalists, human-rights activists and lawyers [File: Reuters]
NSO has been implicated in a series of digital break-in attempts, including a campaign against journalists, human-rights activists and lawyers [File: Reuters]

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) asked an Israeli spyware company to hack into the phones of the Qatari emir and a Saudi prince among other political and regional rivals, emails obtained by the New York Times appear to show.

According to a report published on Friday, leaked emails submitted in two lawsuits against the Israel-based NSO Group suggested involvement in illegal spying for clients.

Rulers of the United Arab Emirates have been using Israeli spyware for several years, leaked e-mails show. Credit Rustam Azmi/Getty Images

The two lawsuits were filed in Israel and Cyprus by a Qatari citizen and Mexican journalists and activists who were targeted by the company’s spyware programme, Pegasus.

Emails submitted in the lawsuits showed that the UAE signed a contract to license the company’s surveillance software “as early as August 2013”.

Image may contain: 1 person

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani

The Emiratis sought to intercept the phone calls of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in 2014, as well as Saudi Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah – seen as a contender for the throne at the time – and Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s current prime minister.

Gulf crisis

To activate the spyware on the target’s phone, a text message is sent with a link.

If the target clicks on the link, Pegasus is secretly downloaded to the phone, enabling the user of the technology to gain access to all contact details, text messages, emails and data from online platforms such as Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat and Telegram.

The technology can also monitor phone calls and “potentially even face-to-face conversations conducted nearby”.

According to the New York Times, the lawsuits argue that the NSO Group’s affiliate successfully recorded the calls of a journalist and attempted to spy on foreign government officials at the request of its Emirati customers four years ago.

The hacking of Qatar’s state-run news agency and government social media accounts on May 24, 2017, set into motion a major diplomatic crisis, which saw Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt sever diplomatic relations and cut off land, air, and sea links with Qatar on June 5 last year.

The NSO Group group also sold the surveillance technology to Mexico on condition that it should be used only against criminals and “terrorists”, yet some of the country’s most prominent journalists, academics, human rights lawyers and criminal investigators have been targeted.

On August 1, Amnesty International released a report that said one of its employees was baited with a suspicious WhatsApp message in early June about a protest in front of the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC.

The London-based human rights organisation said it traced the malicious link to a network of sites tied to the NSO Group.

The company has previously admitted charging customers $650,000 to hack 10 devices, on top of a $500,000 installation fee.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/08/uae-israeli-spyware-hack-phones-belonging-opponents-180831113905857.html

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

Social Media Psychosis: Musk-Trump Disease is Born

August 24, 2018

In the age of social media, every opinion counts. Everyone feels free, and in fact empowered, to state his own views publicly.

But this may not be a good thing for either individuals or national governments.

Many learned scientists have said that social media encourages mob behavior. While democracies used to rely mostly upon the ballot box, with relative calm between election cycles, our current state of affairs is a continuous volley of charges and counter charges, in public, and not necessarily “in the public interest.”

Over night, Australia removed and replaced its prime minister in a vote of lawmakers, apparently because he was too calm and plodding for the current world.

People seem to be “juiced” toward conflict, anger, retribution and upheaval.

Wasn’t the Russian election meddling campaign about creating disunity?

How are they doing?

No automatic alt text available.

Human being don’t normally thrive on upheaval as a way of life. And the psychological toll this takes, though difficult to measure, seems to be one declared universally “bad” by experts in the human brain.

Video games have been declared addictive yet parents seem not to care. Maybe because, social media like Facebook itself may also be addictive, and capturing the brain of many adults.

As a newspaper opinion writer, or columnist, I was once told by an angry reader to “stay in my lane.” Almost without thinking, I responded, “My lane is the world.”

Most psychologists — then — would have called that an egotistical, narcissistic and potential psychopathic response.

Today, everyone thinks he  or she can comment upon everything and anything on social media. Day and night.

But nobody seems to know or care that this could be a wave of egotistical, narcissistic and potential psychopathic mob behavior difficult if not impossible to stop.

Fortunately we haven’t had any social media related lynchings as yet, except in India and who knows  where else.

Competent medial authorities have told me that Elon Musk and Donald Trump are two people that just should just get off Twitter. Their unrestrained outbursts may be amusing but they could also be self destructive.

Maybe some bright young psychologist will study and name this self-destructive social media psychosis: Musk-Trump Disease.

This should be a lesson to us all to back off our social media use and give our brains a rest.

But it won’t. Your brain is too tricky for that.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

Related:

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Image may contain: 1 person, text

The face of the Big Data backlash? Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg—pilloried here at a protest in Washington, D.C., earlier this year— is the most visible tech executive to grapple with fallout from a data scandal.
The face of the Big Data backlash? Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg—pilloried here at a protest in Washington, D.C., earlier this year— is the most visible tech executive to grapple with fallout from a data scandal. PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

.
.
.
.
Image result for child staring at iPhone, photos
.

Neuroscience may help explain a current lack of social and emotional skills, impulse driven decision making and mob-like behavior in society…

No automatic alt text available.

Social media is making children regress to mentality of three-year-olds, says top brain scientist

China’s Uighur Re-Education Camps Swell as Beijing Widens the Dragnet

August 18, 2018

Satellite images show expansion of ‘re-education’ centers in China’s Xinjiang region

A Wall Street Journal investigation reveals what goes on inside China’s growing network of internment camps, where hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uighurs are believed to have been detained. Screenshot/Video: Clément Bürge

China has sharply expanded an internment program that initially targeted ethnic Uighur extremists but is now confining vast numbers of the largely Muslim minority group, including the secular, old and infirm, in camps across the country’s northwest.

Up to one million people, or about 7% of the Muslim population in China’s Xinjiang region, have now been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to U.S. officials and United Nations experts.

As the camps have swelled in size, some Uighurs living outside China say that relatives—mainly, but not all, older people—have died in detention or shortly after their release.

Satellite images reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and a specialist in photo analysis show that camps have been growing. Construction work has been carried out on some within the past two weeks, including at one near the western city of Kashgar that has doubled in size since Journal reporters visited in November.

The full extent of the internment program was long obscured because many Uighurs feared speaking out. Now more are recounting experiences, including six former inmates interviewed by the Journal who described how they or other detainees had been bound to chairs and deprived of adequate food.

“They would also tell us about religion, saying there is no such thing as religion, why do you believe in religion, there is no God,” said Ablikim, a 22-year-old Uighur former inmate who asked to be identified only by his first name.

Growing Camp

Satellite images show the rapid expansion of a re-education camp in Shule county, near Kashgar, China from April 17, 2017 to Aug. 15, 2018. The camp has doubled in size since Wall Street Journal reporters visited it in November.

Sources: Planet Labs (photos); Melissa Hanham, expert in analysis of satellite imagery at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (structures)

The Journal also spoke to three dozen relatives of detainees, five of whom reported that family members had died in camps or soon after their release. Many said they had struggled to determine where their relatives were being held and the state of their health.

A senior Chinese official, Hu Lianhe of the United Front Work Department, publicly acknowledged the existence of the camps for the first time this week but said they were “vocational training centers.”

Responding to questions from a U.N. panel, Mr. Hu said there is no “arbitrary detention” in Xinjiang and denied one million people were being held. He didn’t say how many people were in the centers.

China has struggled for decades to curb separatist sentiment among its Turkic-speaking Uighurs, who briefly achieved statehood twice, in the 1930s and 1940s. Some of Xinjiang’s 11 million Uighurs still seek an independent homeland they call East Turkestan in the oil-rich region.

Beijing blames Uighur separatists for dozens of attacks on government targets, and says they have links to jihadist groups. Some recent attacks have borne jihadist hallmarks and counterterrorism experts say dozens of Uighurs have joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Even so, many experts on the region and Uighur activists say unrest there is driven more by China’s heavy-handed policing, strict limits on religious activity, and preferential policies for non-Uighur migrants to the region.

China stepped up many of those restrictions in the past two years, banning men from growing beards and women from wearing veils, and introducing what many experts regard as the world’s most extensive electronic surveillance program.

The widening scope of the internment program suggests Beijing is now seeking to erase a sense of Islamic identity among Uighurs, and other Muslim ethnic groups, in its biggest program of mass extrajudicial detentions since the 1950s, researchers say.

“Re-education is the next level,” said Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the European School of Culture & Theology in Germany. Harsh policing was costly and created tension, he said, “so the long-term solution is to actually change people.”

A police station overlooks a re-education camp in Turpan’s New District, near the former home of Murat Harri Uyghur’s parents. The site features multiple guard towers and a room where relatives can register to visit with detainees.
A police station overlooks a re-education camp in Turpan’s New District, near the former home of Murat Harri Uyghur’s parents. The site features multiple guard towers and a room where relatives can register to visit with detainees.PHOTO: JOSH CHIN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

At one internment camp in the oasis city of Turpan, the site of an ancient Silk Road settlement, a sign on one of the main buildings read in red Chinese characters: “Sense the party’s thought, obey the party’s words, follow the party’s lead.” Guards shouted at an approaching Journal reporter to leave the area.

The center, surrounded by 15-foot-high walls topped with razor wire and punctuated with guard towers, has expanded since June last year with new buildings added as recently as this month, according to satellite images from U.S.-based Planet Labs Inc.

Ablikim, who is from Turpan, said he was studying international relations in Kazakhstan when Turpan police telephoned him in February and warned him his family would face trouble if he didn’t return to Xinjiang.

Upon arrival, police took him to a complex on Turpan’s outskirts with barbed wire and armed guards.

Ablikim said he was questioned there for days, spending up to nine hours at a time bound to a chair by his ankles and hands, which were handcuffed behind his back. Interrogators wanted to know whether he was involved with religious groups abroad. He said he wasn’t.

He was eventually permitted to join other inmates. The prisoners were awakened at 5 a.m. each morning and after a 45-minute run, shouting “The Communist Party is good!” were fed thin soup and steamed bread, he said.

Police patrol in a night food market near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang, region, a day before the Eid al-Fitr holiday in 2017.
Police patrol in a night food market near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang, region, a day before the Eid al-Fitr holiday in 2017. PHOTO: JOHANNES EISELE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Next came political classes, which included reading Communist Party documents, watching videos about President Xi Jinping and singing patriotic songs such as “Without the Communist Party, there wouldn’t be a new China!” for up to four hours daily.

He and other former inmates interviewed by the Journal said they were instructed that they shouldn’t pray, keep a copy of the Quran or fast during Ramadan. Some said they were forced to eat pork, which Islam forbids.

“They said we should give thanks not to Allah, but to Xi Jinping,” said one Uighur former inmate, who declined to be identified.

Last month, the U.S. State Department issued its most critical statement yet on Xinjiang, expressing concern over detention of “hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions” of Uighurs and other Muslims. It also said there had been reports of deaths in the camps.

Finnish citizen Murat Harri Uyghur, 33, said his mother Tiemuer Guihuahan, 57, a former civil servant and journalist for a state-run newspaper in Xinjiang’s Turpan city, was taken in to a re-education center last year. Mr. Uyghur, a doctor, said he stayed quiet at first to try to protect his father. In January, his father Wufuer Saitiniyazi, 57, also disappeared. At Shanghai Airport in February 2017, Mr. Uyghur says he was forced to take off all his clothes in an interrogation room and have his voice recorded reading aloud in Uighur, and his request to contact Finnish consular services was refused.
Finnish citizen Murat Harri Uyghur, 33, said his mother Tiemuer Guihuahan, 57, a former civil servant and journalist for a state-run newspaper in Xinjiang’s Turpan city, was taken in to a re-education center last year. Mr. Uyghur, a doctor, said he stayed quiet at first to try to protect his father. In January, his father Wufuer Saitiniyazi, 57, also disappeared. At Shanghai Airport in February 2017, Mr. Uyghur says he was forced to take off all his clothes in an interrogation room and have his voice recorded reading aloud in Uighur, and his request to contact Finnish consular services was refused. PHOTO: MURAT HARRI UYGHUR

China’s foreign ministry said in a faxed statement that “all ethnic groups are living in harmony” in Xinjiang. “It is useless to create rumors and smears,” it said. China’s public security ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment, nor did Xinjiang’s regional government or police.

Murat Harri Uyghur, a doctor in Finland, said he learned last year from his father that his 57-year-old mother, from Turpan, had been taken to a “school” to learn “patriotic things.” In January, his father, a diabetic retired government translator, was also taken to a camp.

He described his parents as secular Muslims who weren’t involved in political activity; his father occasionally drank alcohol and his mother didn’t wear a head scarf.

He said he hasn’t heard from either since they were confined and has been unable to determine their exact whereabouts, although friends in Turpan told him there were three camps around the city. Turpan’s city government and police didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this month, he learned his aunt in Turpan had tried in vain to discover which camp his father was in.

“It’s like a black hole. People go in, but they don’t come out,” Mr. Uyghur said of the camps. “I’m afraid of the worst now.”

Overseas relatives of Adalet Teyip, 63, were told in June that she had died during police questioning in the city of Turpan. Her daughter-in-law Adalet Rehim, 34, who lives in Canada, said Ms. Teyip was taken to a re-education center a year ago. ‘We only know she passed away and they didn’t show her body,’ said Ms. Rehim.
Overseas relatives of Adalet Teyip, 63, were told in June that she had died during police questioning in the city of Turpan. Her daughter-in-law Adalet Rehim, 34, who lives in Canada, said Ms. Teyip was taken to a re-education center a year ago. ‘We only know she passed away and they didn’t show her body,’ said Ms. Rehim.PHOTO: ADALET REHIM

Mr. Zenz, the researcher in Germany, said local authorities in parts of Xinjiang have been setting up “transformation through education” centers to tackle extremism since around 2014.

He said Xinjiang’s regional government appeared to have formally endorsed the regionwide program around April 2017, when it published “regulations on de-extremification.”

Mr. Zenz estimates there are now up to 1,300 camps, and has found government procurement and construction bids for 78, ranging from prison-style facilities to smaller schools with extra security where visitors can only talk to students via videoconferencing.

The most common reasons for detention include traveling abroad, contacting or visiting relatives outside China, and having WhatsApp on their phones, according to former inmates and detainees’ relatives.

Adalet Rehim, 34, a Uighur in Canada, said she was told in June that her 63-year-old mother-in-law, Adalet Teyip, had died during police questioning three months earlier in Turpan.

Ms. Teyip was in good health before she was taken with her husband to a re-education center a year ago, she said.

“We only know she passed away and they didn’t show her body, even didn’t return back her body,” said Ms. Rehim. Her father-in-law is still in a camp, she said.

Write to Eva Dou at eva.dou@wsj.com, Jeremy Page at jeremy.page@wsj.com and Josh Chin at josh.chin@wsj.com

Appeared in the August 18, 2018, print edition as ‘China Detains Uighurs on a Vast Scale.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-uighur-camps-swell-as-beijing-widens-the-dragnet-1534534894?mod=hp_lead_pos8

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 Dawn.com’s official news Instagram account@dawn.today

https://www.dawn.com/news/1421344/whatsapp-limits-forwarding-in-india-after-mob-lynchings

Related:

 

.
.
.
‘Fake news often goes viral’: WhatsApp ads warn India after mob lynchings
.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/13/fake-news-whatsapp-ads-india-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.”

AFP

Related:

.
.
.
‘Fake news often goes viral’: WhatsApp ads warn India after mob lynchings
.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/13/fake-news-whatsapp-ads-india-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.

https://www.axios.com/facebook-plans-to-remove-misinformation-inciting-violence–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.

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/18/technology/facebook-to-remove-misinformation-that-leads-to-violence.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Related:

.
.
.
‘Fake news often goes viral’: WhatsApp ads warn India after mob lynchings
.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/13/fake-news-whatsapp-ads-india-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.

AFP

Related:

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.