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Social Media Regulations: Need 3 Months To Frame Rules, Centre Informs SC



NEW DELHI: The Centre on Monday informed the Supreme Court that it would need 3 more months to finalize the process of updating and notifying the intermediary guidelines for social media in India, as per the reports by PTI. These new rules will be aimed at curbing the alleged exploitation of various social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp; major issues like fake news, hate speech, defamatory posts, and anti-national activities will be regulated by the updated guidelines which are expected by the last week of January.

After the top courts inquired about the steps taken on this subject, an affidavit had been filed, in which the government said that the country witnessed an exponential increase in the kind of posts and messages that incite hatred, disrupts social harmony and threatens country’s integrity, and therefore, a greater control over the internet is required to safeguard national security.

On the basis of the appeals filed by social media giants like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter, who argued that the cases will probably have national security implications, the court assembled all the related cases and transferred them to the High Courts. After the government provides the court a draft of revised intermediaries guidelines, the next hearing will take its course, which is expected on January 15.

The Internet has become a powerful tool which can potentially cause “unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity”, The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology told the court.

Although technology has facilitated economic growth and progress, it also heightened the concerns regarding social harmony and national security. “As the internet has emerged as a potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity, it was felt that the extant rules be revised for effective regulation of intermediaries, keeping in view the ever-growing threats to individual rights and the nation’s integrity, sovereignty, and security,” remarked the ministry in the affidavit. “After collating and analyzing all the details from stakeholder participation and inter-ministerial consultation, the deponent has bonafide belief that a further period of three months would be required for finalizing and notifying the final revised rules in accordance with law.”

Prior to Tamil Nadu’s agreement on transferring the cases to the top courts, the Attorney Journal said, “WhatsApp and Facebook after coming to India can't say they can't decrypt information.”

US: Investigators can Use Fake Social Media Profiles to Monitor Potential Visa Seekers





US Citizenship and Immigration Services officers, who were previously banned from creating fake social media profiles, can now create such profiles for the purpose of monitoring social media information of foreigners attempting for visas, citizenship and green cards.

On Friday, the ban was overturned in the review of potential privacy issues conducted and posted online by the Homeland  Security Department.

Explaining the need for the reversal of the ban, a statement by USCIS said that locating evidence of fraud and cross verifying the information for security reasons will be made easier for officers and investigators while deciding whom to allow inside the US.

The concerned State Department took several other steps which included asking applicants applying for US visa to provide their social media handles. However, it is ambiguous how resorting to fake social media identities would be carried out successfully as the terms and conditions of major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter would clearly be violated while impersonating.

Commenting on the matter, Twitter said in a statement, "It is against our policies to use fake personae and to use Twitter data for persistent surveillance of individuals. We look forward to understanding USCIS's proposed practices to determine whether they are consistent with our terms of service,"

As per the DHS document, the investigating officers are restricted from interacting or conversing with people on various social media platforms and are only allowed to review and verify information passively. Although a lot of social media activity can be viewed and hence reviewed without an account,  certain platforms still keep within bounds the access for the guest users.

Referencing from the remarks made by Dave Maass, a senior investigative researcher for the civil liberties advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, use of fictitious accounts "undermines our trust in social media companies and our ability to communicate and organize and stay in touch with people."

"It can't be this double standard where police can do it, but members of the general public can't." He added.

This meme explains why TikTok isn't like any other social media



People think that TikTok is a black hole where teens jump in and memes pop out. To be sure, TikTok has both teens and memes. But the reality is much more structured than it seems.

TikTok is dominated by videos with a very rigid, formulaic structure: a song, a dance. “You Need to Calm Down” by Taylor Swift plays, and the person sets up a social scenario that ends with them lip-synching “You need to calm down, you’re being too loud.”

Most of TikTok is like Mad Libs: the specifics of the joke differ, but the punchline is always the same. At any given moment, there’s maybe five to ten sound bites—which could be songs, or original audio recorded by users—that are accumulating the majority of the views, sometimes hundreds of thousands in just hours.

Enter TikTok's latest genre: point-of-view videos, or POVs. They create scenarios that range from horror, to historical fiction, to teenage fantasies, to the completely absurd. These videos often have little in common aside from the significant role that they assign to the viewer.

The traditional TikTok POV is shot from a first-person perspective, making the viewers the main character of the video. TikToker @porrinate, who identified himself as Adam, told Motherboard, “I think it makes it very personal to the viewer, because the video is through their eyes.”

Adam made a POV captioned “#pov you dont have a lunch at school and i offer you my entire lunch because i want you to be okay.” In this video, the viewer is a student that doesn’t have lunch. Adam speaks directly to them.

“I took it from my own experience, which was like, I didn’t get to eat that much in high school—and if I did, it was from somebody else,” Adam said. “So I would always feel like, people need to be more generous, especially towards those who are really struggling.”

Fake Messages on WhatsApp Asks the Users to Pay Money in Order to Continue Using the App




WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram suffered a social media outage on 3rd July which affected the users all across the world. As a consequence of the outage, users were not able to access the platforms properly and certain features became dysfunctional. During the outage, a lot of people in India got messages on their WhatsApp telling that the app is down due to over usage and it would be off from 11:30 PM to 6:00 AM every day. The message also asked users to forward the text message to their contacts in order to continue using the app service otherwise their account would be made inaccessible and the app services will no longer be free of charge for them.

The fake message which was circulated on WhatsApp is as follows:

“What's app will b off From 11.30pm to 6:00 am daily Declared by central govt. Message from Narendra Modi (PM) we have had an over usage of user names on WhatsApp Messenger. We are requesting all users to forward this message to their entire contact list. If you do not forward this message, we will take it as your account is invalid and it will be deleted within the next 48 hours. DO NOT ignore my words or whatsapp will no longer recognise your activation. If you wish to re-activate your account after it has been deleted, a charge of 499.00 will be added to your monthly bill. We are also aware of the issue involving the pictures updates not showing. We are working diligently at fixing this problem and it will be up and running as soon as possible. Thank you for your cooperation from the modi team. WhatsApp is going to cost you money soon. The only way that it will stay free is if you are a frequent user i.e. you have at least 50 people you are chatting with. To become a frequent user send this message to 10 people who receive it (2 ticks) and your WhatsApp logo will change color. send this to 8 people to activate the new whatsapp..
Saturday morning whatsapp will become chargeable. If you have at least 10 contacts send them this message. In this way, we will see that you are an avid user and your logo will become blue and will remain free. (As discussed in the paper today. Whatsapp will cost 0.01€ per message. Send this message to 10 people. When you do the light will turn blue otherwise whatsapp will activate billing. ITS TRUE ...... U get blue TICKS"

Likewise, another fake message claimed that WhatsApp has been sold off to Mukesh Ambani and asks users to forward the message to 10 people in order to activate the new WhatsApp along with Facebook services.

The entire message read:
"Dont ignore please read it carefully" Hello, I. Am VARUN PULYANI director of whatsapp, this message is to inform all of our users that we have sold whatsapp to Mukesh Ambani . Reliance for 19 billion $. WhatsApp is now controlled by mukesh Ambani . If you have at least 10 contacts send this sms and logo of your whatsapp will change to a new icon with facebook's "f" within 24 hours.Forward this message to more than 10 people to activate your new whatsapp with Facebook services or else your account will be deleted from new servers.
This is the final notice! Hello everyone, it seems that all the warnings were real, the use of WhatsApp cost money from November 2017. If you send this string to 18 different on your list, your icon will be blue and will be free for you. If you do not believe me see tomorrow at 6 pm ending WhatsApp and have to pay to open it, this is by law This message is to inform all of our users, our servers have recently been very congested, so we are asking you to help us solve this problem. We require our active users to forward this message to each of the people in your contact list to confirm our active users using WhatsApp, if you do not send this message to all your contacts WhatsApp will then start to charge you. Your account will remain inactive with the consequence of losing all your contacts. Message from Jim Balsamic (CEO of Whatsapp ) we have had an over usage of user names on whatsapp Messenger. We are requesting all users to forward this message to their entire contact list. If you do not forward this message, we will take it as your account is invalid and it will be deleted within the next 48 hours. Please DO NOT ignore this message or whatsapp will no longer recognise your activation. If you wish to re-activate your account after it has been deleted, a charge of 25.00 will be added to your monthly bill. We are also aware of the issue involving the pictures updates not showing. We are working diligently at fixing this problem and it will be up and running as soon as possible. Thank you for your cooperation from the Whatsapp team”

Users are advised to not believe such fake messages and avoid spreading the misinformation further by forwarding it to other users.



Automated accounts sharing fake news ahead of French polls: Experts

French voters are being deluged with false stories on social media ahead of the country’s presidential election, though the onslaught of “junk news” is not as severe as that during last year’s U.S. presidential campaign, according to a study by Oxford University researchers.

A man looks at campaign posters of the 11th candidates who run in the 2017 French presidential election in Enghien-les-Bains, near Paris, France April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann.

The study to be published Friday and another published on Wednesday add evidence to complaints by officials in France, Germany and the United States that Russia is trying to replicate its cyber-powered election meddling in American politics.

Just days before France votes in the first round of a presidential election, the study said misinformation at times has accounted for one-quarter of the political links shared on Twitter in France. It defined “junk news” as deliberately false stories and those expressing “ideologically extreme, hyper-partisan or conspiratorial” views with logical flaws and opinions passed along as facts.

“French voters are sharing better quality information than what many U.S. voters shared and almost as much quality news and information as German users share,” according to the study by the Oxford Internet Institute, which will be published on Friday but was made available on Thursday to Reuters.

The French study uses data from a recent week on Twitter but a greater role is being played by Facebook, said Kevin Limonier of the University of Paris VIII, who is studying social media manipulation in the election with a grant from the French government.

Facebook recently suspended 30,000 suspected automated accounts in France. Although it characterized the cleanup as an objective move against spamming, many of the profiles were distributing politically driven misinformation and propaganda.

On Twitter, where automated accounts are allowed, many of the same accounts that promoted Republican Donald Trump in the U.S. campaign last year have turned their attention to pushing conspiracy theories and far-right viewpoints, according to Limonier and Clinton Watts, a former FBI agent and now a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security.

US Navy to create database of 350 billion social media posts







The United States navy is planning to create a repository of more than 350 billion social media posts from around the world, to research on how people behave online. 

The project team has not specified from which social media platform they are intend to collect the data. 

However, they will only collect the public posts in between 2014 and 2016, from more than 100 countries and in at least 60 different languages. 

The details of the project were revealed in a  tender document from the Naval Postgraduate School for a firm to provide the data.

The deadline of the applications have now closed.

Additional requirements included:
  • the posts must come from at least 200 million unique users
  • no more than 30% can come from a particular country
  • at least 50% must be in a language other than English
  • location information must be included in at least 20% of the records

The collected database must not include private messages and users personal information. 


"Social media data allows us for the first time, to measure how colloquial expressions and slang evolve over time, across a diverse array of human societies, so that we can begin to understand how and why communities come to be formed around certain forms of discourse rather than others," T Camber Warren, the project's lead researcher, told Bloomberg.

UK : Social Media Executives To Be Held Accountable For Destructive Content!



Reports have it, that according to a recent proposal of the UK authorities, social media executives shall be personally blamable for the harmful content on their platforms.
The freshly published paper in which the details were mentioned is just a tactic to restrict the spread of violent and detrimental content related to suicides and cyber bullying.
Disinformation, is another theme eluded upon along with the rising need for companies to hold their ground against terroristic, child abusive, and sexually abusive content.
The regulations and guidelines in the aforementioned paper also mention the requirement for every individual regulator to impose the rules.
Its’s high time, the online companies took responsibility for what content their platforms displayed, in an attempt to reinstate trust in technology within the society.
Files hosting sites, chat forums, messaging services, search engines and social media platforms alike will come under the belt of the aforementioned measures.
If not adhered to, the policies also mention within them strong punishments for companies including substantial fines and blocking access.
This is a great action which has potential to bring change. The implementation although could not be as simple as it all sounds.
The above-mentioned set of guidelines would provide for a stable code of conduct for everyone on the social media which if complied to, will lead to safer platforms.
But, the implementation, is still in question along with other questions like, Will the regulatory approach be different for smaller companies?
Social media regulation and the improvements it requires is on everyone’s mind, of late because of the mosque shooting in New Zealand.
The shooting was live streamed on Facebook and other social media sites like Instagram, YouTube and etc. were rushed to block and delete the copies of the video which has instantly gone viral.
A legislation not very different from the one in UK that was discussed above was passed in Australia meaning to hold the executives responsible for whatever is posted on their platforms.

Facebook leaves passwords unencrypted



Facebook said there is no evidence its employees abused access to this data. The company said the passwords were stored on internal company servers, where no outsiders could access them. However, privacy experts suggested that users change their passwords.

The security slip left the passwords readable by the social networking giant's employees.

The issue was first reported by security researcher Brian Krebs, who published a blog post-Thursday detailing that Facebook employees built applications that captured the passwords of users and stored them as plain text, meaning a password would be readable just the same as it is entered to log in.

The blunder was uncovered during a routine security review early this year, according to Canahuati.

"To be clear, these passwords were never visible to anyone outside of Facebook and we have found no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed them," vice president of engineering, security, and privacy Pedro Canahuati said.

"As part of a routine security review in January, we found that some user passwords were being stored in a readable format within our internal data storage systems," Pedro Canahuati, vice president of engineering for security and privacy at Facebook, wrote in a blog post. "This caught our attention because our login systems are designed to mask passwords using techniques that make them unreadable."

Most companies encrypt passwords to prevent them from being stolen in the event of a data breach or used for nefarious purposes by company employees.

The incident reveals yet another huge and basic oversight at a company that insists it is a responsible guardian for the personal data of its 2.3 billion users worldwide.

By storing passwords in readable plain text, Facebook violated fundamental computer-security practices. Those call for organizations and websites to save passwords in a scrambled form that makes it almost impossible to recover the original text. The blunder was uncovered during a routine security review early this year, according to Canahuati. 

Whatsapp Declines to comply with the Government’s Demand



With general elections scheduled to be held one year from now in India, the Indian Government is taking a strict prospect of the utilization of various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp for the spread of prevarication of information.

In the light of the same it had requested from WhatsApp for a solution for track the outset of messages on its platform.

The Facebook owned firm though declined to comply with the government's request saying that the move will undermine the protection and privacy of WhatsApp users.

Sources in the IT Ministry have said that the administration has declared that WhatsApp should keep on exploring the specialized technical advancements whereby if there should be an occurrence of mass circulation of offensive and detestable messages whipping up clashes and delinquency, the outset can be figured out easily.

The ministry is additionally looking for an all the more firm affirmation of the assent with Indian laws from the company, along with the foundation of grievance officer with a wide framework.

Accentuation has been given to the fact that a local corporate entity, subject to Indian laws, ought to be set up by the company in the outlined time period.


Prior this week the WhatsApp Head Chris Daniels got together with the IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for tending issues similar to this one. After the gathering, Mr. Prasad said that the legislature has requested that WhatsApp set up a local corporate entity and uncover a technological solution in order to ascertain the outset of the  phony messages circled through its platform simultaneously commission  a grievance  officer.

 “People rely on WhatsApp for all kinds of sensitive conversations, including with their doctors, banks and families. Building traceability would undermine end-to-end encryption and the private nature of WhatsApp, creating potential for serious misuse,” the Facebook-owned firm said on Thursday.

“WhatsApp will not weaken the privacy protections we provide,” a company spokesperson stressed, adding, “Our focus remains working closely with others in India to educate people about misinformation and help keep people safe.”

A month ago, WhatsApp top administrators, including COO Matthew Idema, met IT Secretary and other Indian government authorities to summarize the several different advances being taken by the company on this issue.