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Twitter and the Indian government are involved in a nasty face off

The winner is a new app called Koo

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Twitter India

Twitter finds itself stuck in an odd situation — comply with government law or continue self-moderation? Who decides what can stay up on the platform and what cannot? The new challenges of governing social media has received a lot of attention globally, and the debate has intensified in India recently.

Following a massive protest demonstration in Delhi on January 26, the Indian government asked the American social media giant to take down 257 accounts, allegedly spread misinformation, and incited violence. The country recently enacted three new farm laws that have received considerable opposition in some parts of the country.

After the notice was sent, Twitter briefly suspended many of those accounts at the government’s behest but reinstated them a few hours later due to public outrage. The accounts included media publications like The Caravan as well as handles supporting the farmer protests.

Many view this as a crackdown on dissent and feel the government is trying to silence genuine opposition. However, the government asked Twitter to take down another 1,200 accounts on February 4, justifying that security agencies flagged them due to their close association with Khalistan’s separatist movement.

Government vs. Twitter

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY) has sent a non-compliance notice to Twitter. Critics say the government uses its power to suppress freedom of speech and the Twitter takedown sets a precedent for the future.

Twitter chose to remain defiant, issuing a public statement that its employees’ safety was a top priority but that the tweets must continue to flow. In fact, it went all-in and countered the government by saying it has acted on several blocking requests from the government in the past 10 days. But it declined to take any action on news publications, journalists, activists, and politicians as it believes that doing so “would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law.”

And this is where the government lost its patience. It was quick to say that Twitter “is welcome to do business in India” but must respect local laws. As a slight nudge, the ministry opened an account on Koo, India’s local alternative of Twitter, and posted a “koo” there. This prompted many to believe that a Twitter ban could be near the horizon; alas, this is just speculation.

India soon issued a very strong-worded statement, “Due to India’s conducive business environment, open Internet and a firm commitment to the freedom of expression, Twitter as a platform has grown significantly in India in the last few years…Twitter, as a business entity working in India must also respect Indian laws and democratic institutions.”

What does the future hold?

The discussion now revolves around content moderation and maintaining its integrity. Should a private for-profit company be allowed to censor or monitor what kind of content is being posted online? Can we let governments dictate policies? Especially when this gives them an easy option to crush dissent and offers more control.

The Indian government has also accused Twitter of  “differential treatment” in the US and India. The platform was quick to remove then-President Donald Trump when Capitol Riots were underway but did little to curb the flow of misinformation when thousands had seized India’s Red Fort as a sign of protest.

In the end, Twitter said it had permanently blocked over 500 accounts and moved an unspecified number of others from view within India. It remains to be seen how Twitter and government move forward, but one thing’s clear — a new wave of nationalism wants a local Twitter alternative.

With more than 700 million internet users, India is a huge and important market for global tech companies. Every company wants to lead the market due to its incredible size and potential. TikTok lost the market forever, but Reels was able to grab the opportunity. Can Twitter afford to go up against the government, from a business point of view?

Apps

Race For Water is a virtual race and fundraiser for clean water access

Raise funds when you run, walk, or ride your bike

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Clean water is a right, not a privilege. As per United Nations, the average distance African and Asian women walk to collect water is six kilometers, while carrying at least one 20-liter jug.

Waves for Water Philippines, in partnership with Takbo.PH launches Race For Water, in time for Women’s Month and Water Month. The virtual fundraiser is also tribute to World Water Day, addressing the global water crisis we are facing.

Runners and fitness enthusiasts can hit their personal targets through this online event while helping people along the way. This innovative race is designed to ensure social distancing and prioritize safety among participants and beneficiaries.

“I want clean water access for everyone, how do I help?”

Wherever you are in the world, you can join the virtual event, but entitlements and raffle prizes are open to Philippine residents only. To join, you can amp up your support by walking, running, and biking that extra mile.

Sign up at app.takbo.ph and record your progress using any GPS-tracking app of your choice. For every personal target hit, there’s a monetary equivalent. Waves for Water will convert the accumulated distance traveled by all participants into liters of filtered water.

Proceeds of Race For Water will go towards building a gravity-fed water system for an upland indigenous peoples’ community in Porac, Pampanga. This ensures they have water points within meters of their homes.

“When can I sign up and join the race?”

The Virtual Race starts March 1, 2021, and will be ongoing until April 15, 2021. To know more about Race For Water, visit the fundraising page.

Follow @wavesforwaterphilippines and @race4water on Instagram, for updates on giveaways, premium raffle items, and other side events. The event is organized in partnership with H&M Philippines, Aveda Philippines, The Bouldering Hive, and co-presented by TUMI Philippines, San Miguel Corporation, and Atlas.

For more information, visit Race for Water Virtual Run | Race for Water Virtual Ride.

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BPI Foundation’s Breakthrough app teaches personal finance through a digital board game

Your financial choices can either save you or break you!

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BPI Foundation, the social responsibility arm of the Bank of the Philippine Islands, launched its first interactive mobile game. Called Breakthrough: The Financial Choices We Make, the game aims to educate more Filipinos about personal finance in an entertaining manner. For brevity, we’ll be calling the game Breakthrough from hereon.

You can sharpen your financial awareness, understanding, and judgment — from basic to complex financial concepts. Saving, budgeting, insurance, debt management, investments, and retirement planning; your financial choices can either save you or break you.

Walkthrough

Breakthrough utilizes a board game set up like Monopoly, but instead of humans, you’re going against AI opponents. Players roll the dice which travels around the digital board landing on a corresponding tile.

Each tile presents common life events where a player’s decision can affect their score. There’s an opportunity to save, go on vacation, invest in stocks, or purchase insurance. You can even experience mishaps beyond your control like getting scammed, phished, or having emergencies such as car breakdown and home damage.

Overall, you can either amass or lose wealth depending on the path you decide to take. Whoever has the most assets, investments, coins, and highest net worth wins the game.

App development

The development of the app is the Foundation’s response to the World Bank’s study recommending the use of edutainment as a form of teaching financial concepts to the public, as stated by BPI Foundation Executive Director Owen Cammayo.

Apart from the board game, the app included a Financial Wellness journal, quizzes, and tips for players. Moving forward, the BPI Foundations plans to use the app in future runs of financial education webinars and other Foundation activities.

Moreover, the game is planning to scale up, further improving and expanding the gameplay. The Foundation, together with its partner Taktyl Studios, is working on allowing multi-player options, too. Breakthrough is now available on the App Store and Google’s Play Store.

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Facebook to pay $650 million in facial recognition lawsuit

The company that never learns

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A federal judge has approved a settlement in which Facebook will pay US$ 650 million to a class-action lawsuit over its tagging feature. The lawsuit alleged that facial recognition technology, used to tag photos, infringed on users’ privacy.

Facebook users who submitted claims will get at least US$ 345 from the company, the AP reported. The lawsuit had claimed that the adoption of facial recognition technology was being done without seeking permission from users. The social network also failed to inform the users how long their data was being stored.

While many of us view the tagging option as a feature, the platform collects sensitive facial recognition data, whose handling procedures remain opaque. Facebook ended photo-tagging suggestions in 2019 and instead opted for a model to allow users to control what data the platform has over their face.

“Overall, the settlement is a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy,” wrote Judge Donato. “The standing issue makes this settlement all the more valuable because Facebook and other big tech companies continue to fight the proposition that a statutory privacy violation is a genuine harm.”

The class-action case was first filed in Illinois in 2015, suggesting a violation of the Biometric Information Privacy Act. Facebook initially agreed to pay US$ 550 million last year, but another $100 million was added to the judge’s insistence.

 

Attorney Jay Edelson, who originally filed the suit in Illinois in April 2015, told the Chicago Tribune that the settlement was a “big deal.” He also tweeted that the settlement, “was the largest cash privacy class action settlement in history.”

Facebook has an abysmal track record of managing users’ data. In 2019, The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) imposed a US$ 5 billion penalty on Facebook for misrepresenting users’ ability to control their facial recognition data, as well as other sensitive account metadata.

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