Apps

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

Top iOS 15 Features to look out for

FaceTime for Android, anyone?

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The next version of iOS rolls out this fall. There are new features such as FaceTime for Android, new Memojis, rebranded Safari and Messages app, personal identification card compatibility for Wallet, and more.

But in this video, we rounded up our Top 10 iOS 15 Features you should look out for.

Watch the whole video by clicking here.

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Apps

Voilà AI Artist turns your selfies into 3D cartoons, caricatures

And many more artistic renditions!

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Voilà AI Artist

From FaceApp to Zepeto, plenty of avatars from these apps proliferated social media platforms. Most recently, the Internet went crazy with cute avatars once more. You probably noticed how people have been posting a 3D cartoon version of themselves, akin to a Disney character. It’s all thanks to Voilà AI Artist — a photo-editing app using artificial intelligence to turn your photos into artistic renditions.

Get yourself painted as a Renaissance painting.

Voilà AI Artist

Have your selfies transformed into a 3D cartoon from an animated movie.

Turn your photos into a 2D cartoon…

Voilà AI Artist

… or even have your face drawn as a caricature.

Voilà AI Artist

Voilà AI Artist is developed by WeImagine.AI., a Canada-based team of creators and developers. The app is free to download on the App Store and Google Play Store. If you’re concerned about the app’s privacy policy, read it here.

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The US revokes Trump’s executive order that banned TikTok

A level-playing field for everyone

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President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday that sets criteria for the government to evaluate the risk of apps connected to foreign adversaries. It’s specifically meant for apps like TikTok and WeChat, which President Trump banned.

It should use an “evidence-based approach” to see if they pose a risk to US national security, said Biden. If apps are found violating fundamental laws, a ban can be imposed. The task of identifying threats has been given to the US Commerce Department.

Trump’s executive order particularly targeted TikTok and WeChat. Instead, Biden is opting for a level-playing field for everyone. Biden shares the same concerns as Trump, but their approach is vastly different.

Under the previous administration, TikTok remained in a precarious position as Trump sought to ban the app unless it sold to an American company. A proposal was produced that would have seen Oracle and Walmart owning a US entity of the service and taking responsibility for handling TikTok’s US user data and content moderation.

But there were numerous legal challenges, and before they could be ironed out, Trump lost the election. The Biden administration’s new executive order does not affect those negotiations, which are a separate process. The order also calls upon federal agencies to develop recommendations – for future executive actions or legislation — on how to protect the data of US citizens.

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