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YouTube Says It Does Not Allow Taliban-Affiliated Accounts, WhatsApp Reportedly Shuts Down Taliban Helpline

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Alphabet’s YouTube said on Tuesday it has a long held policy of not allowing accounts believed to be operated by the Taliban on its site, as social media companies faced questions about how they would handle the group that fast gained control of Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s return to power for the first time in 20 years has raised fears of a crackdown on freedom of speech and human rights, especially women’s rights, and concerns that the country could again become a hotspot for global terrorism.

Separately, the Financial Times reported that Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service has shut down a complaints helpline for Afghans to contact the Taliban, set up by the group after it took control of Kabul on Sunday.

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A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment on the action, but said the service was obligated by US sanctions laws to ban accounts that appear to represent themselves as official accounts of the Taliban.

The complaints number that was an emergency hotline for civilians to report violence, looting or other problems was blocked by Facebook on Tuesday, along with other official Taliban channels, the report said.

Facebook had on Monday said it designates the Taliban a terrorist group and bans it and content supporting it from its platforms.

A Taliban spokesman accused Facebook of censorship at a news conference on Tuesday, according to a translation of his remarks in a video clip.

YouTube, when asked if it banned the Taliban on Monday, declined to comment. But it said on Tuesday that its prohibition of the group was a long-standing approach.

The Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan poses challenges for multiple major social media and messaging platforms on what and who should be allowed on their platforms.

Asked if it would allow the Taliban to operate official Afghan government Facebook pages or accounts, Facebook pointed to a statement in which it said it respects the authority of the international community in making determinations on recognised governments.

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Twitter, which is reviewing its rules for world leaders on the platform, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the same question.

Taliban spokesmen with hundreds of thousands of followers have tweeted updates during the country’s takeover. A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement that the network would review content that may violate its rules, specifically against the glorification of violence or platform manipulation, but did not answer questions on whether it has any particular restrictions on the Taliban as a group or how it classifies violent organisations.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


It’s a John Cena double-header this week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, as we discuss The Suicide Squad, and later, Fast & Furious 9 (from 28:03). Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Elon Musk-Twitter Deal Is a ‘Breath of Hope’, Says Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called Elon Musk’s proposed takeover of Twitter a “breath of hope” as the two met in Brazil on Friday, adding he hoped the US billionaire would help end the “lies” about his widely criticised stewardship of the Amazon rainforest.

Bolsonaro and Musk, the CEO of electric carmaker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, met to discuss rural Internet connectivity and monitoring of the Amazon. The meeting comes at a sensitive time for both men.

Bolsonaro faces an uphill battle to get re-elected in the October, and has become increasingly isolated on the global stage, while Musk was on Thursday accused of sexual harassment in a news report – an allegation he denies.

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Bolsonaro, a far-right nationalist, has blasted major social media platforms for their efforts to combat disinformation, including taking down his baseless comments linking COVID-19 vaccines to developing AIDS. Musk, who Bolsonaro called a “legend of liberty,” has vowed to defend free speech on Twitter.

Bolsonaro has been globally condemned for advocating more mining and farming in the Amazon and for Brazil’s environmental backsliding. Recent satellite data show deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has surged to a 15-year high under Bolsonaro.

Speaking alongside Musk at an upscale hotel in the countryside near Sao Paulo, Bolsonaro hailed the billionaire’s bid for Twitter, saying “it was like a breath of hope.”

“We need, and are counting on Elon Musk for the Amazon to be known by all in Brazil and the world, to show … how we have protected it, and how much harm is caused by those who spread lies about that region,” he told a news conference.

Later, in a press conference without Musk, Bolsonaro gushed about meeting the US billionaire. “It’s the start of a relationship which I’m sure will soon end in marriage,” he said.

Bolsonaro added that Musk’s Twitter purchase would represent “the freedom of press that we always want and desire, total freedom, without limit,” he said.

Bolsonaro also said that he was making Brazil’s Alcântara space base near the equator available to Musk’s rockets.

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Musk tweeted on Friday afternoon that he aimed to discuss further monitoring of the rainforest and an effort to bring broadband internet to rural areas – a scheme that he had previously discussed with members of Bolsonaro’s government.

Musk was not asked about harassment allegations when he took questions after arriving in Sao Paulo, where he was also greeted by business leaders such as Telecom Italia Chief Executive Pietro Labriola and Banco BTG Pactual Chairman Andre Esteves.

Musk’s meeting with Bolsonaro, a longtime conservative firebrand who defends Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, is indicative of the right-ward drift of his personal politics. On Wednesday, he said he previously voted for Democrats, but will now vote for Republicans.

For Bolsonaro, who has worried international observers as many fear that he may refuse to hand over power if he loses the October election, Musk’s visit was a public relations coup.

Bolsonaro lost an ally when former US President Donald Trump lost his 2020 re-election bid, and has not spoken with US President Joe Biden since the Democrat took office.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022


Should you pick Vivo over Galaxy S22 and OnePlus 10 Pro? We discuss this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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WhatsApp Request Account Inform Feature Rolling Out on Desktop: Report

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WhatsApp has reportedly started rolling out a beta update that lets users request their account information on WhatsApp desktop. The feature was initially introduced on Android and iOS to comply with EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Request Account Info feature is said to only be available after updating your WhatsApp desktop to the latest beta version. The feature seems to be rolling out slowly, and is said to currently only available to beta testers. WhatsApp earlier this week also began introducing free cloud-based API services in a push to get more businesses using the app. A recent report had also indicated that WhatsApp Premium, a subscription-based model, is being tested for WhatsApp Business.

As per a recent report by WhatsApp features tracker WABetaInfo, the social media app has started rolling out a beta update that lets users Request Account Info on WhatsApp desktop. The feature was limited to WhatsApp on Android and iOS till now. Users will be able to access the “Request Account Info on Desktop” feature only after updating their WhatsApp desktop beta to the latest – it has currently been spotted in v2.2219.3 beta, but was initially spotted in development in the v2.2204.1 beta version – though at time, it was not visible to testers. Even now, the report mentions that the feature may only be available to certain beta users.

The WhatsApp Request Account Info feature was introduced for Android and iOS in 2018 as a part the company’s compliance with the EU’s GDPR rules. When users request a report from WhatsApp, it gets ready in three days. However, users may have to wait for some more time before they are able to download it. The report will encompass details including all activity information, contacts device details, or privacy settings.

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In other news, WhatsApp this week announced it is also introducing free cloud-based API services in a push to get more businesses using the app. WhatsApp already has an API, or type of software interface, for businesses to connect their systems and engage in customer service chats on the service, which generates revenue for Meta.

A recent report had also indicated that WhatsApp Premium, a subscription-based model, is being tested for WhatsApp Business. Under this model, business accounts may choose to pay a certain sum for various features and capabilities. Reportedly, WhatsApp Business profile owners can also opt out of WhatsApp Premium and continue using the current version. The first mention of a subscription plan was in April when it was reported that the feature will allow businesses to link up to 10 devices after they subscribe to a plan.


Should you pick Vivo over Galaxy S22 and OnePlus 10 Pro? We discuss this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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WhatsApp to Introduce Cloud-Based API Services, Confirms Meta Platform CEO Mark Zuckerberg

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WhatsApp is introducing free cloud-based API services in a push to get more businesses using the app, Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced at the company’s messaging event on Thursday.

The messaging service, which has increasingly courted business users, is one of several platforms where Facebook-owner Meta has launched more shopping and business-focused features.

Zuckerberg, speaking at Meta’s “Conversations” event, said the offering would mean “any business or developer can easily access our service, build directly on top of WhatsApp to customise their experience and speed up their response time to customers by using our secure WhatsApp Cloud API hosted by Meta.”

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WhatsApp already has an API, or type of software interface, for businesses to connect their systems and engage in customer service chats on the service, which generates revenue for Meta.

Meta, which bought WhatsApp for $19 billion (roughly Rs. 1,47,355 crore) in a landmark 2014 deal, said that businesses would not be able to message people on WhatsApp unless they have requested to be contacted.

WhatsApp also said on Thursday it was planning to provide optional paid features as part of a new premium service for users of its specialised business app, which is geared at small businesses.

Those features, which are still being developed, will include options to manage chats across up to 10 devices and customised click-to-chat links that businesses can post on their websites and share with customers.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, speaking in a session with Meta Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg at the conference, said a third of the users ordering rides via WhatsApp in India are new customers.

The ride-hailing company, which launched its WhatsApp chatbot in December, is now planning to further customise the service starting for users in and around Delhi and expanding to markets like Brazil, he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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How is Alexa faring in India? We discuss this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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