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India Orders Blocking of 35 Pakistan-Based YouTube Channels, Websites: Here’s Why

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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has ordered the blocking of 35 YouTube channels and two websites which were running anti-India propaganda and spreading fake news “in a coordinated manner”.

The ministry has also issued orders for blocking of two Twitter accounts, two Instagram accounts and one Facebook account involved in spreading “coordinated anti-India disinformation”.

All these YouTube channels, websites and social media accounts were being operated from Pakistan to spread “anti-India fake news and other contents on sensitive subjects,”.

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“We have used the provision of section 69 A of the IT Act to block these channels under the emergency provisions as their contents were totally toxic and against the sovereignty of India, sort of a war of misinformation against the country (India),” Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Secretary Apurva Chandra told a press conference on Friday.

To block Pakistan-based social media accounts and websites, five separate orders were issued under Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 to the respective intermediaries, internet service provides and the department of telecommunication.

Chandra said Indian intelligence agencies were “closely monitoring” these social media accounts and the websites, and flagged them to the ministry for immediate action.

The orders were issued on Thursday, he added.

The 35 YouTube accounts, which were being operated from Pakistan, had a total subscriber base of over 1.20 crore and their videos had over 130 crore views, the I&B secretary said.

Replying to reporters’ queries, he said Indian intelligence agencies are “now alive to this issue” and that more such channels would be blocked in coming days.

He also called upon people to bring to the notice of the government if they find any YouTube channel, website or social media account running anti-India propaganda.

“We will take action,” he said.

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This comes days after 20 YouTube channels and two websites were blocked for spreading anti-India propaganda and fake news on a directive issued by the ministry in December last year.

I&B Minister Anurag Thakur had on Wednesday warned that the government would continue to take such action against those “hatching conspiracy” against the country.

The ministry said all the 35 YouTube accounts, ordered to be blocked on Thursday, were identified as being part of “four coordinated disinformation networks”.

These include the Apni Duniya Network operating 14 YouTube channels and Talha Films Network operating 13 YouTube channels.

“A set of four channels, and a set of two other channels were also found to be acting in synchronization with each other,” it said in a statement.

All these networks “appeared” to be operated with “a single goal” of spreading fake news oriented towards the Indian audience, the ministry said.

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“The channels which were part of a network used common hashtags and editing styles. They were being operated by common persons who cross-promoted each others’ content. Some of the YouTube channels were being operated by anchors of Pakistani TV news channels,” it said.

The ministry said the YouTube channels, websites and social media accounts, ordered to be blocked, were used by Pakistan for spreading anti-India fake news about sensitive subjects such as the Indian Army, Jammu and Kashmir and India’s foreign relations with other countries.

“It was observed that rampant fake news was spread through the YouTube channels regarding the demise of Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat,” the ministry said.

These YouTube channels had also started posting content to undermine the democratic process of the upcoming elections in five states. it said.

“They propagated content to encourage separatism, divide India on the lines of religion, and create animosity among various sections of the Indian society.

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Such information was feared to have the potential to incite the audience into the commission of crimes adversely affecting public order in the country, the ministry added.

The ministry secretary hoped that YouTube will block access to the channels across the globe as it had done last time following the ministry’s order to block 20 anti-India channels.

Replying to queries, he said that role of the intermediaries is “important” in checking the spread of fake news and misinformation on the Internet and suggested that they should create certain mechanisms to identify such accounts and block them.

“We have got a good response from the intermediary. Last time they blocked the (20) YouTube channels across the global level, taking action within 24 hours. We expect from them that they have a system in place so that such things doesn’t find way… They should have some system that red flags such channels,” he said.


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Google to Allow Tinder Owner Match to Offer Alternate Payment Systems to Users on Play Store

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Match Group said on Friday that Alphabet’s Google will allow the dating apps maker to offer users a choice in payment systems, eliminating Google’s control over user data.

Match sued Google in May, calling the action a “last resort” to prevent Tinder and its other apps from being booted off the Google Play store for refusing to share up to 30 percent of sales.

The company said it has withdrawn its request for a temporary restraining order against Google after some concessions, including eliminating its complete control over user data.

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Match’s lawsuit came against the backdrop of ongoing cases brought by Fortnite maker Epic Games, dozens of US state attorneys general and others in targeting Google’s allegedly anticompetitive conduct related to the Play store.

The development comes almost 10 days after Google rejected an app store monopoly suit filed by Tinder parent Match Group, saying it is a “self-interested” campaign putting money ahead of user safety.

Google’s response came a day after Match filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco accusing the tech titan of abusing control of the Play Store that sells digital content for Android-powered phones.

“This is just a continuation of Match Group’s self-interested campaign to avoid paying for the significant value they receive from the mobile platforms they’ve built their business on,” a Google spokesperson told AFP.

The litigation comes as part of an ongoing battle by Match, Epic Games and others to force Google parent Alphabet and iPhone maker Apple to loosen their grips on their respective app stores.

Match’s filing came after Google modified Play Store rules to require its family of apps to use the Internet giant’s payment system, which collects fees of up to 30 percent on transactions, court paperwork said.

Google has made it clear that it will remove Match apps from the Play Store if they do not comply with the rule, Match said in the filing, which described such punishment as a “death knell.”

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“This is a case about the strategic manipulation of markets, broken promises, and abuse of power,” Match said in the suit.

Google countered that Match is free to make its apps available elsewhere online, including on its own website.

While the App Store is the only gateway for content to get onto Apple mobile devices, users of Android-powered smartphones or tablets can download apps at their own risk from online venues other than Google’s Play Store.

Match’s lawsuit contends that despite having options, users get content for Android devices from the Play Store more than 90 percent of the time.

Match apps offered in the Play Store qualify to pay fees of just 15 percent on subscriptions, according to the Google spokesperson.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022


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Google Incognito Mode Not Really Private, Collects User Data, Says Texas Lawsuit

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The Google search engine collects data on users who think they can be anonymous if they use a “private browsing” mode, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton claimed on Thursday, filing an amended privacy lawsuit against the Alphabet unit.

Texas, Indiana, Washington State, and the District of Columbia filed separate suits against Google in January in state courts over what they called deceptive location-tracking practices that invade users’ privacy.

Paxton’s filing adds Google’s Incognito mode to the lawsuit filed in January. Incognito mode or “private browsing” is a Web browser function that Paxton said implies Google will not track search history or location activity.

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The lawsuit said Google offers the option of “private browsing” that could include “viewing highly personal websites that might indicate, for example, their medical history, political persuasion, or sexual orientation. Or maybe they simply want to buy a surprise gift without the gift recipient being tipped off by a barrage of targeted ads.”

The suit said “in reality, Google deceptively collects an array of personal data even when a user has engaged Incognito mode.”

Google said on Thursday that Paxton’s filing is again “based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings. We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data.”

“We strongly dispute these claims and will vigorously defend ourselves to set the record straight,” it added.

Paxton previously alleged Google misled consumers by continuing to track their location even when users sought to prevent it.  

Google has a “Location History” setting and informs users if they turn it off “the places you go are no longer stored,” Texas said.

In January, an Arizona judge ruled allegations Google deceived users with unclear smartphone location tracking settings should be weighed by a jury, refusing to toss out a lawsuit brought by the state’s attorney general.

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Amazon, Meta, Google owner Alphabet to Face Strong Opposition From Schroders Over Workers, Digital Rights

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Schroders, Britain’s biggest listed asset manager, said on Wednesday it would back a swathe of shareholder resolutions at Amazon, Meta and Google-owner Alphabet concerning workers’ and digital rights.

Schroders, which manages around GBP 730 billion (roughly Rs. 70,65,210 crore), said it was declaring its intention to vote against management on the issues as an escalation measure following talks with the companies.

While any move to declare voting plans is still relatively rare among asset managers, more are starting to do so as part of efforts to accelerate change on environmental, social, and governance-related issues such as climate change.

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In total, Schroders said it would vote against 11 resolutions across the three companies at their annual general meetings.

The money manager said its engagement with Amazon had centred on supporting workers’ rights, specifically improving staff pay and benefits, the health, and wellbeing of workers and worker representation within the company.

At Meta and Alphabet, Schorders said it would vote in favour of improving their approach to digital rights, including the management of exploitative content, misinformation and privacy.

“These issues are growing in importance for our clients who are pressing us to do more to ensure the companies that we invest in are acting responsibly,” said Kate Rogers, Head of Sustainability, Schroders Wealth Management.

“By voting against the management at Alphabet and Meta we are signalling the importance of big technology companies acting to avoid harm and tackling misinformation on their platforms. At Amazon, we stand with the workers, seeking more disclosure on working conditions and their treatment.”

Schroders added that it was still considering and would likely vote against other agenda items at the companies’ AGMs.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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