Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is locked in a court battle with Twitter over a failed acquisition bid that Twitter now intends to force through, said that the social media giant jeopardized its third largest market by failing to disclose “risky” litigation against the Indian government.
In a countersuit in a Delaware court which was filed under seal last Friday and made public Thursday, Musk also claimed that he was “hoodwinked” into signing the deal to buy the San Francisco-based social media company.
Musk said that Twitter should follow the local law in India, according to the court documents. Snapshots of the court documents were seen circulating on Twitter posted by New York Times Tech Reporter Kate Conger @kateconger.
“In 2021, India’s information technology ministry imposed certain rules allowing the government to probe social media posts, demand identifying information, and prosecute companies that refused to comply. While Musk is a proponent of free speech, he believes that moderation on Twitter should “hew close to the laws of countries in which Twitter operates” read a portion of the legal filings in Twitter Vs Musk lawsuit, as posted by New York Times tech reporter Kate Conger in a series of tweets.
To Elon Musk’s averments in the court filings, Twitter responded that it “respectfully refers the Court for their complete and accurate contents. Twitter lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations,” and said it “therefore denies them on that basis.”
Referring to a petition filed in Karnataka High Court in July, Musk also objected to Twitter’s failure to disclose litigation against the Indian government.
“Twitter avers that it has challenged certain blocking orders issued by the Indian government under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, directing Twitter to remove certain content from its platform, including content from politicians, activists, and journalists, and that Twitter’s legal,” the company said in its response.
Twitter, through its lawyer at the Karnataka High Court, said that their India business would close if they complied with Indian government orders to block content that competent authorities had deemed illegal. The High Court had issued notices to the Centre and adjourned the hearing for August 25th.
The microblogging website and the world’s richest man are now heading to trial on October 17 after Musk sought to abandon his deal to acquire Twitter over what he says is a misrepresentation of fake accounts on the site.
Twitter is trying to compel Musk to follow through on the deal while accusing him of sabotaging it because it no longer served his interests.
Earlier in April, Musk reached an acquisition agreement with Twitter at $54.20 (roughly Rs. 4,180) per share in a transaction valued at approximately $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,37,465 crore)
In May, Musk put the deal on hold to allow his team to review the veracity of Twitter’s claim that less than 5 percent of accounts on the platform are bots or spam.
Delhi High Court Grants Time for Government to Reveal Plans to Regulate De-Platforming of Social Media Users
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday granted time to the Centre to inform if it was drafting any regulations to govern the issue of de-platforming of users from social media. Justice Yashwanth Varma was hearing a batch of petitions concerning the suspension and deletion of accounts of several social media users, including Twitter users.
Central government counsel Kirtiman Singh urged the court to list the cases after two weeks to enable him to come back with further instructions concerning any draft policy on the de-platforming of social media users.
Senior counsel for one of the social media platforms said that in case such guidelines are formulated, the scope of proceedings before the court can be navigated accordingly.
The court listed the case for further hearing in September while asking the Centre to state its stand.
In its affidavit filed in one of the cases against the suspension of the petitioner’s Twitter account, the Centre has said that an individual’s liberty and freedom cannot be “waylaid or jettisoned in the slipstream of social and technological advancement” and the social media platforms must respect the fundamental rights of the citizens and conform to the Constitution of India.
It has said that social media platforms should not take down the account itself or completely suspend it in all cases and complete de-platforming is against the spirit of Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Stating that it is the custodian of the users’ fundamental rights in cyberspace, the Centre has said that a social media account can be suspended or de-platformed only in cases such as in the interest of the sovereignty, security, and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or pursuant to a court order or the content is grossly unlawful such as sexual abuse material.
Social Media Firms Introduce Few Changes Ahead of Upcoming US Midterm Elections
Social media companies are offering few specifics as they share their plans for safeguarding the US midterm elections. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are generally staying the course from the 2020 voting season, which was marred by conspiracies and culminated in the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.
Video app TikTok, which has soared in popularity since the last election cycle while also cementing its place as a problem spot for misinformation, announced Wednesday it is launching an election center that will help people find voting locations and candidate information.
The center will show up in the feeds of users who search election-related hashtags. TikTok is also partnering with voting advocacy groups to provide specialized voting information for college students, people who are deaf, military members living overseas and those with past criminal convictions.
TikTok, like other platforms, would not provide details on the number of full-time employees or how much money it is dedicating to US midterm efforts, which aim to push accurate voting information and counter misinformation.
The company said it is working with over a dozen fact-checking organizations, including US-based PolitiFact and Lead Stories, on debunking misinformation. TikTok declined to say how many videos have been fact-checked on its site. The company will use a combination of humans and artificial intelligence to detect and remove threats against election workers as well as voting misinformation.
TikTok said it’s also also watching for influencers who break its rules by accepting money off platform to promote political issues or candidates, a problem that came to light during the 2020 election, said TikTok’s head of safety Eric Han. The company is trying to educate creators and agencies about its rules, which include bans on political advertising.
“With the work we do, there is no finish line,” Han said.
“As we did in 2020, we have a dedicated team in place to combat election and voter interference while also helping people get reliable information about when and how to vote,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, wrote in a blog post Tuesday.
Meta declined to say how many people it has dedicated to its election team responsible for monitoring the midterms, only that it has “hundreds of people across more than 40 teams.”
As in 2020, Clegg wrote, the company will remove misinformation about election dates, voting locations, voter registration and election outcomes. For the first time, Meta said it will also show US election-related notifications in languages other than English.
Meta also said it will reduce how often it uses labels on election-related posts directing people toward reliable information. The company said its users found the labels over-used. Some critics have also said the labels were often too generic and repetitive.
Compared with previous years, though, Meta’s public communication about its response to election misinformation has gone decidedly quiet, The Associated Press reported earlier this month.
Between 2018 and 2020, the company released more than 30 statements that laid out specifics about how it would stifle US election misinformation, prevent foreign adversaries from running ads or posts around the vote and subdue divisive hate speech. Until Tuesday’s blog post, Meta had only released a one-page document outlining plans for the fall elections, even as potential threats to the vote persist.
Twitter, meanwhile, is sticking with its own misinformation labels, though it has redesigned them since 2020 based in part on user feedback. The company activated its “civic integrity policy” last week, which means tweets containing harmful misinformation about the election are labeled with links to credible information. The tweets themselves won’t be promoted or amplified by the platform.
The company, which like TikTok does not allow political advertisements, is focusing on putting verified, reliable information before its users. That can include links to state-specific hubs for local election information as well as nonpartisan public service announcements for voters.
TikTok Bans Paid Political Influencer Posts Ahead of Upcoming US Midterm Elections
TikTok will work to prevent content creators from posting paid political messages on the short-form video app, as part of its preparation for the US midterm election in November, the company said on Wednesday.
Critics and lawmakers accuse TikTok and rival social media companies including Meta Platforms and Twitter of doing too little to stop political misinformation and divisive content from spreading on their apps.
While TikTok has banned paid political ads since 2019, campaign strategists have skirted the ban by paying influencers to promote political issues. The company seeks to close the loophole by hosting briefings with creators and talent agencies to remind them that posting paid political content is against TikTok’s policies, said Eric Han, TikTok’s head of US safety, during a briefing with reporters.
He added that internal teams, including those that work on trust and safety, will monitor for signs that creators are being paid to post political content, and the company will also rely on media reports and outside partners to find violating posts.
“We saw this as an issue in 2020,” Han said. “Once we find out about it … we will remove it from our platform.”
TikTok broadcast its plan following similar updates from Meta and Twitter.
Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said Tuesday it will restrict political advertisers from running new ads a week before the election, an action it also took in 2020.
Last week, Twitter said it planned to revive previous strategies for the midterm election, including placing labels in front of some misleading tweets and inserting reliable information into timelines to debunk false claims before they spread further online. Civil and voting rights experts said the plan was not adequate to prepare for the election.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
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