Category: International

TikTok removes over 6 mn videos for violating community guidelines in India

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TikTok, a popular short video platform, on Friday said it has removed over six million videos in India that have violated its community guidelines since July last year.

“This is part of TikTok’s ongoing efforts to make its millions of users feel safe and comfortable within the community by empowering them with the right tools and resources,” it said in a statement.

The company has also introduced an ‘age-gate’ feature for its new users that will only allow users aged 13 years and above only to login and create an account on TikTok. It does not disclose data such as country-specific user numbers.

This, it said, will further add to the safety mechanisms in place to ensure that underage users do not use the platform.

“As a global community, safety has been one of TikTok’s key priorities… (These steps) reinforce our ongoing commitment to ensure that our platform remains a safe and positive space for our Indian users and we discharge our obligations under the Intermediary Guidelines of India, in a meaningful manner,” TikTok Director (Global Public Policy) Helena Lersch said.

These announcements closely follow the launch of TikTok’s Safety Centre and resource pages tackling bullying activities in 10 major local languages – Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Oriya.

Additionally, TikTok has recently added an advisory for the upcoming general elections in English and 10 major local languages on the Safety Centre page that links to the website of the Election Commission of India (ECI).

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NRI In US Jailed For Life For Sexually Exploiting Girl

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A 41-year-old Indian-origin man in the US has been sentenced to life in prison for enticing a girl to engage in sexual conduct and 30 years’ imprisonment for production of child pornography.

Deepak Deshpande of California, who pleaded guilty in October last year, was sentenced by US District Judge Carlos Mendoza on Thursday.

According to court documents and evidence presented during the sentencing hearing, Deshpande contacted the girl in Orlando through an online chat application in July 2017.

At that time, Deshpande posed as a modelling agent and persuaded the girl to send him nude images of herself.

In the months that followed, Deshpande contacted the same girl, posing as two other individuals, and threatened to disseminate her nude images if she did not continue producing additional child pornography for him.

In September 2017, Deshpande travelled to Orlando in Florida from California to meet the girl in person for the first time.

He brought her to a local hotel and filmed himself sexually assaulting the victim multiple times. Between September 2017 and April 2018, he repeated the same conduct during four additional visits to Orlando.

In early May 2018, following an anonymous tip, the FBI began investigating Deshpande. An undercover FBI agent then began posing as the girl in communications with Deshpande.

As a result of the undercover investigation, Deshpande returned to Orlando and was arrested upon his arrival at the Orlando International Airport.

Following his arrest, Deshpande plotted to kidnap and murder the girl in advance of his trial. He recruited a fellow inmate, whom he believed would soon be released, to serve as a middleman.

Deshpande gave the inmate names and contact information for individuals who might be willing to carry out the abduction and murder and furnished personal details concerning the victim and her family, including her residence and schedule.

However, the FBI conducted an undercover investigation thwarting his efforts.

“This case is particularly noteworthy in the level of planning conducted and depravity displayed by the perpetrator.

“I would like to recognise the courage of the victim who helped make sure this predator cannot hurt others and also encourage our community to remain vigilant online and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement,” Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Tampa Division Eric Sporre said.

Nepal bans PUBG officially after parents raise concern over addiction to the online game

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For a long while, PUBG has been in a lot of controversy in India. The popular online multiplayer game has faced bans by a few districts in Gujarat, even leading to arrests of those who were caught playing it outdoors. The game’s addiction was even discussed at the Pariksha Pe Charcha 2.0 event with PM Narendra Modi. The PUBG MOBILE team has also identified the issue and come up with a few measures in the game to ensure healthy gaming habits among its players. While all of this has been happening in India, Nepal has moved ahead and banned the game in the entire country.

The Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has issued an order to all telecom operators and Internet Service Providers to ban the game on their networks. The streaming of PUBG’s online content will be banned across all networks in Nepal, thus preventing consumers to play the game within the country.

The ban has been implemented after parents and authorities raised concerns over the game’s addiction across youngsters. We have ordered the ban on PUBG because it is addictive to children and teenagers, Sandip Adhikari, deputy director at Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), the nation’s telecoms regulator, told Reuters.

Following a request from the Himalayan nation’s federal investigation authority, the regulator directed all internet service providers, mobile operators and network service providers to block streaming of the game from Thursday onwards, Adhikari added.

The ban has been implemented from Thursday. While there’s no report of the game causing harm to its players in Nepal, the authorities moved ahead with the decision over concerns of addiction. This is in stark contrast to India where there have been multiple reports of the game being held responsible for causing harm to youngsters and even grown-ups.

In India, the game saw a ban in the district of Rajkot during the period of exams. However, the police commissioner lifted the ban after the exams were over. The ban still stands for schools in Gujarat though. The Vellore Institute of Technology has also banned the game inside its campus.

PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds, popularly known as PUBG, was launched in late 2017 and has been one of the most popular battle royale games since its launch. The mobile version of the game, called PUBG MOBILE, has almost been around for a year and has been the core reason for all the controversies.

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Russia awards Narendra Modi its highest order, PM thanks Putin

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Russia has awarded Prime Minister Narendra Modi Order of St Andrew the Apostle, the highest order of the Russian Federation. PM Modi was awarded the order for “exceptional services in promoting special & privileged strategic partnership between” Russia and India, the Russian embassy in India said in a tweet.

PM Modi thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he was “honoured to receive this prestigious award”. “Foundations of India-Russia friendship are deep & the future of our partnership is bright,” PM Modi said, adding, “President Putin remains a source of great strength for the India-Russia friendship. Under his visionary leadership, bilateral and multilateral cooperation between our nations has scaled new heights.”

Must stop people from crossing border like going to ‘Disneyland’, says Trump

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US President Donald Trump said Tuesday he won’t resume separating children of undocumented migrants, but insisted the policy does prevent people from treating illegal border crossings like a trip to “Disneyland.”

“We’re not looking to do it,” he told reporters at the White House.

 

However, Trump said the practice, which ended in June 2018 under heavy political and legal pressure, had in fact been useful in stemming the flow of illegal immigrants across the US-Mexican border.

“I’ll tell you something: once you don’t have it, that’s why you have many more people coming,” Trump said of migrants and asylum seekers.

“They are coming like it’s a picnic, like ‘let’s go to Disneyland,'” Trump said. Just last week he referred to the asylum process as a “hoax.”

Trump’s battle to prevent illegal immigration and soaring numbers of asylum seekers has turned into the biggest political fight in the country ahead of next year’s presidential election.

The Republican is pushing hard for construction of hundreds of miles of new border wall and layers of razor wire. He says that the United States is “full” and cannot take any more migrants or even people fleeing violence in Central America.

On Sunday, Trump abruptly announced the departure of the official in charge of fighting illegal immigration — Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

According to US media reports, Trump’s reshuffle could herald even harsher measures on the southern border.

Confusion and rhetoric

But Trump’s latest comments reflect the confused nature of the White House’s messaging on the sensitive immigration issue.

Trump claimed that he never wanted children to be taken away from their parents when they crossed the border illegally or sought asylum. Instead he blamed this on his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.

“Just so you understand, President Obama separated the children. Those cages that were shown — I think they were very inappropriate — were by President Obama’s administration, not by Trump. President Obama had child separation,” Trump said.

“You know it. We all know it. I’m the one who stopped it,” he said.

Obama did crack down on illegal immigration, resulting in large numbers of deportations and children were detained along with their parents.

However, Trump hugely accelerated the tough measures with a so-called zero-tolerance policy.

This meant that anyone crossing illegally would face automatic prosecution, leading to jailing of adults and immediate separation of their children.

Before, families with children were largely allowed to stay together, whether on bail, in custody or being deported.

By the time Trump’s policy was halted, thousands of children had been removed and placed in temporary accommodation, leading to harrowing images and reports of administrative chaos in which parents were later unable to find their children.

Last week, Trump threatened to impose steep import tariffs on Mexican automobiles if Mexico does not do more to stop would-be migrants on their trek north to the US border.

However, the timing and practicalities of this were unclear.

Previously, Trump said he would shut down the entire border to stop immigrants entering, but he then backed off in the face of worries over the economic impact.

Another controversial policy of automatically returning asylum seekers to wait in Mexico was blocked Monday by a federal judge in California.

The White House issued a statement Tuesday condemning the ruling and saying it would appeal.

The court impedes the president’s ability to stop an influx “crashing our immigration system and overwhelming our country,” Trump’s press office said.

Daisy Edgar Jones opts out of Rajamouli’s ‘RRR’

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International actress Daisy Edgar Jones, who has starred in films such as “Pond Life” and “War of the Worlds”, has opted out of filmmaker S.S. Rajamoulis upcoming action multi-starrer “RRR” citing family reasons.

Daisy took to her Instagram page to share the news of opting out of the film, which stars Ram Charan and Jr. NTR.

“‘RRR’, unfortunately due to family circumstances I am unable to participate in filming for this wonderful film. The script is truly brilliant and it’s such a great character. I hope whomever they cast, receives as warm a welcome as I have and I wish the production all the best,” Daisy posted on her Instagram page.

In the film, Daisy was supposed to be paired with Jr. NTR.

A tweet from the official account of “RRR” read: “Due to unavoidable circumstances, Daisy Edgar Jones is no longer part of our film. We hope she has a brilliant future.”

Last month, speaking to reporters, Rajamouli said that “RRR”, which is being made on a lavish scale, will be a fictional story based on two real-life heroes and freedom fighters – Alluri Seetharama Raju and Komaram Bheem.

“This is a fictional story set in 1920s pre-independence era. Most of us are well aware of the stories of Alluri Seetharama Raju and Komaram Bheem. We know they are popular freedom fighters and were fearless. What most of us don’t know is that there are gaps in the lives of these revolutionaries that we don’t know about. We don’t know what happened in their lives in these years,” Rajamouli said.

“‘RRR’ will be a fictional story of what could have happened in the lives of Alluri Seetharama Raju and Komaram Bheem in those years when they had disappeared. What if they had met and trained themselves to fight for the same cause,” he said.

While Jr. NTR, otherwise known as Tarak, will be seen as Komaram Bheem, Ram Charan will be playing Alluri Seetharama Raju.

“RRR” also stars Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt and Samuthirakani in key roles.

The film will hit the screens worldwide on July 30, 2020 in 10 Indian languages.

Is Trump’s net worth $10bn or $3.1bn?

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How rich is Trump really? If the Democrats are successful in their campaign to unearth his tax filings, it may finally be known if his net worth is $10 billion as he has claimed or less than a third of that as estimated by others.

On Wednesday, House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal demanded that the Trump administration turn over the boastful billionaire’s and his businesses’ tax returns for the past six years.

As the head of the panel that deals with tax matters, Neal has the authority to see confidential the tax documents. Trump immediately refused to provide them and may go to courts to keep them secret.

The legislators may be interested in examining the tax filings for irregularities and possible violations, but the public would be more keen to find out how rich the billionaire real estate developer really is and how much taxes he has paid – or avoided paying them or reduced them because of business losses or other deductions.

Trump has used his claims of wealth and business acumen as his qualification to be president and to justify his unconventional negotiating tactics at home and abroad.

While he is no doubt the richest US President in history and did not rise from a log cabin like Abraham Lincoln, Trump’s claims of wealth have been controversial.

During the election campaign, he claimed a net worth of $10 billion, but Forbes magazine, which tracks the world’s billionaires, estimates it at $3.1 billion and ranks him the 715th richest person, while Bloomberg says he is worth only $2.8 billion.

His former personal lawyer Michael Cohen has told a House panel that Trump had claimed in documents a net worth of $4.5 billion in 2012 and that it had suddenly jumped to $8.6 billion the next year when he sought a loan from Deutsche Bank to buy an American football team.

While all modern presidents and most presidential candidates have disclosed their tax filings for transparency in their finances, Trump has refused to do so, even though the Democrats made it an election issue. He maintains his tax filings are still being audited and he will not release them till the audits are over.

Meanwhile, amid stiff Republican opposition, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to authorise Chairman Jerry Nadler to compel Attorney General William Barr to turn over the full report prepared by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that had, according to a summary by Barr, absolved Trump of colluding with Russians in his election.

The Mueller report summary issued last month by Barr was a blow to Democratic hopes that it would implicate Trump in a clandestine election deal with Russia. But Barr’s statement that report neither exonerated Trump nor found him guilty of obstruction of justice gives Democrats hope finding something to go against Trump.

Not satisfied with the summary, Democrats are hoping for some nuggets in the report that would undercut Barr’s summary or provide leads for other inquiries against Trump and his associates or family.

Nadler had set a Tuesday deadline for him to turn over the full report, but Barr has refused to comply saying that he would need time to study in order to withhold sensitive portions of it as legally required before releasing it.

He has said it may take him till the end of this month or sometime next month to continue the review. Legally he is not allowed to disclose some of the secret testimony and he also wants to redact matters of national security like the details of work by US or other intelligence agencies.

For now, Nadler has said that he would not immediately issue a subpoena for the full Mueller report and associated documents hoping that Barr changes his mind.

It is also likely to end up in courts.

Nadler ‘s committee also authorised him to demand the appearance of five former Trump officials to testify about the obstruction of justice and other allegations against Trump.

The former officials include Reince Priebus, who was chief of staff; Steve Bannon, an adviser; lawyer Don McGahn, and Hope Hicks, who was the communications director.

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WhatsApp unveils ‘tipline’ to tackle fake news

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WhatsApp Tuesday unveiled its ‘Checkpoint Tipline’, where people can check the authenticity of information received as the messaging giant looks to crack down on fake news ahead of the general election in the country.

“Launched by PROTO, an India-based media skilling startup, this tip line will help create a database of rumours to study misinformation during elections for Checkpoint – a research project commissioned and technically assisted by WhatsApp,” the Facebook-owned company said in a statement. It added that starting Tuesday, people in India can submit misinformation or rumours they receive to the Checkpoint Tipline on WhatsApp (+91-9643-000-888).

Once a WhatsApp user shares a suspicious message with the tipline, PROTO’s verification centre will seek to respond and inform the user if the claim made in a message shared is verified or not. “The response will indicate if the information is classified as true, false, misleading, disputed or out of scope and include any other related information that is available,” the statement said.

This centre is equipped to review content in the form of pictures, video links or text and will cover English and four regional languages – Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam. PROTO will also look at working with organisations at the grassroots level to submit misinformation circulating across different regions in India during the election period.

Facebook, which counts India as one of its largest markets with over 200 million users, had faced flak from the Indian government after a series of mob-lynching incidents, triggered by rumours circulating on WhatsApp, claimed lives last year. Under pressure to stop rumours and fake news, WhatsApp had last year restricted forwarding messages to five chats at once. It has also been putting out advertisements in newspapers and running television and radio campaigns offering tips to users on how to spot misinformation.

With ensuing general elections, the Indian government had warned social media platforms of strong action if any attempt was made to influence the country’s electoral process through undesirable means. Interestingly, the Indian government — through proposed changes in IT rules — is seeking to make social media platforms more accountable by mandating them to introduce tools that can identify and disable “unlawful content”.

One of the amendments being mulled in the IT intermediary rules (meant for online and social media platforms) will require them to enable tracing out of such originators of information as needed by government agencies that are legally authorised.

However, WhatsApp has so far resisted the government’s demand for identifying message originators, arguing that such a move would undermine the end-to-end encryption and the private nature of the platform, creating the potential for serious misuse. In its statement on Tuesday, WhatsApp said Dig Deeper Media and Meedan – which have previously worked on misinformation-related projects around the world – are helping PROTO to develop the verification and research frameworks for India.

Meedan has developed the technology to support the verification of rumours and will maintain the database of such content that has been processed. To do so, they have expanded their check platform (developed for recent elections in Mexico and France) and integrated it with the WhatsApp Business API, to receive and respond to messages at scale.

“The goal of this project is to study the misinformation phenomenon at scale — natively in WhatsApp. As more data flows in, we will be able to identify the most susceptible or affected issues, locations, languages, regions, and more,” PROTO founders Ritvvij Parrikh and Nasr ul Hadi said. The verification reports PROTO sends back will encourage grassroots-level “listening posts” to send more signals for analysis, they added.

Following the project, PROTO also plans to submit learnings to the International Center for Journalists to help other organisations learn from the design and operations of this project. “The research from this initiative will help create a global benchmark for those wishing to tackle misinformation in their own markets,” Fergus Bell, founder and CEO, Dig Deeper Media, said.

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