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India Steps Up Offensive Against Twitter, Koo In Limelight, & More

The Indian government issued fresh takedown notices against over 1,400 Twitter accounts, which the company has partially complied with

Meanwhile, Indian Twitter alternative Koo has gained momentum with many political leaders joining the platform

The Indian government is also close to finalising rules around censorship of OTT platforms and is looking to combine all current petitions in this regard

The Indian government dialled up pressure on social media giant Twitter this week, with more takedown notices for over 1,000 accounts on the platform in relation to the massive farmers’ sit-in protest underway at the outskirts of Delhi. The centre has alleged that these accounts are connected to the Khalistani separatist movement or “backed by Pakistan”, thus demanding them to be removed from Twitter. 

Last week, Twitter had taken down a few accounts of individuals and organisations, after receiving a similar notice from the Indian government. However, the platform had restored those accounts in a few hours, inviting a backlash from the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY). 

A few days later, Twitter announced that it had taken action against 500 of the total 1,178 accounts the government had demanded to be removed. Twitter said that it hadn’t taken action against the accounts of journalists, news media entities, activists and politicians, as such a request is not consistent with Indian laws on freedom of expression.

“Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians,” the company said.

However, reports later this week indicate that Twitter has removed more than 95% of the accounts pointed out by the government.  

Video-streaming giant YouTube also removed certain videos from its platform, some of them songs celebrating the farmers’ protests, after the Indian government raised objections. 

As global media platforms continue to face the heat, ministers of the BJP are championing Koo, a ‘Made in India’ microblogging platform very similar to Twitter, except it’s available in Indian languages such as Hindi and Marathi, among other languages. 

Koo faced allegations of its platform leaking user data. The company’s CEO and cofounder Aprameya Radhakrishna rebuffed these claims. However, cybersecurity experts could track that even as the company denied the allegations, it was making corrections to its backend. 

Koo’s CEO also announced that its earlier investor, China-based Shunwei Capital had exited fully from the parent company. 

Other News

  • Bengaluru-based agritech startup Ninjacart which sells grocery and fresh produce to retail outlets has terminated employment contracts of around 15-20 employees working in the ground operations, Inc42 has learnt from multiple employees who spoke on condition of anonymity. According to at least three employees, their manager at Ninjacart had allegedly hijacked their login IDs and sent resignation letters on their behalf without taking consent. 
  • With multiple cases hanging around the over-the-top (OTT) video streaming platforms, the Indian government is reportedly looking to transfer all the pending cases in high courts to the Supreme Court. The transfer petition, however, was filed through the secretaries of the information & broadcasting as well as the IT ministry and the law ministry on December 20, 2020.
  • Ecommerce giant Amazon India, on Thursday, approached India’s Supreme Court as it continues its bid to block the deal for the sale of Future Group’s retail business Future Retail to Reliance Retail for over INR 24K Cr. 
  • Logistics unicorn Delhivery, which is expected to go for an initial public offering (IPO) this year at a valuation of $3.2 Bn-$4 Bn, is reportedly planning to raise $800 Mn through the public listing. 
  • In the ongoing legal tussle between Indian software-as-a-service (SaaS) giants Zoho and Freshworks, the US District Court of the Northern District of California which is hearing the case has sought judicial assistance from the Madras High Court to obtain certain documents and testimony for examination in the case.
  • Vulnerabilities associated with the cybersecurity infrastructure of Indian companies and startups have already made the news several times in the past two years. More worryingly, this week, new threats associated with several Indian government websites have come to light, with their sitelink extensions (which take users to specific pages on a website) directing users to pornographic and dubious dating sites.
  • Bengaluru-based grocery platform Town Essential has served an INR 231 Cr notice to fellow online grocery stores BigBasket and DailyNinja, accusing the latter of breach of a contract between the two parties. 

Stay tuned for next week’s News Roundup!

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