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YouTube to Purge Misleading Abortion Videos as Procedure Faces Bans, Restrictions Across Parts of the US

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By Associated Press | Updated: 22 July 2022

YouTube will begin removing misleading videos about abortion in response to falsehoods being spread about the procedure that is being banned or restricted across a broad swath of the US.

The move announced Thursday by the Google-owned video site comes about a month after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the case that had protected the legality of abortion in the country for nearly 50 years.

YouTube said its crackdown will expunge content promoting unsafe at-home abortions, as well as misinformation about the safety of undergoing the procedure in clinics located in states where it remains legal.

The purge of misleading abortion videos will ramp up over the next few weeks, according to YouTube.

The Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade has increased pressure on technology companies to take steps so that their devices and digital services can’t be used to shadow women seeking abortions or steer them in directions that could threaten their health.

Earlier this month, Google announced it will automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics or other places that could trigger legal problems in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

But some members of Congress have been pushing Google to limit the appearance of anti-abortion pregnancy centres in the results of its influential search engine — a step that 17 Republican attorneys general on Thursday warned would expose the company to potential legal repercussions.

A month after some members of Congress urged Google to limit the appearance of anti-abortion pregnancy centres in certain abortion-related search results, 17 Republican attorneys general are warning the company that doing so could invite investigations and possible legal action.

“Suppressing pro-life and pro-mother voices at the urging of government officials would violate the most fundamental tenet of the American marketplace of ideas,” the attorneys general wrote in a letter Thursday to Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent company.

The Republicans took issue with a June 17 letter to the company from US Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Michigan, which was co-signed by 19 other members of Congress.

That letter cites research by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate, which found that Google searches for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” turned up results for centres that counsel clients against having an abortion.

Some of these places, known as crisis pregnancy centres, also have been accused of providing misleading information about abortion and contraception. Many are religiously affiliated.

The letter from the Republican AGs defends the work of crisis pregnancy centres. It notes that such centres often provide services such as free ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and parenting and prenatal education classes. It also argues that “at least some” Google users who search for information about abortion expect to find information about alternatives.

It asked the California-based company to respond within 14 days and explain whether it has or will take any steps to treat crisis pregnancy centres any differently than before the leak of the draft Supreme Court decision.

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Apple Removes Russian Social Networking App VKontakte from App Store to Comply With Sanctions on Russia

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 29 September 2022

Apple on Wednesday confirmed that it removed popular Russian social network VKontakte from its App Store globally due to sanctions imposed by Britain.

The British government on Monday sanctioned 92 Russian individuals and entities after President Vladimir Putin’s regime held referendums in Moscow-controlled areas of Ukraine – denounced by Kyiv and its allies as a “sham” – and stepped up threats against the West.

“Sham referendums held at the barrel of a gun cannot be free or fair and we will never recognize their results,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement.

The sanctions target “those behind these sham votes, as well as the individuals that continue to prop up the Russian regime’s war of aggression,” he said.

San Petersburg-based tech firm VK said in a blog post that some of its applications were no longer available from the App Store, which serves as the lone gateway for content onto Apple mobile devices.

VK apps are used for messaging, digital payments, and grocery shopping as well as social networking.

The VK apps removed from the App Store were being distributed by developers controlled or majority-owned by parties sanctioned by the UK government, and Apple is complying with the law, according to the Silicon Valley tech giant.

Apple said that it terminated developer accounts associated with the apps, which were not available from the App Store regardless of users’ locations.

People who have already installed the apps on devices can still use them, but updates will no longer be provided through the App Store, according to Apple and VK.

“Their core functionality will be familiar and stable,” VKontakte-parent VK said of the apps.

“There may be difficulties with the work of notifications and payments.”

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TikTok May Face GBP 27 Million Fine Over Potential Breach of UK Law, Failure to Protect Children’s Privacy

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By Associated Press | Updated: 27 September 2022

TikTok could face a GBP 27 million (roughly Rs. 236 crore) fine in the UK over a possible breach of UK data protection law by failing to protect children’s privacy when they are using the video-sharing platform.

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office said Monday that it has issued the social media company a legal document that precedes a potential fine. It said TikTok may have processed the data of children under 13 without appropriate parental consent, and processed “special category data” without legal grounds to do so.

The commissioner said “special category data” included ethnic and racial origin, political opinions, religious beliefs and sexual orientation.

It also said TikTok may have failed to provide transparent, easily understood information to its users. The legal document covered the period from May 2018 to July 2020.

Information Commissioner John Edwards said the body’s provisional view was that TikTok “fell short” of providing proper data privacy protections. The body said its findings are not final and that it will consider any representations from TikTok before making a final decision.

“While we respect the ICO’s role in safeguarding privacy in the UK, we disagree with the preliminary views expressed and intend to formally respond to the ICO,” said a statement released by TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.

Britain’s government is pushing through its online safety bill, which requires technology companies to protect children from harmful content.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said it has six other ongoing investigations into companies that do not appear to have taken their responsibilities around child safety seriously enough.

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Government Launches Mobile App Sign Learn for Indian Sign Languages

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 23 September 2022

The Centre on Friday launched an Indian Sign Language (ISL) dictionary mobile application called Sign Learn containing 10,000 words.

The app was launched by Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Pratima Bhoumik. Sign Learn is based on the Indian sign language dictionary of the Indian Sign Language Research And Training Centre (ISLRTC) which contains 10,000 words. The app is available in Android as well as iOS versions, and all the words in the ISL dictionary can be searched through Hindi or English medium, officials said. The sign videos of the app can also be shared on social media.

“The app has been developed to make the ISL dictionary easily available and to make it more accessible for the public at large,” a senior official said to PTI.

Notably, ISLRTC had recently signed an MoU with the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) on October 6, 2020, for converting NCERT textbooks from classes 1 to 12 into the Indian Sign Language (digital format) to make the textbooks accessible to children with hearing disabilities. This year, ISL e-content of NCERT textbooks of class 6 was launched, the official added.

Under Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, the Centre had launched ISL versions of selected books of National Book Trust’s Veergatha series.

With the joint effort of ISLRTC and NCERT, 500 academic words in Indian Sign Language were launched. These academic words are used at the secondary level which are often used in history, science, political science and mathematics, the official added.

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Swiggy, Zomato Amongst Top 10 Global Food Delivery Platforms, Research Firm Says

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 22 September 2022

Indian food aggregator platforms Swiggy and Zomato have featured in world’s ‘Top 10’ e-commerce-based food delivery companies. Both companies are part of over 100 Indian unicorns. Unicorns are companies with a total value of over $1 billion (roughly Rs. 8,000 crore).

A report published by Canada-headquartered global research firm ETC Group titled ‘Food Barons 2022 – Crisis Profiteering, Digitalization and Shifting Power’ placed Swiggy and Zomato in the 9th and 10th spot, respectively.

According to the research firm, the food delivery sector refers to digital, on-demand platforms for ordering and paying for prepared food, groceries and other retail items. Restaurants/retailers fill the orders and couriers deliver them to customers within a prescribed timeframe.

China’s publicly listed food platform Meituan was at the top of the list, followed by the UK’s Deliveroo, and the US’ Uber Eats.

Further, Ele.me, DoorDash, Just Eat Takeaway/Grubhub, Delivery Hero, and iFood found themselves in the 4th to 8th spot.

“The food delivery sector is rapidly consolidating, but ownership is a moving target. As companies jostle for regional hegemony, they are buying, selling and swapping stakes in competitors,” the report said.

“Venture capital and Big Tech investment has fueled the sector, but companies have yet to deliver profits, even in the sector-friendly circumstances of the global pandemic when delivery became more necessity than convenience,” it added.

Against that backdrop, it said that tweaking the business model to move towards profitability — most prominently by adding grocery and pharmacy delivery — is currently underway.

The report also focused on issues faced by workers in the gig economy.

Delivery workers, it said, have been considered independent contractors instead of employees in most parts of the world. They are therefore ineligible for social security, injury compensation or other benefits.

“There are indications that some governments may be ready to enact labour reforms to try to end the platforms’ free ride. In the USA, New York City became the first city to pass legislation to regulate the food delivery sector, establishing minimum pay and other worker protections,” the research report added.

A major problem facing the sector, the report said, is the significant increase in trash from the takeaway single-use packaging.

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Meta Ordered to Pay Voxer $174.5 Million Over Violation of Live Streaming Patents: All Details

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 22 September 2022

A US jury on Wednesday ordered Meta to pay $174.5 million (roughly Rs. 1405 crore) for violating live-streaming patents developed by a US Army veteran seeking to fix shortcomings in battlefield communications.

A trial in Texas federal court ended with jurors deciding that “live” features at Facebook and Instagram used technology patented by Voxer, a company co-founded by Tom Katis, legal documents showed.

“We believe the evidence at trial demonstrated that Meta did not infringe Voxer’s patents,” a company spokesperson said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“We intend to seek further relief, including filing an appeal.”

Katis had reenlisted in the army after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and served as a Special Forces communications sergeant in Afghanistan, court filings said.

When his combat unit was ambushed in Kunar province, he felt that the systems for coordinating reinforcements, medical evacuations and more “were ill-suited for time-sensitive communications with multiple groups in a highly disruptive environment,” the complaint said.

“Mr. Katis and his team began developing communications solutions in 2006 to remedy these shortcomings,” his lawyers said.

“The new technologies enabled transmission of voice and video communications with the immediacy of live communication and the reliability and convenience of messaging.”

Facebook approached San Francisco-based Voxer about potential collaboration after it launched a Walkie Talkie app in 2011, but no agreement was reached, according to legal documents.

Instead, the lawsuit argued, Facebook went on to launch Facebook Live and Instagram Live, incorporating Voxer technology into the features.

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TikTok to Require Verification for Political Accounts, Bans Campaign Fundraising Ahead of US Midterm Elections

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By Reuters | Updated: 21 September 2022

TikTok will begin requiring accounts belonging to US government departments, politicians and political parties to be verified and will ban videos aimed at campaign fundraising, the short-form video app said on Wednesday.

The move comes as TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, and other social media platforms are working to clamp down on political misinformation ahead of the US midterm elections in November, after years of being criticised for allowing such content to flourish on their services.

Political accounts can submit a request for verification, TikTok said, and the company will also work to confirm the authenticity of profiles it believes belong to politicians or political parties.

A verified account, indicated by a blue check mark on TikTok and other platforms like Twitter, means the platform has confirmed the ownership of the account.

TikTok has long faced scrutiny from US lawmakers, who have questioned the Chinese-owned app’s safeguards of user data. The app has also sought to preserve its image as a place for dance videos and comedy skits, and has banned political advertising since 2019.

To help enforce the ban, accounts belonging to politicians and parties will automatically be prevented from accessing advertising features, TikTok said in a blog post.

TikTok said it will update its policies to prohibit campaign fundraising. Content that will be banned under the new policy includes videos from politicians soliciting donations or political parties directing users to make a donation on their website.

The accounts will also be prohibited from using money-making features available to influencers on the app, like digital payments and gifting.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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