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Can’t leave 160 million WhatsApp users ‘trapped in a corridor of Charity’ : Supreme Court

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New Delhi, May 16, 2017: Online messaging service WhatsApp on Tuesday sought to assure the Supreme Court that it has never shared the contents of the messages between its users with third parties even as the top court said that it could not leave 160 million users “trapped in a corridor of charity”.

The five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra indicated that it would examine the 2016 privacy policy of the online messaging app on the reopening of the court after its summer vacations.

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Besides Justice Misra, the bench includes Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice Amitava Roy, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar.

The court said that it would examine the new privacy policy, which WhatsApp had brought in 2016, after it was acquired by the social networking site Facebook, on the grounds whether it was contrary to public policy and whether it was required to be put to constitutional controls.

However, this would happen only if the court comes to conclusion it required judicial interference, said the bench in course of the hearing of a plea by petitioners Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi who have challenged the Delhi High Court’s September 23, 2016 order allowing WhatsApp to roll out its new privacy policy but stopping it from sharing the data of its users collected up to September 25, 2016, with Facebook or any other related company.

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Tuesday was the second day of the hearing and further hearing would take place after top court reopens after summer vacations. On Monday, the court had asked WhatsApp why it changed its policy of non-sharing of data of users after its acquisition by Facebook ito permit sharing of the attributes of its users.

Resuming his arguments on the maintainability of the petitions challenging the Delhi High court verdict, senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Facebook, said: “We can file an affidavit stating that not a single piece of information has been shared with anybody. Even I cannot access the information if I want to. There is no element of human intervention in the process. Machines take care of this.”

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He said that any fundamental right – be it of communication or choice of communication – could only be invoked against the state and not against a private entity like WhatsApp, which was not discharging public functions. He argued that petitioners challenging its 2016 new privacy policy will have to first approach the regulatory authorities – TRAI.

He said that regulations framed under the Information Technology Act in 2009 and 2011 covered WhatsApp – a position contested by the petitioners who are contending that these regulations have been outpaced by the technological advancements.

Reiterating that it was in no position to go into the contends of the messages exchanged between its users as they were in encrypted form, senior counsel Siddharth Luthra, appearing for WhatsApp, told the bench that it was not generating meta data and all that was being shared was contact details, profile photo and status of the users of the App.

Lawyer Madhvi Divan, appearing for the petitioners, said that WhatsApp was using public resource like spectrum and was performing public functions.

Comparing it with telephone services, Divan said while one was paying for availing telephone services, WhatsApp was free but describing its operation as “economic espionage in the name of free service”, urged the bench to look at their business model. (IANS)

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Facebook Accused of Protecting Far-Right Activists Who Broke the Sites Rules

Moderators at Facebook are protecting far-right activists, preventing their Pages from being deleted even after they violate the rules set up by the social media giant, the media reported.

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Moderators at Facebook are protecting far-right activists, preventing their Pages from being deleted even after they violate the community rules. Pixabay

Moderators at Facebook are protecting far-right activists, preventing their Pages from being deleted even after they violate the rules set up by the social media giant, the media reported.

The process called “shielded review” was uncovered by Channel 4 Dispatches – a documentary series that sent an undercover reporter to work as a content moderator in a Dublin-based Facebook contractor.

“In the documentary, a moderator tells the ‘Dispatches’ reporter that Britain First’s pages were left up, even though they repeatedly broke Facebook’s rules, because ‘they have a lot of followers so they’re generating a lot of revenue for Facebook’,” the Guardian reported on Tuesday.

Similarly, popular pages, including those of activists like Tommy Robinson, are protected from Facebook rules.

Robinson is currently in jail, serving a 13-month sentence for contempt of court.

Richard Allan, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy, was quoted as saying in the documentary that the company’s rules are based on revenue.

“If the content is indeed violating it will go,” Allan said.

Facebook, however, said it will remove Robinson’s page if he repeatedly violated the site’s community standards.ABritain First’s Facebook page was eventually banned in March 2018.

“It’s clear that some of what is shown in the programme does not reflect Facebook’s policies or values, and falls short of the high standards we expect.

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Facebook, social media.Pixabay

“We take these mistakes in some of our training processes and enforcement incredibly seriously and are grateful to the journalists who brought them to our attention,” Allan said.

The documentary also showed that Facebook moderators have turned blind eye to under-age accounts.

“Moderators are told they can only take action to close down the account of a child who clearly looks 10-years-old if the child actually admits in posts they are under-aged,” The Telegraph reported, citing the documentary.

“We have to have an admission that the person is under-age. If not, we just pretend that we are blind and we don’t know what underage looks like,” a trainer told the undercover reporter.

Facebook is also facing the flak for launching Messenger Kids that encourages children under age 13 to join social media.

British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in December warned the social media giant to stay away from his children.

Also read-Facebook Joins Skill India Mission to Train Empower Youth

Early this year, more than 100 child health experts have urged Facebook to withdraw the app.

Despite call for withdrawal by experts, Facebook has decided to expand the reach of Messenger Kids by introducing the video calling and messaging app designed for children under 13 to families in Canada and Peru.

Facebook said it will also introduce Spanish and French versions of the app. (IANS)