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India seeks strong UN action against groups attacking peacekeepers

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United Nations: India has demanded that the UN take strong action against groups attacking peacekeepers who are being mandated to deal with emerging new threats and take on expanded roles.

“We would like to urge the United Nations, and specially the Security Council, to ensure a mandatory inclusion in all UNPKO (UN Peacekeeping Operations) mandates of legally binding provisions for prosecuting, penalizing and neutralizing any non-governmental armed groups and armed militias causing, or threatening to cause, harm to UNPKOs,” India’s delegate Rahul Kaswan told the General Assembly Committee dealing with political matters Wednesday.

“We have been stressing at various peacekeeping debates at the UN about the new demands that have been placed on the PKOs with the changing nature of conflicts,” Kaswan said as he outlined the threats faced by peacekeepers confronting terrorists and militias in new environments.

With 7,793 Indian personnel currently serving under the UN’s blue flag in dangerous environments far different from the international and civil conflicts the PKOs were designed for, India has been concerned for their safety.

In May, an Indian Colonel serving in South Sudan was injured when a compound with refugees protected by Indian peacekeepers was caught in a crossfire. Five Indian peacekeepers were killed in 2013 in two separate attacks by rebels on refugee camps they were protecting in that country.

In 2010, three Indian peacekeepers were killed in attacks by rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in 2012 three were hacked to death.

Kaswan, a Bharatiya Janata Party member of the Lok Sabha representing Churu in Rajasthan, is among parliamentarians representing India at the UN.

He raised another issue of concern to India where the UN Security Council mixes traditional PKOs with a new type of active intervention by other troops.

He referred to the added risks from the Security Council mandating so-called UN Force Intervention Brigades to carry out offensive operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, alongside the peacekeepers, of whom 4,000 are Indians.

Even as the Security Council added to the role of the PKOs, the resources and finances didn’t match the responsibilities, he said.

“There is an urgent need to offset the mismatch between the requirement of the resources and the actual allocated resources,” he added.

Kaswan said that emphasis should be placed on finding political solutions to conflicts give the resource constraints.

He brought up the payment for peacekeepers and said that the General Assembly had fixed a new rate since last year of $1,322 per person per month even though the Troop Cost Survey had recommended $1,762.55.

Kaswan crticised “the opaque manner in which the Security Council continues to mandate peace operations, without any accountability or transparency”, and reiterated India’s demand that it hold proper consultations with troops contributing countries as required under the UN Charter.

India is historically the largest troop contributor to UN operations, having sent 185,000 troops to serve in 48 of the 69 missions mandated so far, he said.

Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s offer to increase troop contribution by ten percent and send three police units with a high proportion of women, Kaswan said it was a sign that “India is willing to walk the talk when it comes to supporting UN peace operations.”

(By Arul Louis,IANS)

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WhatsApp Announces 20 Teams To Curb Fake News Globally

In India, WhatsApp has partnered with the Digital Empowerment Foundation to train community leaders in several states on how to address misinformation

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WhatsApp
WhatsApp selects 20 teams to curb fake news globally, including India. Pixabay

Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Tuesday announced that it has selected 20 research teams worldwide – including experts from India and those of Indian origin — who will work towards how misinformation spreads and what additional steps the mobile messaging platform could take to curb fake news.

Shakuntala Banaji from London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Anushi Agrawal and Nihal Passanha from Bengaluru-based media and arts collective “Maraa” and Ramnath Bhat from LSE have been selected for the paper titled “WhatsApp Vigilantes? WhatsApp messages and mob violence in India”.

The research examines the ways in which WhatsApp users understand and find solutions to the spate of “WhatsApp lynchings” that has killed over 30 people so far.

The Indian government has also directed WhatsApp to take necessary remedial measures to prevent proliferation of fake and, at times, motivated/sensational messages on its platform.

Among others selected were Vineet Kumar from Ranchi-headquartered Cyber Peace Foundation (principal investigator), Amrita Choudhary, President of the Delhi-based non-profit Cyber Café Association of India (CCAOI) and Anand Raje from Cyber Peace Foundation.

They will work as a team on the paper titled “Digital literacy and impact of misinformation on emerging digital societies”.

P.N. Vasanti from Centre for Media Studies in New Delhi woll work withS. Shyam Sundar, The Pennsylvania State University (Principal Investigator) to examine the role of content modality in vulnerability to misinformation, under the topic titled “Seeing is Believing: Is Video Modality More Powerful in Spreading Fake News?”

WhatsApp had issued a call for papers in July this year and received proposals from over 600 research teams around the world.

“Each of the 20 research teams will receive up to $50,000 for their project (for a total of $1 million),” WhatsApp said in a statement.

Lipika Kamra from O.P. Jindal Global University and Philippa Williams from the Queen Mary University of London (Principal Investigator) will examine the role of WhatsApp in everyday political conversations in India, in the context of India’s social media ecosystem.

According to Mrinalini Rao, lead researcher at WhatsApp, the platform cares deeply about the safety of its over 1.5 billion monthly active users globally and over 200 million users in India.

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

“We appreciate the opportunity to learn from these international experts about how we can continue to help address the impact of misinformation,” Rao said.

“These studies will help us build upon recent changes we have made within WhatsApp and support broad education campaigns to help keep people safe,” she added.

The recipients are from countries including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Singapore, Spain, the UK and US.

WhatsApp said it is hosting them in California this week so they can hear from product leaders about how it builds its product.

“Given the nature of private messaging – where 90 per cent of the messages sent are between two people and group sizes are strictly limited – our focus remains on educating and empowering users and proactively tackling abuse,” said the company.

WhatsApp recently implemented a “forward label” to inform users when they received a message that was not originally written by their friend or loved one. To tackle abuse, WhatApp has also set a limit on how many forwards can be sent.

In India, WhatsApp has partnered with the Digital Empowerment Foundation to train community leaders in several states on how to address misinformation.

Also Read- Facebook Blocks Accounts Engaged in Malicious Activities

“We are also running ads in several languages — in print, online, and on over 100 radio stations — amounting to the largest public education campaign on misinformation anywhere in the world,” the company noted.

Sayan Banerjee from University of Essex, Srinjoy Bose from University of New South Wales and Robert A. Johns from University of Essex will study “Misinformation in Diverse Societies, Political Behaviour & Good Governance”.

Santosh Vijaykumar from Northumbria University, Arun Nair from Health Systems Research India Initiative and Venkat Chilukuri, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology are part of the team that will study “Misinformation Vulnerabilities among Elderly during Disease Outbreaks”. (IANS)