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Wednesday, February 20, 2019
After snub from Twitter CEO, house panel considering sending a "strong" message

After snub from Twitter CEO, house panel considering sending a Parliamentary standing committee to explore tough action against company for not sending CEO to its meeting. The parliamentary standing committee on information technology is exploring ways of expressing its frustration, including declaring breach of privilege, at being unable to get Twitter CEO Jack Dorseyor his secondin-command to attend its hearing on Monday, said people with knowledge of the matter. This may include sending a “strong” recommendation to the government seeking adverse action, they said. The committee will decide what “action” can be taken against Twitter, they added.

The panel had summoned representatives of Twitter and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to be present before it on Monday at 3 pm to examine the issue of “safeguarding citizens’ rights on social media/online news platforms”.

Twitter said it wouldn’t be able to get Dorsey, who was recently in India, to the country on time.

“Given the short notice of the hearing, we informed the committee that it would not be possible for senior officials from Twitter to travel from the United States to appear on Monday,” Twitter had said on Saturday. “Our CEO, Jack Dorsey, and other senior Twitter executives visited India in recent weeks because it is an important market for Twitter and we value the growing interest in Twitter in India.”

BJP lawmaker Anurag Thakur, who heads the panel, told ET, “The committee decided to call the head of Twitter because it felt it should interact with the person who could be held responsible for actions of the company rather than people who do not have powers for any policy making or enforcement.” The panel members have taken strong exception to Twitter seeking to defer the “interaction” to March-April, said sources.

“They are fully aware that nobody will be available during that time because of the crucial Lok Sabha elections,” said a government official.

The committee had initially decided to hold the interaction on February 7 and it was pushed to February 11 to give Twitter more time, said another member of the committee.

“But even 10 days’ time seems to be short notice for them (Twitter). This only shows that they are shying away from their responsibility and perhaps have a lot to hide. They must be mindful of the fact that the committee, if push comes to shove, can go to any lengths to ensure accountability,” he said. “This is perhaps happening for the first time that someone does not have the time for an established institution of Parliament. They appear to be running away from their responsibility.”

The panel chose to call Dorsey or his deputy because of a communication from Twitter on February 7.

“The letter clearly indicated that the Indian representatives (of Twitter) do not have the authority to frame policy or its enforcement,” said a member of the committee who didn’t want to be named. “The committee, thus, felt it futile to interact with such representatives and decided to interact with the company’s CEO or his deputy.”

The panel has a track record on taking up matters of public interest, he said. “It needs to be appreciated that it took a parliamentary panel to set the ball rolling on a debate on net neutrality in Parliament, something which was latched on to by the public three months later,” he said.

“In the instant case, the parliamentary committee wants to debate on the rising false propaganda on Twitter, which is not only influencing mainstream media but is also influencing opinions of people.”

When asked about allegations of trolls being on the payroll of political parties, the member of the committee cited above said, “It is not about ideology or individuals. It is about who shoulders the responsibility for allowing false propaganda to be peddled in the garb of opinion. If a fake handle of the Indian Army is being made (on Twitter) and lies are being spread, somebody has to be held accountable. Twitter cannot be allowed to be misused on the pretext that it is a platform to discuss ideas.”

On Saturday, Twitter said: “We appreciate and respect the committee’s focus on the issue of user safety and user rights… we have indicated that we are willing to participate in such a broad hearing process.”

In its previous reply on February 7, Twitter had said, “No one who engages publicly for Twitter India makes enforcement decisions with respect to our rules for content or accounts in India.(Source: Economic Times)


Google rolling out Chrome 72 with bug fixes, latest features

Google rolling out Chrome 72 with bug fixes, latest features Users can find an app shortcut by long pressing or right-clicking on an Android app,' Google said. The update also brings Google Assistant and Android 9 Pie to more Chromebooks. Google is rolling out the new update for its search browser, Chrome 72, with bug fixes, security updates and newer features like external storage access for Android apps including microSD cards and USB drives along with Picture in Picture (PiP) mode for Chrome sites.

With Chrome 72, Google has optimised the browser for touchscreen devices in tablet mode and added app shortcuts for Android apps that are now searchable in the launcher, the company wrote in a blog post on Saturday.

"Users can find an app shortcut by long pressing or right-clicking on an Android app," the post said.

The update also brings Google Assistant and Android 9 Pie to more Chromebooks after a short testing period on the 'Pixel Slate' device.

The update also features a page about touch-gestures in Chrome's built-in screen reader -- ChromeVox -- tutorial.

"Within the screen reader, we have added a setting in the ChromeVox options page that would read anything under the mouse cursor," the post added. Additionally, Chrome 72 would allow files saved via Backup and Sync on Google Drive to be available in the Files app under the My Drive/Computers menu option.

Systems would be receiving the updates over the next several days, the post noted. (Source:Mint)

Network capacity fee not mandatory for users with multiple TV connections: TRAI

Network capacity fee not mandatory for users with multiple TV connections: TRAITRAI clarified that the network capacity fee (NCF) is not mandatory for users who have more than one TV connection in a single household, and the distribution platform can provide a discount for such connections.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has clarified that the network capacity fee (NCF) is not mandatory for subscribers who own more than one TV connection in a household. A number of Direct-to-Home (DTH) and cable TV users had raised concerns over likely high expenditure for multiple connections under new rules.

Under its new broadcast framework which came into effect starting this month, TRAI did not make it clear if subscribers would have to pay same NCF fee for each and every connection they have in a household. Now, the regulating body has clarified that the NCF is not mandatory for consumers with multiple TV connections.

“The regulation does not prohibit the service providers to offer a discount or lower network capacity fee for second or additional connections in the same location or home,” a TRAI statement said.

Commenting over the discount given on NCF by distribution platform operators, TRAI said that “such discount shall be uniform in the target market area of respective TV channel distributor” and the DPO (Distribution Platform Operator) shall declare it on their platform.”

It also clarified that the regulation, as previously stated, provides a capping of Rs 130 as NCF for 100 standard definitions (SD) channels and Rs 20 for the slab of next 25 SD channels.

While the new framework aims to reduce DTH prices by giving consumers the freedom to choose and pay only for channels they actually watch. While many consumers have reported a decrease in their monthly TV bill, a large number of consumers feel it has only escalated the bill amount.

TRAI, however, believes that DTH prices will come down in 3 months. It says that the new mandate promotes consumer choice and will also provide a fair competition among broadcasters. The regulating body says that is only after a few months of market play that real prices will be discovered. Under the new rules, consumers will also have the freedom to change their channel choice at any time, choosing to add or delete a channel from their pack. (Source: The Indian Express)

Indian consumers say big hello to voice-based devices

Indian consumers say big hello to voice-based devices Hey Alexa! Please play "BhajaGovindam" by M.S. Subbulakshmi, goes the command every morning at my home and Alexa takes no time in obliging, playing the song by the legendary Carnatic vocalist as breakfast begins to roll.

Hey Alexa! Please play "BhajaGovindam" by M.S. Subbulakshmi, goes the command every morning at my home and Alexa takes no time in obliging, playing the song by the legendary Carnatic vocalist as breakfast begins to roll.

This has become a routine at millions of Indian homes, indicating a clear trend about voice becoming the next conversational platform between people and devices.

As we head toward a world where data-driven machine intelligence powers conversations between brands and consumers, Indian consumers are now ready for this, frequently using smartphones to interact with brands and coordinate tasks.

According to Forrester, mobile penetration has allowed rapid, leapfrogging acceleration among metropolitan Indian online adults in the uptake of wearable devices and other smart technology.

Nearly 54 per cent Indians now use at least one wearable device. The smart home is at a similar turning point: 30 per cent use a smart TV, 16 per cent use a voice assistant speaker like Alexa-rich Amazon Echo or Google Assistant-driven Home, and 36 per cent use smart home devices like Internet-connected thermostats or home audio systems.

According to Meenakshi Tiwari, Forecast Analyst at Forrester, most of the digital consumers in India today are mobile consumers, doing multi-tasking on the go.

"Voice has much bigger role to play in the circumstance, which is further verified by the fact that 28 per cent of search queries in India are done by voice, and Hindi voice search queries are growing at over 400 per cent year on year," she told IANS.

It gives clear indication that voice will play a bigger role in India's digital space in near future.

"Smart speaker will also play critical in this direction which is evident from their increasing shipment and time spent by consumer on it," Tiwai added.

According to market research firm International Data Corp (IDC), the smart speakers' category in India, led by Amazon, grew 43 per cent in the second quarter of 2018.

"I personally believe that voice as a platform is going to lead the next wave of content searches, social conservation, and eventually, it will also become the medium of commerce, said Jaipal Singh, Senior Analyst, IDC India.

We already have voice-enabled devices which help us set routines, automate home appliances and provide on-demand information.

"In terms of devices install base in 2018, it has significantly improved as vendors have shipped a set of new devices ranging from mobile phones, ear pods, TVs and smart speakers with voice assistants feature enabled on them," Singh told IANS.

This novelty feature is really attracting a wide segment of users and obviously, millennials and Gen Z are leading the adoption as they are more comfortable to experiment with new technology.

According to Singh, smart speakers are very popular among the kids who mostly use those for educational content, listening mythological stories quizzing and playing games.

"However, playing music and setting alarms, asking for information from the internet are some of the popular tasks that Indian users prefer asking to voice assistants," the IDC analyst said.

There are still concerns on users spending time with voice assistants as it is yet to get the desired traction in India.

However, refined use cases with localised experiences are expected to lead the desired growth of voice-based devices in the coming years, the experts stressed. (Source:ETTelecom)

India's tech rules are taking on a Chinese quality

India's tech rules are taking on a Chinese quality For global technology giants looking for growth, India was supposed to be an easier hunting ground than China. But New Delhi's plan to compel the likes of Facebook and Alphabet's Google to actively police user-generated content threatens free speech.

For global technology giants looking for growth, India was supposed to be an easier hunting ground than China. But New Delhi's plan to compel the likes of Facebook and Alphabet's Googleto actively police user-generated content threatens free speech. Coming after edicts that limit foreign giants Amazon and Walmart in e-commerce, the rules suggest India may not be a much easier bet than the People's Republic.

The proposal, made by the technology ministry in December, addresses a real problem. It's an effort to curb the spread of misinformation after mob violence linked to messages circulated on Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which counts India as its largest market. The draft demands companies pre-screen user content, remove unlawful material within 24 hours and provide a way to trace the user. India is also asking any content provider with more than 5 million users to be locally incorporated.

If enacted, the policy would reduce various tax benefits and liability protections that consumer-facing tech companies enjoy as a result of being based in the United States, and elsewhere. An alarmingly broad definition of what constitutes "unlawful content" also leaves plenty of scope for self- censorship and enforced censorship in the run-up to a general election that must be held by May.

A lobby group which includes the big U.S. names has criticised the plan, ratcheting up trade tensions between the two countries. Local companies, including billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio and social network Sharechat are less concerned with the interference. Certainly, India is not the first to seek to curb the internet and use it on their own terms, benefitting domestic players in the process.

But it's a blow for tech behemoths who viewed the country of 1.3 billion people as a way to compensate for problems they have faced in larger and much richer China, which has, for years, banned the services of Facebook and YouTube owner-Google.

India's sheer size and potential allow it to make some demands. But companies like Google have faced significant backlash at home when they have attempted to bow to the demands of authoritarian regimes. Now that India has almost half a billion internet users, foreign companies may find that prize comes with strings attached.

- An Asian internet lobby group, which includes Alphabet's Google and Facebook, on Jan. 31 criticised India's plans to regulate social media content.

- The proposal drafted by India's technology ministry in December would compel companies to pro-actively prescreen user-generated content, and remove unlawful items within 24 hours and, if asked by a government agency, provide a way to trace the offending user within 72 hours.

- The draft has a very broad definition of "unlawful", including anything "grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory" and which "threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India" among other things.

- "We strongly feel that blanket regulation that is overly broad and contains vague and ambiguous language will jeopardise citizens' fundamental rights to privacy and free speech," the Asia Internet Coalition said in a press statement.

- India also wants any content provider with more than 5 million local users to incorporate in the country with a physical address and contact person.(Source:ETTelecom)

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