WhatsApp and Facebook monetize user data, government says

The Center defended the legal validity of its new IT rule in Delhi’s High Court requiring messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, to “trace” the first author of the information, saying the law allows it to wait. that these entities create a secure cyberspace. and tackle illegal content either itself or by helping law enforcement agencies.

The Center said Section 87 of the Information Technology Act gave it the power to formulate Rule 4 (2) of the Intermediary Rules – which mandates a major social media intermediary to enable identification of the first sender of information in the “legitimate interest of the State”. reduce the threat of fake news and crimes concerning national security and public order as well as women and children.

In its affidavit filed in response to WhatsApp’s challenge to the rule on the grounds that the encryption breach infringes the privacy of its users, the Center claimed that the platforms “monetize user information for commercial / commercial purposes. do not have the right to claim that they protect privacy “.

“The petitioners (WhatsApp and Facebook), being multi-billion dollar companies, almost singularly based on the retrieval, possession and storage of private data of natural persons across the world and subsequently their monetization, can not claim any representative right to privacy on behalf of natural persons using the platform, ”says the affidavit filed by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology.

“WhatsApp collects users’ personal information and shares it with Facebook and third-party entities for business / commercial purposes (WhatsApp 2016 privacy policy and its 2021 update). In fact, regulators in various countries firmly believe that Facebook should be held accountable for its services and data management practices, ”he added.

The Center said the reasons regarding the technical difficulties cannot be an excuse for denying compliance with the country’s law and if a platform does not have the means to track down the “first author” without breaking the encryption, then it is the platform which “should develop such a mechanism” within the framework of a broader public mission.

“The Rule does not contemplate that platforms break end-to-end encryption. The Rule only contemplates the platform to provide the contact details of the first sender by any means or mechanism available with the platform. If the platform does not have such means, the platform should develop such a mechanism given the widespread prevalence of platforms and the broader public duty, ”the affidavit said.

The Center stated that “if the intermediary is not able to prevent or detect criminal activity taking place on its platform, then the problem lies in the architecture of the platform and the platform. form must rectify its architecture and not expect a change in legislation. The reasons for “technical difficulties” cannot be an excuse for refusing to respect the law of the land. “

In August, a bench led by Chief Justice DN Patel called for the Center’s position on the WhatsApp petition challenging the new rule on the grounds that it violates the right to privacy and is unconstitutional.
WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook has also issued a similar challenge to the rule.

In its plea, WhatsApp said that the traceability requirement required it to “break end-to-end encryption” and thus undermine the fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of expression of hundreds of millions of citizens. using its platform to communicate privately and securely.

The Center, in its response, said the WhatsApp petition is not sustainable because a challenge to the constitutionality of an Indian law is not sustainable at the request of a foreign business entity.

He further asserted that Rule 4 (2) is an “embodiment of the competing rights of Indian citizens” and aims to preserve the “rights of vulnerable citizens in cyberspace who may be or are victims of cybercrime”.

The Center said there are checks and balances to ensure the rule is not misused or invoked in cases where other less intrusive means are effective in identifying the author of the information.

The identification of the first perpetrator relates only to viral content relating to heinous crimes, as specified in the rule, and does not identify all users or citizens, he said.

“If the 2021 IT rules are not implemented, law enforcement will find it difficult to trace the origin of the false messages and these messages will infiltrate other platforms, thus disrupting the peace and the ‘harmony in society, leading to more public order problems,’ the affidavit stated. .

The Center also said that in the event of legal proceedings having a message on the platform as evidence, WhatsApp would lose the defense of “intermediary protection”, but that “does not mean that WhatsApp will be found guilty and its officials would be legally responsible. ”.

“Courts can include WhatsApp as a defendant and consider ‘contributory negligence’ and ‘vicarious liability on WhatsApp and its officers” (under section 85). Such responsibilities will only flourish when such a case arises and WhatsApp is designated as an entity that is sufficiently proven to have contributed to the commission of the crime, ”he added.

The center also said that the Supreme Court itself had asked the central government to “take all necessary measures to identify those who create and disseminate electronic information” on certain offenses such as sexual abuse.

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Twitter Acquires Sphere Group Chat App, May Boost In-App Chat Features

Twitter has acquired the London-based group chat app Sphere. The acquisition is Twitter’s latest move to expand its product offering to users. According to a report by TechCrunch, the app could use the acquisition to enhance its personal and group messaging capabilities.

“Like others, we have watched and admired Twitter’s growing investment in building communities with the release of communities, spaces and features that promote safety,” Sphere said in a blog post.

“When we first met the team, we were even more impressed by how seriously they pursue an interest-based community and how much they believe in its potential impact.”

This decision will also see around 20 people from the Sphere team joining Twitter. A number of users Sphere had amassed were not disclosed, but the standalone app is expected to end soon.

“It has been a long and exciting journey up to this point. Like many startups, Sphere started out with a very different mission: to help everyone find and share knowledge instantly through the creation of a “global brain”. We originally created a marketplace for paid experts from around the world, connecting them through group chat, ”the startup said in the blog post.

“What we realized was that some of the most useful and informed conversations came from groups where members felt a strong sense of belonging to one another. In other words, at the heart of our challenge was to help each person find their community. The opportunity is enormous. “

Founded by Tomas Halgas and Nick D’Aloisio, Sphere has reportedly raised at least $ 30 million. D’Aloisio also previously created the news summary app Summly, which the founder sold to Yahoo when he was 17 for $ 30 million.

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YouTube rolls out automatic captioning feature for all creators

YouTube is rolling out its automatic live captioning feature for all video creators on the platform. Until now, the feature has only been limited to channels with more than 1,000 subscribers.

The company announced the same, along with other future enhancements to come to the platform, in its blog. The addition of these changes should make it easier for hearing-impaired users to access the platform.

The company has confirmed that live automatic captions will now be available in 12 additional languages ​​instead of just English. Other upcoming improvements to the video platform will include the ability to add multiple audio tracks to a video to support multiple languages.

In addition, YouTube on smartphones will now also support the automatic subtitle translation feature. YouTube has confirmed that extended language support for live and machine-translated captions will roll out in the coming months. On the flip side, YouTube says the multiple audio track feature will be more widely available “in the coming quarters.”

The company also announced that it plans to “experiment” by allowing users to search for video transcripts on mobile devices.

YouTube is also working on the caption editor permission feature, which will allow creators to designate other users to add captions to their videos. The feature is expected to replace the community caption feature that was removed by YouTube. The company says it will provide updates on its progress “in the coming months.”

Additionally, YouTube has also decided to end its tradition of creating year-end “Rewind” videos. The company cited that the platform’s expansion has made it “impossible to sum up its vastness and diversity in a compilation of just a few minutes.”

As a reminder, in 2018, YouTube Rewind set the record for most dislikes of any video on the platform, as the creators complained about ignoring the video platform’s community by featuring mainstream celebrities instead of local YouTubers.

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By 2025, 650 million Indians will watch short videos for one hour a day: Bain & Company Report

Online video consumption has exploded amid the coronavirus pandemic as “working from home” becomes the norm. India’s online video user base has grown to over 350 million people, growing 24% between 2018 and 2020, almost twice as fast as markets such as China and Indonesia , revealed a new study.

According to a report titled “Online Videos In India – The Long And The Short Of It,” published by Bain & Company, video content is the present, but short video content is the future. The report suggests that by 2025 India will be home to 650 million users who consume short videos.

Interestingly, usage per active user has also increased significantly: The daily time spent per active user on online videos has simultaneously increased from 60% to 70% during the period 2018-2020. The majority of the time spent on smartphones is spent in entertainment, mostly watching videos, according to the report.

Arpan Sheth, partner and global leader of Bain & Company’s Vector Solutions group, said in a statement, “India has a large digital community, with around 640 million internet users and 550 million smartphone users. , which is growing fast and spending more time online. Smartphone users spend around 4.8 hours on their devices per day, of which an average hour is spent consuming videos. Despite this rapid boom, there is huge room for growth: Online video user penetration in India accounts for nearly 60% of Internet users, compared to over 90% in China.

Why are social media platforms adapting short videos?

Short videos (SFV) are between 15 seconds and 2 minutes, and long videos (LFV) are over 2 minutes. The boundaries between these segments are increasingly blurred, as platforms expand their offerings to capture more of consumers’ time by meeting broader consumer needs and opportunities to improve adherence. For example, Instagram now has Reels, IGTV, and IG Live. YouTube recently introduced YouTube Shorts to India.

It should be noted that the SFV market has taken off over the past two years, increasing the number of users by 3.5 times and the total time spent by all users on SFV platforms 12 times.

Shyam Unnikrishnan, Partner and Leader in Consumer Products, Retail, Digital Strategy and Practices at Bain & Company in India, said, “The SFV ecosystem, which primarily consists of users, creators and advertisers, is essential to boost the economy of the platform. Brands are increasingly using short video platforms to reach their target customers. New monetization models, such as video commerce, live streaming, and in-app purchases, will become more and more common in the years to come. Gamers need to invest in the development of an advanced technological platform to connect users, creators and advertisers and deliver a seamless experience for all.

But .. Who is watching?

Historically, India’s short video user base has been mostly level 2 men and small town men, but this is changing rapidly, with the medium gaining ground in subways and among women as well.

Rapidly growing access with cheap and ubiquitous data, easy-to-use platforms and a high proportion of vernacular content will only help scale short videos in India. At least 200 million Indians watched SFV at least once in 2020, with daily active users spending up to 45 minutes a day on these platforms, according to the report. India has over 50 million users who have created and posted at least one short video.

The report notes that by 2025, three in four Internet users, or 600 to 650 million Indians, will consume short videos, with active users spending up to 55 to 60 minutes per day.

Indian SFV applications on the rise

The Indian SFV market is now occupied by a mix of specialized video applications made in India such as Moj, Josh, MX TakaTak, Roposo, Zili. These apps each have over 100 million downloads.

Content creators are active across multiple platforms and increasingly monetize their subscriber base through brand collaborations and commerce. All of this spawns a robust creator economy, a nurturing ecosystem of actors helping creators with content creation, monetization, funding, and business management.

Sriwatsan Krishnan, Private Equity and Alternative Investor Practice Leader and Partner of Bain & Company India, said, “Market leaders will need to focus on three areas to develop a large, engaged community of users and creators. First, they will need to invest heavily in technology to deliver a hyper-personalized experience to users, optimize the user interface (through faster loading times of apps and videos, etc.), and expand access. via vernacular interfaces. Winners will simultaneously focus on activating and locking creators on one side, and building scalable monetization engines on the other. Successful players will need access to large amounts of capital to achieve these goals and realize their potential. “

What about long duration videos (LFV)?

Long videos (LFV) are viewed by nearly 400 million users, almost twice as penetrated as SFV. The format has seen substantial growth, with users and usage increasing almost 1.5 times from 2018 to 2020.

The report reveals that active users today spend more than 2.5 hours per day on long content. Frequent closures imposed by COVID-19 and stay-at-home advisories during the pandemic have propelled those numbers further.

LFV is poised to grow from 600 to 650 million users in India by 2025. This growth will be driven by a steady increase in the Internet user base; access to cheaper and faster data; the introduction of more affordable plans, including the advent of freemium models; and a proliferation of content.

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Chinese version of TikTok restricts app use by under 14s

Chinese short video app Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, said on Saturday that all of its authenticated users under the age of 14 will now access the app in “youth mode,” in an effort to protect young people from inappropriate content.

In youth mode, users under the age of 14 can only access the app for up to 40 minutes per day, and only between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., Douyin, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, said in a statement.

The measure to protect young people was the strictest in the history of the platform, said Douyin.

Chinese regulators have tightened their grip on the internet this year, monitoring it for violations of core socialist values. The authorities have notably called for better protection of minors against online dangers, in particular the “blind” and “chaotic” cult of celebrities on the Internet.

The popular social messaging app WeChat, owned by Tencent, also has a “young mode”, which when activated, limits the access of young users to certain games and features such as payments or the possibility. to find friends nearby.