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WhatsApp picks 20 teams to curb fake news globally, including India

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New Delhi, Nov 13: 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.

“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.

“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

Entertainment

Boycott Netflix India trends over Temple kissing scene in series ‘A Suitable Boy’, BJP’s Narottam Mishra orders probe

On Sunday Afternoon, netizens urged fellow citizen to #BoycottNetflix over a kissing scene in the Netflix series ‘A Suitable Boy’, directed by Mira Nair.

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On Sunday Afternoon, netizens urged fellow citizen to #BoycottNetflix over a kissing scene in the Netflix series ‘A Suitable Boy’, directed by Mira Nair. A section of the internet has expressed its displeasure over the content shown in ‘A Suitable Boy’, starring Tabu, Ishaan Khatter, and Tanya Maniktala.

The outrage is over Tanya Maniktala’s character Lata kissing Danesh Razvi’s character Kabir Durrani in the series in a sequence shot in a temple. Lata hailed from a Hindu family and Kabir was a Muslim.

Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra, who had recently announced that the state government will bring a Bill against ‘love jihad’ in the next Assembly session, has now directed the authorities to ‘examine the objectionable scenes’ in filmmaker Meera Nair’s web series ‘A Suitable Boy’.

Narottam Mishra tweeted, “A film titled ‘A Suitable Boy’ has been released on an OTT platform. It depicts extremely objectionable scenes that hurt the feelings of a particular religion. I have directed police officials to look into it.”

Youth BJP leader Gaurav Tiwari submitted a written complaint against the makers and demanded the registration of an FIR. He also urged netizens to boycott Netflix and slammed the makers.

“In ‘A Suitable Boy’ show, @NetflixIndia filmed kissing scenes in the temple courtyard thrice in a single episode. According to the script, a Hindu woman is in love with a Muslim young man, but why were all the kissing scenes shot in the temple courtyard? I have lodged an FIR in Rewa on this matter,” he tweeted.

Actor-TV personality Rahul Mahajan was among the others who expressed his displeasure over the scene. He wrote, “A Muslim man kissing a Hindu woman during the Ram Aarti was ‘creative freedom’. But when a Hindu man and Muslim women would kiss in a mosque during Azaan, this creative freedom would go missing.’

Here are the reactions of Netizens:

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NASA rover helps scientists find signs of megafloods on Mars

“The planet had the conditions needed to support the presence of liquid water on the surface — and on Earth, where there’s water, there’s life.

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New York: Analysing data collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover, scientists have found that floods of unimaginable magnitude once washed through Gale Crater on Mars’ equator around four billion years ago.

The finding, published in the journal Scientific Reports, hints at the possibility that life may have existed on the Red Planet.

The raging megaflood — likely touched off by the heat of a meteoritic impact, which unleashed ice stored on the Martian surface — set up gigantic ripples that are tell-tale geologic structures familiar to scientists on Earth.

“We identified megafloods for the first time using detailed sedimentological data observed by the rover Curiosity,” said co-author Alberto Fairen, a visiting astrobiologist at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

“Deposits left behind by megafloods had not been previously identified with orbiter data.”

As is the case on Earth, geological features, including the work of water and wind have been frozen in time on Mars for about four billion years. These features convey processes that shaped the surface of both planets in the past.

This case includes the occurrence of giant wave-shaped features in sedimentary layers of Gale crater, often called “megaripples” or antidunes that are about 30-feet high and spaced about 450 feet apart, according to study lead author Ezat Heydari, Professor of Physics at Jackson State University in Mississippi, US.

The antidunes are indicative of flowing megafloods at the bottom of Mars’ Gale Crater about four billion years ago, which are identical to the features formed by melting ice on Earth about two million years ago, Heydari said.

The most likely cause of the Mars flooding was the melting of ice from the heat generated by a large impact, which released carbon dioxide and methane from the planet’s frozen reservoirs.

The water vapour and release of gases combined to produce a short period of warm and wet conditions on the red planet.

Condensation formed water vapour clouds, which in turn created torrential rain, possibly planetwide.

The Curiosity rover science team has already established that Gale Crater once had persistent lakes and streams in the ancient past.

These long-lived bodies of water are good indicators that the crater, as well as Mount Sharp within it, were capable of supporting microbial life.

“Early Mars was an extremely active planet from a geological point of view,” Fairen said.

“The planet had the conditions needed to support the presence of liquid water on the surface — and on Earth, where there’s water, there’s life.

“So early Mars was a habitable planet,” he said.

“Was it inhabited? That’s a question that the next rover Perseverance … will help to answer.”

Perseverance, which launched on July 30, is scheduled to reach Mars on February 18, 2021.

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Kerala makes cyber defamation punishable, 5-year jail term for ‘offensive’ post

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has claimed the decision was guided by growing abuse on social media targeting individuals.

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Arif Mohammad Khan

The Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has reportedly signed an ordinance to incorporate the controversial Section 118 (A) in the Kerala Police Act, making defamation, intimidation, and insulting of any person on social media, a punishable offence, with imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of Rs 10,000 or both.

As reported by LiveLaw, Khan’s office on Saturday confirmed that he had signed the Kerala Police Act Amendment ordinance made by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government under which, any individual who produces, publishes, or disseminates content through any means of communication to insult or defame any person through social media, has to face repercussions.

Advocate Anoop Kumaran, who had moved the Supreme Court in 2015 against another Section, 118(D) of the Act. “The government claims that Section 118(A) is meant to protect people, particularly women, from social media abuse. But in reality, the new law would be used by the authorities and government against those who criticise them,” the media quoted Kumaran as saying.

It is feared that the amendment could have a chilling effect on free speech giving more power to the police and restricting freedom of the press. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has claimed the decision was guided by growing abuse on social media targeting individuals.

The Kerala government had also claimed a rise in crimes, fake propaganda and hate speech on social media since the outbreak of Covid-19, and said the existing legal provisions were inadequate to fight them. It had argued that while the Supreme Court had repealed Section 118 (D) of the Kerala Police Act as well as Section 66-A of the IT Act, the Centre had not introduced any other legal framework to replace them.

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