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Facebook launches Clubhouse-like live audio rooms and podcasts

Media|World|Business|: Facebook Inc on Monday launched its own Clubhouse-style live audio rooms and a way to find and play podcasts on its platform, marking a push into social audio by the world's largest social network. Facebook's rollout of a potential Clubhouse rival follows the explosive early success of the invite-only live audio app, which became a hit as people stayed at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was one of the Silicon Valley celebrities who have made appearances on the app, which recently expanded to Android users. Facebook, which has said it wants to make audio a "first-class medium" on its platforms, joins Twitter Inc and messaging platform Discord which have already launched their own live audio offerings. Spotify debuted its own version, "Greenroom," last Wednesday. Slack, Microsoft Corp-owned LinkedIn and Reddit are also working on similar products. Public figures and certain Facebook Groups in the United States using iOS will be able to create live audio rooms, with up to 50 speakers and unlimited listeners. These users can also invite people without a "verified badge" to speak, Facebook said in a blog post. Users on iOS and Android can listen to the rooms. The company, which has been vocal about its push to attract content creators, said it is partnering with public figures including musicians, journalists and athletes in the live audio rooms rollout. Listeners will be able to send Facebook's virtual currency "stars" to creators in live audio rooms. Zuckerberg has said the company will not take a cut of creator revenue until 2023. A number of select podcasts will also be available on Facebook to US listeners and the company said it would soon add to this initial slate. Facebook, which has been criticized for its handling of problematic content across its products, will face the challenges of moderating live and recorded audio content, including in private Facebook Groups. Facebook is also working on a project with Spotify to share and listen to music on the platform.

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Facebook, WhatsApp urge Delhi High Court to stay CCI notice in privacy policy matter

India|Media|: New Delhi: Facebook and WhatsApp on Monday urged the Delhi High Court to stay the Competition Commission of India (CCI) notice asking them to furnish certain information in relation to a probe ordered by it into the instant messaging app's new privacy policy. A vacation bench of Justices Anup Jairam Bhambhani and Jasmeet Singh said it will pass an order on the application. During the hearing the bench said since it was sitting on a vacation bench, it did not want to delve into the merits of the matter even as the main petitions are pending before a bench headed by the Chief Justice. 'We will pass an order. The matter will be listed on July 9 (the date already fixed for the main petitions),' the bench said. The case relates to the appeals of Facebook and WhatsApp against a single judge order dismissing their pleas against the probe CCI ordered into the instant messaging app's new privacy policy. The high court had earlier issued notices on the appeals and asked the Centre to respond to it. Read more WhatsApp to Delhi HC: No deferment of privacy policy, trying to get users on board WhatsApp sues India government, says new media rules mean end to privacy Facebook says it aims to comply with India's new IT rules India police summon Twitter chief over viral video Twitter loses 'safe harbour' shield in India over non-compliance to IT rules In their fresh applications filed in the pending appeals, Facebook and WhatsApp sought stay on the CCI's June 4 notice asking them to furnish certain information for the purpose of inquiry conducted by it. Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing WhatsApp, said the problem is that they have received a fresh notice on June 4 and the last date to respond is today, that is June 21. He said the privacy policy is already under challenge in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court by way of a batch of petitions and even the government is looking into it. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Facebook, said the question here is of propriety and it is not correct as the highest court of the country, that is, the Supreme Court is looking into the matter. 'Why did they wait for June 4 evening to issue the notice? They could have done it earlier,' he said. Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aman Lekhi, representing CCI, opposed the pleas saying at the stage of inquiry furnishing of information will not lead to any order by the CCI and the notice is in pursuance to the inquiry which was not stayed by the high court and that this not the first notice issued to them. ASG Balbir Singh, also appearing for CCI, said since there is a statutory order against Facebook and WhatsApp, they should not use the high court's order and say that they will not furnish the information sought by CCI and the information should not be stalled at this stage. When the court asked what was the hurry of issuing notice by CCI, Lekhi said the question was not of hurry but the matter itself requires a lengthy process. He said till a report is submitted by the Director General to the CCI, there will be no precipitate action against them. The high court had on May 6 issued notice and sought reply of CCI on the appeals filed by Facebook and WhatsApp. The single judge on April 22 had said though it would have been "prudent" for the CCI to await the outcome of petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court against WhatsApp's new privacy policy, not doing so would not make the regulator's order "perverse" or "wanting of jurisdiction". The court had said it saw no merit in the petitions of Facebook and WhatsApp to interdict the investigation directed by the CCI. The CCI had contended before the single judge that it was not examining the alleged violation of individuals' privacy which was being looked into by the Supreme Court. It had argued before the court that the new privacy policy of WhatsApp would lead to excessive data collection and "stalking" of consumers for targeted advertising to bring in more users and is therefore an alleged abuse of dominant position. "There is no question of jurisdictional error," it had contended saying that WhatsApp and Facebook's pleas challenging its decision were "incompetent and misconceived". WhatsApp and Facebook had challenged the CCI's March 24 order directing a probe into the new privacy policy. CCI had also told the court that only after the investigation can it be determined whether the data collection by WhatsApp and sharing it with Facebook would amount to an anti-competitive practice or abuse of dominant position. It had also contended that the data collected, which would include an individual's location, the kind of device used, their internet service provider and whom they are conversing with, would lead to creation of a customer profile and preference which would be monetised by way of targeted advertising and all this amounts to "stalking". The two social media platforms had contended that when the top court and the Delhi High Court were looking into the privacy policy, CCI ought not to have "jumped the gun" and intervened in the issue. They had also said that CCI's decision was an abuse of the commission's suo motu jurisdiction. They had claimed that the CCI in the instant case had "drifted far away" from the competition aspect and was looking into privacy issues which were already being looked into by the apex court and the Delhi High Court. In January, the CCI on its own decided to look into WhatsApp's new privacy policy on the basis of news reports regarding the same.

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India responds to UN, says new IT rules 'designed to empower ordinary users of social media'

India|Technology|: New Delhi: India's permanent mission at the United Nations has clarified that India's new IT rules are "designed to empower ordinary users of social media" and that they were finalised after the government held broad consultations with civil society and other stakeholders in 2018. India's mission at the UN has in a letter responded to concerns raised by three rapporteurs of the Special Procedures Branch of the Human Rights Council in a communication sent to the government on June 11 this year, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) on Sunday in a statement today. The Indian government told the UN that it had framed the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 ('new IT Rules') and notified the same on February 25, 2021. The Rules have come into effect from May 26, 2021. Read more Twitter loses 'safe harbour' shield in India over non-compliance to IT rules India police summon Twitter chief over viral video India government serves final notice to Twitter over non-compliance of new IT rules India asks Facebook's WhatsApp to withdraw privacy policy update WhatsApp sues India government, says new media rules mean end to privacy Facebook says it aims to comply with India's new IT rules WhatsApp to Delhi HC: No deferment of privacy policy, trying to get users on board India needs stricter action as WhatsApp privacy policy goes live It said that "The Rules are designed to empower ordinary users of social media. The victims of abuse at social media platforms shall have a forum for redressal of their grievances. The IT rules finalized after due discussion with various stakeholders." The enactment of new IT Rules, wrote the government, had become necessary due to widespread concerns about issues relating to increased instances of abuse of social media and digital platforms, including inducement for recruitment of terrorists, circulation of obscene content, spread of disharmony, financial frauds, incitement of violence, public order etc. The letter to the UN explained that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting undertook broad consultations in 2018 with various stakeholders, including individuals, civil society, industry association and organisations and invited public comments to prepare the draft Rules. Thereafter, an inter-ministerial meeting had discussed in detail the comments received in detail and, accordingly, the Rules were finalized. "The concerns alleging potential implications for freedom of expression that the new IT Rules will entail, is highly misplaced," the government wrote. India's democratic credentials are well recognized. The right to freedom of speech and expression in guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. The independent judiciary and a robust media are part of India's democratic structure, it said. "On the traceability of the first originator of the information, it may be noted that the new IT Rules seeks only limited information. Only when a message already in public circulation is giving rise to violence, impinging on the unity and integrity of India, depicting a woman in a bad light, or sexual abuse of a child and when no other intrusive options are working, only then the significant social media intermediary will be required to disclose as to who started the message," the government wrote in its response to the UN letter. Several social media platforms, which use end-to-end encryption technology to ensure user privacy, have argued that they will have to read, track and trace all user messages in order to trace the first originator of the texts that are offensive. "The concern that the Rules may be misused deliberately to make a large number of complaints so as to overwhelm the grievance redressal mechanisms created by social media platforms is also misplaced, exaggerated and disingenuous and shows lack of willingness to address the grievances of the users of these media platforms while using their data to earn revenues," the government said. India said it fully recognises and respects the right of privacy, as pronounced by the Supreme Court of India in K.S. Puttusamy case. Privacy is the core element of an individual's existence and, in light of this, the new IT Rules seeks information only on a message that is already in circulation that resulted in an offence. The Rules, said the government, have framed in exercise of the statutory powers of the IT Act, fully taking into account the principles of reasonableness and proportionality.

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Etisalat and Ericsson partner to commercially deploy 5G high-band in the UAE

Technology|: Abu Dhabi: Etisalat on Sunday announced that it has joined forces with Ericsson to deploy 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) across its commercial network. The 5G high-band commercial deployment will help achieve high performance 5G downlink data speeds of 4.2Gbps and latency of 8 milliseconds (ms). Etisalat has built a 5G network infrastructure that can be enabled with superior performance, including ultra-high speeds and ultra-low latency to enable the digital transformation in the country and the wide implementation of use cases related to industry 4.0, automation and Internet of Things (IoT). The UAE leadership is a driving force in accelerating the digital vision along with the telecom regulatory authority TDRA (Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority) becoming one of the first to allocate mmWave spectrum to be used for 5G technology deployment across the country. 5G mmWave delivers high spectrum and capacity, making it ideal for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) to deliver fast, fiber-like internet speeds wirelessly over the last mile, and for crowded hotspots such as stadiums, malls and large indoor events that require high peak rates. It also includes wide spectrum segments available for 5G along with lower latencies.“ Etisalat has always been at the forefront of the telecom industry, and we continuously work to provide our customers with the best possible digital experience. This deployment is in line with our overall vision to ‘Drive the digital future to empower societies’ empowering our customer with the experience of ultrahigh quality 5G connectivity. Moving ahead we look forward to expanding this technology further on demand for all customer segments,” said Haitham AbdulRazzak, Chief Technology Officer, Etisalat. The 5G standardisation focuses on certain requirements to provide connectivity for superior services, such as enhanced mobile broadband to smartphones and other mobile devices for video streaming and real-time online gaming, as these have extreme requirements on availability, latency, and reliability. In response, 5G radio frequency ranges were widened to meet the need for enhanced mobile broadband and performance. The 5G radio frequencies now include all those previously held by 4G, as well as more frequencies up to 6GHz (Sub-6) and the high-band (mmWave) spectrum beyond 24GHz. The next wave of 5G expansion will allow businesses of all types to reap the benefits of enhanced mobility, flexibility, reliability and security, making emerging technologies outlined for the future development of the UAE such as autonomous driving, automated factories, robotic process automation, virtual and augmented reality possible.

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Facebook doubles down on detecting deepfakes

Media|: San Francisco: Facebook has collaborated with researchers at the Michigan State University (MSU) to develop a method of detecting and attributing deepfakes. It relies on reverse engineering, working back from a single AI-generated image to the generative model used to produce it. "Our reverse engineering method takes image attribution a step further by helping to deduce information about a particular generative model just based on the deepfakes it produces," said research scientists Xi Yin and Tal Hassner at Facebook. It's the first time that researchers have been able to identify properties of a model used to create a deepfake without any prior knowledge of the model. Deepfakes are being treated as video forgeries that make people appear to be saying things they never did, like the popular forged videos of Facebook CEO Zuckerberg and that of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that went viral. Deepfakes have become so believable in recent years that it can be difficult to tell them apart from real images. Image attribution can identify a deepfake's generative model if it was one of a limited number of generative models seen during training. "During image attribution, those deepfakes are flagged as having been produced by unknown models, and nothing more is known about where they came from, or how they were produced," said Facebook. The company said that with the new method, researchers will now be able to obtain more information about the model used to produce particular deepfakes. "Our method will be especially useful in real-world settings where the only information deepfake detectors have at their disposal is often the deepfake itself," Facebook said. To combat the spread of disinformation, Microsoft also last year unveiled a new tool that will spot deepfakes or synthetic media which are photos, videos or audio files manipulated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) which are very hard to identify if false or not.