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As their country is affected by the world’s worst coronavirus crisis, Indians are using Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and sharing documents online to solicit medical help and force the Their elected leaders must be held accountable for their mistakes.
But the tech companies mostly let the Indians fend for themselves.
That is the message from Mishi Choudhary, a lawyer working to protect digital rights in India and the United States. Choudhary told me she was very angry about what she believed was the failures of both Indian officials and mostly the US internet companies that are dominating the country.
Tech companies should do more to fact-check information about the coronavirus that is spreading like wildfires on their websites and stand up against Indian officials, she said. try to silence or intimidate people for speaking out online.
A consistent theme in this newsletter is that a handful of tech companies have equal power to governments. Choudhary wondered what the use of having so much power if the big internet companies don’t use it when it’s really important.
Choudhary told me: “If they are going to withdraw money out of our market, they better defend our people.
Finding a way to balance local law and citizen preferences with basic human rights like freedom of expression is tricky for US tech companies operating in other countries. together. It’s not clear what they should do as more countries – including India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi – try to control what happens online, both for legitimate reasons and to manipulate or restrict citizenship. their.
The internet superpowers deserve credit when they refuse to abide by heavy government restrictions. But Choudhary is right that during India’s current crisis, American tech stars aren’t backing away much and seem to be trying to avoid attention.
She pointed out two things they should do. The first is to help verify the information that Indians are spreading online. People are spending hours online connecting people in need of oxygen or other medical care with people who can help. Indians are also trying to find out when those reports are false and to identify vivores selling medical supplies at too high a price or they don’t really have it.
Choudhary asks why internet companies don’t help verify all that information. “If volunteers are doing that, I’m sure the platforms themselves can do it, too,” says Choudhary.
It’s never easy to figure out what’s true and what’s not online, especially in times of crisis when information travels quickly. The problem is that internet companies usually don’t put in much effort, especially in countries outside of the US and Western Europe.
Second, Choudhary says that companies including Facebook and Twitter have been too complacent and secretive when the Indian government is fighting disagreements online.
The Modi government has asked Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to remove posts they deem misleading or dangerous. In some cases, it has cited hypothetical photos of corpses or other misinformation online that could have caused panic. But in some cases those posts appear to be true and are being scrapped as they either challenge the low official death toll or criticize Indian leaders for their pandemic response.
Twitter and Facebook often say that when they operate in countries around the world, they obey government orders they consider valid. And in India, unless told they have to keep quiet, companies say they make public any government requests to remove posts or block them from viewing.
But Choudhary says that US internet companies do not often let affected people or the public know why certain posts have been scrapped.
She says that makes it difficult for Indians and organizations like her Software Freedom Law Center to know when the Indian government is trying to stop online scams or misinformation, and when the government is trying to keep the criticism away.
As we talked, Choudhary paused a few times to apologize for being emotional. She says she is overwhelmed by the number of people in India who ask for help finding a hospital bed for a relative or transporting a patient out of the country for treatment.
She reveals about what she considers the deadly failure to control the coronavirus by powerful leaders in the country where she was born. And she can’t believe that in her current hometown, USA, mighty tech companies promise to give voice to everyone sitting next to when the Modi government stops Indians. Speak up.
Before we go …
Google and Microsoft have made a lot of dollars: The pandemic continues to be surprisingly good for those two companies. (They were doing pretty well before 2020 as well.) On the other hand, some companies including Netflix and Pinterest that benefited when we glued to the screen are now giving hints that we’re a bit of a retreat. from online habits.
A glimpse of the lives of women that are often not seen: In Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, domestic workers in wealthy households – mostly women – create TikTok videos to discuss their lives or be abused by employers. . “It’s some kind of helpline,” one woman told Louise Donovan. The report is a collaboration between The New York Times and the non-profit The Fuller Project.
Where is my beloved key ?! My colleague Brian X. Chen (and his dogs) is a fan of Apple’s new AirTag location tracking device, which accurately identifies the whereabouts of things like house keys, backpack – or pets.
Give this person an Oscar directing photos taken from TV cameras (with finger press and EXTREMELY ENTHUSIASM) won the 1997 Academy Award. My colleague, Farhad Manjoo had one the perfect explanation Why is this clip so great.
(Warning that there are some languages that are not family-friendly.)
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