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Technology 18 January 2021

The Week in Internet News: Backlash after WhatsApp Plan to Share Data

Grant Gross
By Grant GrossGuest AuthorTechnology Reporter

Don’t share me: After WhatsApp announced plans to share user data with owner Facebook, many users have started to move on to other secure messaging apps, the Independent reports. Rival Telegram reported a 500 percent increase in new users after the change was announced. Meanwhile, WhatsApp and Facebook are launching advertising in an effort to keep users, with the companies taking out full-page advertisements in 10 Indian newspapers, Reuters says. India is WhatsApp’s largest market, with 400 million users.

Defending the ban hammer: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has defended the company’s decision to permanently ban outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump, after Trump supports attacked the U.S. Capitol, the BBC says. The decision was difficult, however, Dorsey said. “I do not celebrate or feel pride,” he tweeted. “After a clear warning we’d take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter.”

Parler goes to court: In related news, Amazon Web Services ended its web hosting arrangement with right-wing Twitter competitor Parler after the Capitol riots, effectively shutting the microblogging site down. AWS pointed to a series of posts on Parler threatening violence, including some Parler users talking about killing police officers and lawmakers in the Capitol on Jan. 6. Parler has sued Amazon, saying its decision amounts to a “death blow” for the service, CNN reports. Amazon responded, citing multiple Parler posts threatening violence, Business Insider notes.

De-platforming the Internet: Meanwhile, the decision to ban Trump by Twitter, Facebook and other sites could reshape the Internet, writes Stephen Bartholomeusz, a columnist at the Sydney Morning Herald. The bans could lead to a change in Section 230, the part of U.S. law that protects social media providers and other websites from lawsuits for user-generated content, he says. “If companies were held responsible for their users’ content, they would also be liable – like any traditional publisher,” he adds. “They would have to hire armies of lawyers, moderators and fact checkers to pre-screen any content before it was posted in the knowledge that otherwise they would face a blizzard of litigation.”

Russia considers its own ban hammer: Finally, the Russian parliament has backed legislation that would allow the government there to restrict access to U.S. social media giants if they “discriminate” against Russian media and fine sites that do not delete banned content, India Times reports.

Section 230 has a track record of promoting innovation and creativity online. By separating it from partisan politics, we can keep it that way.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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