Internet freedom in India declined for a third straight year, as government authorities increasingly shut off connectivity to suppress anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests, said a report.
The Freedom House report said spyware campaigns targeting human rights defenders added to the already restrictive environment for privacy.
“Meanwhile, both the CAA protests and the COVID-19 pandemic led to an information environment plagued by disinformation, often pushed by political leaders themselves. Within this environment, women, religious, and marginalized communities, in particular, experienced online harassment and trolling,” the report said.
The report said despite the Supreme Court establishing certain safeguards to be followed by the government before ordering internet shutdowns, India still registered to be home to more government-imposed internet shutdowns than anywhere else in the world.
The move was justified by authorities for reasons including the need to counter disinformation, protests, communal violence, and cheating on exams.
According to the report, more political, social, and cultural content was either removed or blocked for India-based users during the coverage period, including information on Twitter about Kashmir and criticism of the government on streaming platforms.
It also said government officials attempted to control the online narrative around the COVID-19 pandemic by issuing restrictions on reporting, arresting and detaining numerous people for their online speech. This also included, reportedly forcing users to remove content from their social media accounts.
According to the report, digital monitoring during the COVID-19 pandemic using apps, like Aarogya Setu, raised concerns over a lack of transparency, oversight, and other protections for fundamental freedoms.
The report found two separate coordinated spyware campaigns targeting journalists, activists, lawyers, and other human rights defenders.
However, internet penetration continues to improve in the country.
“However, inadequate infrastructure still remains an obstacle to
By Aditi Shah and Aditya Kalra
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google is facing a new antitrust case in India in which the U.S. tech giant is alleged to have abused its Android operating system’s position in the smart television market, a source and two lawyers involved in the case told Reuters.
The case is Google’s fourth major antitrust challenge in India, one of its key markets where it is currently facing public criticism from local startups for enforcing certain policies and company charges they contend hurt their growth.
It also comes as Google faces new antitrust challenges in the United States, and a potential antitrust probe in China that is set to look into how it allegedly uses its dominance of its Android mobile operating system to stifle competition. Google has denied any wrongdoing.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has since June been looking into allegations that Google engages in anti-competitive practices by creating barriers for firms wanting to use or develop modified versions of Android for smart TVs, such as Amazon Fire TV’s operating system, according to the source, who has direct knowledge of the case.
The case has been filed by two Indian antitrust lawyers, Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand. They both confirmed the case filing against Google for alleged abuse in the smart television market, but declined to comment further.
The source said the CCI had directed Google to submit its written responses to the allegations and that the company has sought more time.
A Google spokesman declined comment, since the case with the antitrust body was pending. Amazon and the CCI did not respond to requests for comment.
Unlike Indian court cases,
India has never been a big market for home automation products such as vacuum cleaners and dishwashers thanks to the easy availability of cheap domestic labour. But the Covid-19 pandemic is changing that.
As millions of Indians juggle office work from home and household chores without dependence on domestic helpers—to avoid exposure to coronavirus—dishwasher sales in the country have picked up like never before.
“We have witnessed significant growth in the demand for dishwashers across cities to the tune of 230% over the pre-lockdown period (before March 25) as an increasing number of consumers opt for home automation products to save on time,” a spokesperson of Walmart-owned Flipkart told Quartz. “The 12 place dishwashers have been the most popular in the category.”
Amazon India has seen a five-fold increase in search queries for dishwashers over the last few months, and customers in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Delhi, and Mumbai are making most of the purchases in the category, said Suchit Subhas, director of large appliances and furniture at the company.
The demand is so high that companies are struggling to cater to customers in some cities. “Customers are enquiring about the product but we don’t have it with us because there wasn’t any demand earlier,” said Ashok Mitthal, an electronics store owner in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut. “We are receiving many bookings but we don’t know whether we will be able to deliver or not.”
India has close to 20 million domestic workers, mostly women, who cook, clean, and do laundry by hand. The average salaries of these workers are under Rs3,000 ($45) a month.
But when the Narendra Modi government announced a nationwide lockdown in March, domestic workers were not allowed to work in most parts of the country. Now, even as the lockdowns have
Google is postponing the enforcement of its new Play Store billing policy in India to April 2022, days after more than 150 startups in the world’s second largest internet market forged an informal coalition to express concerns over the 30% charge the Android-maker plans to mandate on its store and started to explore an alternative marketplace for their apps.
The company, which is going live globally with the new Play Store rule in September 2021, is deferring the enforcement of the policy only in India, it said. It is also listening to developers and willing to engage to allay their concerns, it said.
Last week, Google said it would no longer allow any apps to circumvent its payment system within the Play Store. The move, pitched by Google as a “clarification” of its existing policy, would allow the company to ensure it gets as high as a 30% cut on in-app purchases made through Android apps operating in a range of a categories.
Google’s announcement today is a direct response to the loudest scrutiny it has received in a decade in India — its biggest market by users but also a place where, compared to Western markets, it generates little revenue. More than 150 startups in India last week formed an informal coalition to fight the company’s strong hold on Indian app ecosystem. Google commands 99% of the smartphone market in India, according to research firm Counterpoint.
Among the startups that have expressed concerns over Google’s new policy are Paytm, India’s most valuable startup, payments processor Razorpay, fantasy sports firm Dream11, social network ShareChat, and business e-commerce IndiaMART.
More than 50 Indian executives relayed these concerns to India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology over a video call on Saturday, according to three people who attended the call.
VIENNA (Reuters) – India and South Africa want the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property rules to make it easier for developing countries to produce or import COVID-19 drugs, a letter here&Open=True to the WTO shows.
In their letter dated Oct. 2 the two countries called on the global trade body to waive parts of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which governs patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property rules globally.
“As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for COVID-19 are developed, there are significant concerns (over) how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at (an) affordable price to meet global demand,” the letter posted on the Geneva-based WTO’s website says.
The two countries said that developing nations are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and that intellectual property rights, including patents, could be a barrier to the provision of affordable medicine.
The letter asks that the WTO’s Council for TRIPS recommends a waiver to the General Council, the WTO’s top decision-making body in Geneva, “as early as possible”. It does not say how much support India and South Africa have from other countries.
A draft General Council decision text submitted with the letter says the waiver should last an as yet unspecified number of years and be reviewed annually.
Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by David Goodman