Connect with us

International

India Orders Social Media Companies To Block Posts Criticizing Its COVID Response

Published

on

  • The Indian government ordered Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to block about 100 posts on Sunday that criticized the country’s handling of recent COVID-19 surges.
  • All three companies reportedly complied, though Twitter said the posts were only blocked in India and remain visible to the rest of the world.
  • Government officials claimed the content was creating “panic,” but many have condemned the move as censorship, noting that numerous posts, including some from opposition leaders and journalists, simply expressed critical opinions of Prime Minister Modi’s response to the surge.
  • On Monday, India reported more than 350,000 new infections and 2,800 deaths, breaking the world record of daily infection rates for the fifth day in a row.

Modi Takes on Social Media Criticism Amid COVID Surge

India’s government ordered Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to block about 100 social media posts Sunday that were critical of its handling of COVID-19 surges in the country.

The coronavirus situation in India has become increasingly dire in recent weeks. On Monday, the country reported more than 350,000 new infections and 2,800 deaths, breaking the world record of daily infection rates for the fifth day in a row.

India currently makes up for nearly half of all new cases in the entire world, and even then, experts warn that the numbers are almost certainly undercounted.

The surge has also put a massive strain on the country’s hospital system, with many running low on beds, oxygen, and supplies. Also on Sunday, the Biden administration partially lifted its ban on exporting raw materials for vaccines to send India therapeutics, as well as other materials like rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, and protective gear.

While the spikes are partly due to the spread of a new variant, many people have also criticized the response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, including some whose posts his government ordered the social media platforms remove.

According to reports, all three platforms are currently enforcing the legally binding order, though, Facebook has refused to comment on the situation. Twitter, for its part, confirmed it had removed some of the tweets, but said they are only blocked in India and will still be visible in other parts of the world.

In a statement to the media, Indian officials said the posts were creating “panic” by “using unrelated, old and out of the context images or visuals, communally sensitive posts and misinformation about Covid-19 protocols.” 

Censorship Allegations

Numerous social media users, however, accused the government of censorship, noting that much of the content was critical of Modi, including some posts shared by opposition leaders.

According to Lumen Database, which tracks takedown requests, at least 52 tweets from prominent figures including politicians in opposition parties, journalists, and even filmmakers have been removed.

While some of those posts did have potentially misleading information, others just documented the scale of the surge or expressed anger at India’s leaders.

This decision will likely raise concerns about the relationship between social media companies and leaders in countries that compose major client bases. India is a key growth market for tech companies — Facebook has more users in India than anywhere else in the world, and the country is also Twitter’s fastest-growing market. 

This latest action from the Modi government also comes at a time when experts say his party has been increasingly censoring dissent, which creates a sticky situation for social media companies that goes beyond questions of moral dilemmas and free speech.

“In India, the companies face a stark choice: follow laws and risk suppressing political debate, or ignore them and face harsh punishments, including prison time for local employees, in a potentially huge growth market,” The New York Times explained. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

International

Mukbangs and Ordering Too Much Food Banned in China

Published

on

  • China recently passed a law that bans ordering too much food and sharing content online that portrays overeating.
  • Though food scarcity is not an issue in the country, the law is meant to combat food waste, with authorities pointing out that China tosses 35 million tons of food annually.
  • The law doesn’t penalize consumers at restaurants. Instead, it fines restaurants $1550 for allowing diners to order “more than they need.”
  • TV stations, media companies, or people who post overeating content, such as Mukbangs, can face a $16,000 fine.

The End of Mukbangs

Some of the most popular content across Chinese social media has effectively been banned under an anti-food waste law that authorities passed late last week.

The law bans diners from ordering more than they need, which could hurt an entire class of eating videos, including ones where people enter all-you-can-eat restaurants to consume thousands of dollars worth of food. While it could be argued that if the creators eat all that food, they’ve satisfied the “more than they need” clause, the law also bans binge eating and posting such content online, meaning no more mukbangs for Chinese fans.

Censors have already begun removing overeating content, and much of it went missing overnight from Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese sister app.

The law also affects far more than a fringe group of people making food content. It’s so vague and open to interpretation that it could disrupt everyday restaurant-goers.

President Xi Jinping called food waste a “distressing” problem that threatens China’s food security, despite the fact that China is not facing any imminent food shortages.

Nearly 35 million tons of food go to waste every year in China, though that’s a relatively small amount for its population size. The U.S., for comparison, manages to throw away 66 million tons of food yearly.

Still, the legislation does not come as a complete surprise since Xi launched a food-saving campaign back in August claiming that COVID-19 was threatening the food supply chain.

Who’s Penalized?

Across China, restaurants have already begun to comply with the new rules. Some have set up scales at their entrance to give recommended food portion sizes to customers based on their weight. Meanwhile, others have promised to offer smaller-sized plates as an option.

One standard that many are seeking to enact is the “N-1” rule, which states that the number of dishes should be one less than the number of guests. The rule could be an attempt to curb a cultural practice that sees hosts ordering far more food than could be eaten in an effort to show off wealth.

Under the law, much of the blame towards a consumer wasting food is placed on restaurants, as there’s no clear cut fine for diners violating the law. Any establishment found allowing customers or misleading customers into ordering excessive amounts of food facing a $1550 fine. Showing content related to binge-eating could result in TV stations, online media companies, or even content creators facing a $16,000 fine.

Tuesday seems to have been the first time regulators went after a particular business, warning a Nanjing bakery to stop throwing away pastries that the business didn’t believe would sell because of visual defects. It has promised to donate them instead.

See what others are saying: (SCMP) (The Guardian) (Vice)

Continue Reading

International

Zimbabwe Considers Controversial Mass Elephant Killing

Published

on

  • Zimbabwe is considering culling its 100,000 elephant population over concerns of how they destroy other habitats and interact with farmland.
  • The plan isn’t unheard of, as Zimbabwe has done similar culls in the past, while other countries have done their own more recently.
  • However, the large-scale killing of elephants has faced pushback, with some suggesting the animals should instead be transported to areas with falling elephant populations.
  • For the time being, the plan is still just a proposal, and the government of Zimbabwe has promised to make a decision based on “scientific advice.”

Killing Elephants Is What’s Best for Them?

For the first time since 1988, Zimbabwe is considering a mass killing of elephants.

In a local radio interview on Wednesday, Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Mangaliso Ndlovu said, “We are trying to see ways in which we can reduce the numbers. We have to discuss it at policy level as government. Options are on the table…” 

“It’s an option but not a decision yet,” Ndlovu later added by text message to the station. “We will obviously rely on scientific advice.”

The country is home to about 100,000 elephants, the second largest population in the world after neighboring Botswana. The mass killings are better known as culls, and the concept isn’t completely unknown in areas with large animal populations. They can happen for a variety of reasons, such as removing sterile males from the mating population that prevent fertile ones from accessing mates.

In Zimbabwe, authorities are worried that the elephant population has outgrown the resources available, causing the animals to destroy habitats that other species need to survive by eating the bark off trees and killing them. Additionally, the large population increases the chances of violent human-elephant interactions as elephants encroach on farmlands.

Elephants are known for their great intelligence and advanced emotional states compared to other animals, and therefore authorities are concerned about how a cull could affect populations. Notably, elephants can experience Post-traumatic stress disorder. In an effort to minimize those effects, other countries that have initiated culls, such as Uganda, have targeted entire herds for eradication while leaving others completely untouched.

Cull Concerns

Any discussion of a cull causes alarm bells among animal conservationists, particularly as total elephant populations in Africa have been on the decline over the last decade. However, in both Botswana and Zimbabwe the populations have actually risen considerably. Despite this, the possible plan has received considerable pushback online.

Many people have pointed out that there are other viable solutions to control the population and protect both the animals, other habitats, and farmland. As journalist Yashar Ali pointed out, “The only reasonable solution for Zimbabwe and other countries with large elephant populations is to work on human-wildlife conflict mitigation measures, contraception for elephants, and translocation.”

In particular, translocation has been touted as a viable alternative to not only help reduce the elephant population in Zimbabwe but also bolster the falling populations in other countries. Now, some have wondered why there has been any pushback against a cull, pointing out that animals such as deer are regularly culled across the world.

But it’s not quite apples and oranges. Take the U.S., which often hosts deer culls. The country has over 30 million deer, compared to Zimbabwe’s 100,000 elephants. On top of that, deer can give birth to over 20 fawns in their roughly 10-year lifespan, compared to less than 10 for an elephant during its more than 60 years alive.

For the time being, the plan is still just a proposal. It remains to be seen if Zimbabwe’s government will take such a large-scale cull seriously.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (Bloomberg) (Quartz)

Continue Reading

International

Cash-in-Transit Truck Driver Praised After Foiling Robbery Attempt in South Africa

Published

on

  • Viral video captured the moment a rookie security guard and the driver of an armored cash-in-transit truck were ambushed in South Africa by robbers firing bullets at them last month. 
  • The footage shows the driver, 48-year-old Leo Prinsloo, keeping his cool as he sped off and maneuvered through traffic to get away from the two groups chasing them. 
  • When the truck eventually jerked to a halt, he grabbed a gun from his partner and exited the vehicle to confront the attackers, who had fled empty-handed. 
  • While Prinsloo has faced widespread praise, he has also been placed under protective guard because of death threats he’s received since foiling the heist.

The Viral Video

Millions of people all over the world have watched dash-cam footage of a rookie security guard and the driver of an armored cash-in-transit truck as they were ambushed in South Africa by robbers firing bullets at them.

The incident happened on April 22, though the footage, which looks like it was pulled straight from an action movie, has recently gone massively viral.

It shows the driver, 48-year-old Leo Prinsloo keeping his cool as he sped off and maneuvered through traffic to get away from the two groups chasing them. When the truck eventually jerked to a halt, he grabbed a gun from his partner and exited the vehicle to confront the attackers, who had fled empty-handed.

It turns out Prinsloo, who served with the South African Police Services special forces unit for 12 years, actually teaches the nation’s military special forces how to shoot. People who watched the insane footage are now calling him the real-life Jason Bourne, with many impressed by his incredible instincts.

“I cannot say much as an investigation is underway but I and my fellow guard did what was expected of us. They needed to take us out so they could take out the cargo vehicle,” Prinsloo said when speaking to the Daily Mail.

“But there was no way I was going to let that happen and unfortunately I did not have a chance to return fire,” he added.

Prinsloo Defends Partner

Prinsloo’s partner, Lloyd Mtombeni, has been facing a bit of criticism for what some perceived as a lack of action. However, it’s worth noting that Mtombeni told local reporters this was only his fourth day on the job and the first time he had ever experienced gunfire from inside the vehicle.

Because of the backlash against him, Prinsloo defending Mtombeni, saying, “I think those people should keep their opinions to themselves until they’re in the same situation and see if they can do better in the same circumstances.”

Others also spoke out in support of the guard online, commended him for staying composed and taking direction from Prinsloo. Still, it doesn’t appear like the threat is over.

According to News24, Prinsloo has been placed under protective guard because he’s been receiving death threats since foiling the heist. So far, no arrests have been made in this case but police are still investigating.

See what others are saying: (News24) (The South African) (ABC 7)

Continue Reading