Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Voter resource of the day

Attention, Bangalore and Chennai voters! Citizen Matters has all the information you need to vote on Thursday. First, check out this guide to find your constituency and polling station. Next, to learn more about your candidates, click on your constituency listed under ‘Summary of Constituency’ (left-hand column) on this page. It will give you an overview of the main candidates, along with their financial information and political track record— with links to more in-depth guides on each of them. Third, be helpful and share widely with your fellow citizens in these cities. Now, you’re all set to get inked!

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The internet ban on Tik Tok

In response to a high court decision, the government has ordered Google and Apple to remove the wildly popular video-sharing app from their platforms. But is an outright ban a good thing?


Background, please! Tik Tok is a Chinese app which allows users to create and share videos under 60 seconds. Previously known as, it is very popular with teenagers and even preteens. Lots of the Bollywood lip-syncing clips that go viral are created on Tik Tok. The app has 500 million users worldwide, of whom more than 120 million are in India.


Ok, so what happened? On April 3, the Madras High Court directed the government to prevent any further downloads of the app. The Supreme Court upheld the ban, and the government in turn asked Apple and Google to pull it from their stores. As of now, it is not available on Google Play. Note: new downloads have been banned, but existing users can continue to use the app.


What’s the problem with Tik Tok? The app has run into trouble around the world for the same three reasons:

  • Underage users: While the app is restricted to 12+ users on paper, the company had zero age verification procedures in place, exploiting its popularity with tweeners. Kids were therefore exposed to pornographic and risque content that is rife on Tik Tok.

  • Appalling privacy policy: US authorities recently slapped a $5.7 million fine—the largest ever in a child privacy investigation—for illegally collecting information on children, and failing to obtain parental consent. In India, that disdain for privacy extends to adults as its privacy policy is only available in English—which is egregious given that the app is available in multiple regional languages, and most of its users are in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.

  • Lack of child safety: A BBC investigation found hundreds of sexually explicit comments on videos posted by children as young as nine. When the news team reported the comments, they were deleted but the users remained on the platform.


What’s Tik Tok’s response? Sensing trouble after the Chennai court order, the company took a series of immediate measures, including deleting six million ‘inappropriate’ videos. It has also introduced an ‘age-gate’ to ensure only users above the age of 13 can create an account. There’s now a tool to filter inappropriate comments and a newly created Safety Centre. As for the court order, the company merely said it has "faith in the Indian judicial system.”


What’s next? As we noted, the ban leaves in place the existing 120 million Indian users. But it’s likely a big enough stick to ensure Tik Tok’s speedy compliance—40% of its user base is in India, after all. Expect the company to jump through hoops to appease Indian authorities.


The bottomline: It’s tempting to view a ban as the rightful punishment for egregious offenders like Tik Tok—or to save us from PUBg addiction (which has been banned in multiple cities). But bans can be both dangerous and ineffective. For instance, there are plenty of other Chinese apps like Kwai that are far worse. And as this excellent analysis in Huffington Post explains, the Indian government and ISPs are already blocking various sites willy nilly, be it Reddit or GitHub. Bans are a gateway to internet censorship. Far better to put in place AND enforce strict laws that ensure user safety and privacy.


Learn more: NDTV has an overview of the ban. The best piece that places the ban in context is the Huffington Post analysis mentioned above. This older Economic Times story flags the privacy concerns. And the BBC investigation into sexual predators on Tik Tok is worth your time.

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trying to say ‘boot edge edge’ really fast

The world’s first 3D printed heart is here: Israeli scientists have “printed” a 3D heart using a patient’s human tissue. According to the lead researcher, “This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers.” It isn’t exactly ready to use as yet, but scientists hope that within “10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely.” (Jerusalem Post)


Can the Notre Dame be rebuilt? The money isn’t the problem with the global fundraising campaign having already raised 700 million euros for the effort. But as these experts explain, the actual reconstruction will be challenging—but happily not impossible. (CNN)


End of the Modi wave? A provocative reading of survey numbers in Quint suggests that the surge of post-Balakot popularity may have receded—and the BJP is poised to win fewer seats than previously predicted. A related read in Mint: the potential gap between what voters say in surveys and what they think.


What we need more of in Indian politics: Shashi Tharoor suffered a deep cut on his head while being weighed on a pair of scales as part of a temple ritual. While he was at the hospital, he had an unexpected visitor: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. He tweeted out this photo with the message: “Touched by the gesture of @nsitharaman, who dropped by today morning to visit me in the hospital, amid her hectic electioneering in Kerala. Civility is a rare virtue in Indian politics - great to see her practice it by example!” Yes indeed, though we’re not sure why she’s wearing scrubs.


America’s first openly gay presidential candidate: Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has thrown his hat in the overcrowded Democratic field. Don’t know how to pronounce his surname? Don’t worry, neither do Americans—though they do their very best in this hilarious Jimmy Kimmel segment. Our fave bit is when one guy very confidently guesses Buttigieg is “either a weird sexual thing or a place in Austria.” Spoiler alert: It’s pronounced ‘Boot-edge-edge’. So obvi, right?


The North-South gap in Elections 2019: This is a thoughtful analysis in Mint of why the North, in general—and north-based parties like the BJP, in particular—are confounded by the sheer diversity of the states that share the label ‘South India’. It also explains why a brand of politics based on Ram Mandir, charges of dynastic privilege, and ‘sickularism’ doesn’t work in this part of the nation.


There’s a measles epidemic underway: According to the WHO, reported cases worldwide rose by 300% during the first three months of 2019 compared with the same period last year. The cause: the spread of anti-vaccine propaganda—including India, where it’s spreading like wildfire on WhatsApp. (Guardian has the WHO warning, CBS News has the India angle)


An OK Cupid poll of young Indians: reveals they don’t like talking politics on a first date, and don’t care about political compatibility as long as the sex is mmm good. In case you’re wondering, their favourite topic of conversation for a first date is ‘musical preferences’. Because talking Billie Eilish gets you laid? (Quartz)


An RBI director tweets out false news: S. Gurumurthy tweeted a fake news clipping about the son of a Prime Minister who was detained at Boston airport for possession of drugs— accompanied by this: “Pl. read this news item. Who’s this son of former Prime Minister?”  The Reserve Bank of India is an independent central banking institution. The tweet was neither ‘independent’ or about banking. (Alt News)


New jewel in Singapore’s crown: The country’s Changi airport just upped its game to a totally new level with the addition of a lifestyle hub dubbed ‘Jewel’. This is what it looks like: “Inside is a lush four-story tiered garden, more than 280 retail and dining outlets, a hotel, a multi-screen IMAX theatre and its centrepiece: a 130-foot-tall Rain Vortex, which is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.” And that’s just the beginning. (CNBC has the story and photos, South China Morning Post made a video)


A very expensive birdcage: The insanely pricey Oscar de la Renta Black Leather Birdcage Bag is apparently “inspired” by the designers’ recent travels to India. And it’s being touted as a hot summer accessory. We clicked through to the brand’s website out of curiosity and noticed the equally “inspiring” detail: its ‘Made in India’ label. What makes it really funny? The friendly message assuring us that the US-based site now ships to India. Oscar de la Renta: arranging round-the-world trips for handbags for the low, low price of Rs 96,372! Plus shipping, of course.


Attention, men with facial hair: and the women who love them. According to a new study, men’s beards contain more harmful bacteria than dog fur. Just saying... (Daily Mail)

This may be the most inappropriate typo ever: The National Commission of Women sent a very stern notice to Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan for his appalling jibe referencing his rival Jaya Prada’s “khaki underwear.” Except the very stern notice accusing him of making “sexiest comments on a lady politician.” We have nothing to add to that.

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Everything we don't know about human desire

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The Weird Work of an ‘Intimacy Coordinator’

The rise of #MeToo in Hollywood has created a hot job market for new kind of talent: coaches who choreograph intimate shots to ensure that all actors on a set feel safe. Think of them as stunt coordinators for sex scenes. This Guardian video looks at what that job actually entails.  

Watch: Staged sex: how an intimacy coordinator works with actors on sex scenes | Guardian

Sex, Love etc 2

The Problem with Very Good Looking People…

Ever wonder why meeting a hottie can make you feel awkward, embarrassed or irritated—as opposed to excited and turned on? Neuroscience has an answer to that question: very good looking people often mess with our brains.  

Read: Hot People Are Stressful | The Atlantic

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