Blue Whale Challenge: Delhi High Court Sends Notice to Facebook, Google Over Centre’s Direction

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought the response of Facebook, Google and Yahoo on a plea to direct them to take down the links of Blue Whale challenge, an Internet-based suicide challenge that has been allegedly linked to several deaths of children worldwide.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar also issued notice to the Centre and the Delhi Police asking them to inform about the steps they have taken in this regard.

While issuing notice to the Indian units of the Internet giants, the bench also directed them to file a status report with regard to the steps they have taken in pursuance to Centre’s direction to ban the online challenge called the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’.

The plea, filed by advocate Gurmeet Singh, has sought immediate directions to restrain the Internet firms from uploading any material pertaining to the challenge challenge, citing cases of suicide by children in India and abroad.

The court listed the matter for August 28 by when it has sought the responses from all the authorities.

Meanwhile, Delhi Police counsel Sanjoy Ghose informed the court that the cyber security cell was active in this regard and the Centre has also issued a direction.

On August 15, the Ministry of Electronics and IT had directed the Internet majors – Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Microsoft and Yahoo – to immediately remove the links of the deadly Blue Whale Challenge.

The sudden popularity of the lethal online challenge – Blue Whale Challenge, in which the final task requires the player to commit suicide, had forced the government to issue the directions to the Internet firms to remove the links of the dangerous challenge.

The high court had on August 17 expressed concern over children allegedly committing suicide while playing the challenge.

Blue Whale Challenge: Delhi High Court Sends Notice to Facebook, Google Over Centre's DirectionThe Blue Whale Challenge is reportedly a suicide challenge in which the player is given certain tasks to complete over a period of 50 days and the final task leads him or her to commit suicide. The player is also asked to share photos after finishing each challenge.

More than six children across India in the age group of 12-19 years have taken their lives playing this challenge within a span of two weeks, reports have said.

Deaths of teenagers have also been reported from other countries including Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Argentina, Bulgaria, Chile and Italy, the PIL has said.

GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving to Retire, COO Scott Wagner to Replace Him

Website hoster GoDaddy said Chief Executive Blake Irving would retire at the end of this year and named Chief Operating Officer Scott Wagner as his successor.

Irving would continue to serve on GoDaddy’s board through June 2018 and work closely with Wagner through the transition, the company said on Tuesday.

GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving to Retire, COO Scott Wagner to Replace HimIrving, who joined GoDaddy in 2013, had overseen the company’s initial public offering in 2015 and led its acquisition of Host Europe Group for EUR 1.69 billion ($1.82 billion), its biggest deal ever.

Wagner also joined GoDaddy in 2013 after a 13-year stint at private equity firm KKR, where he served as a partner.

He was a key member of the team that invested in GoDaddy in 2011, and had served as interim CEO before Irving took over.

GoDaddy provides a marketplace to buy domain names and website building tools.

Thousands Are Begging Disney to Stay on Netflix

More than 11,000 people have signed an online petition asking Disney to reconsider its decision to remove its shows and films from Netflix as it launches its own streaming service.

Their argument? Disney’s decision restricts the entertainment choices they can pick from on a limited budget.

“The move might make business sense for Disney, which is eager to get a piece of the streaming pie, but the people who power these businesses should be taken into account, too,” the petition, which was started by online organising site Care2, says.

Americans are increasingly subscribing to multiple streaming services as more companies look for ways to capitalise on their popularity. Some customers are happy with the plethora of services available to them. This month alone, there have been at least three new streaming announcements, including Disney’s.

But for those looking for a one-stop-shop model, it is becoming harder to find, and the costs of separate subscriptions are adding up. Disney has not given details on how much its service would cost.

Thousands Are Begging Disney to Stay on NetflixThe petition asking the House of Mouse to keep its content on Netflix has drawn signatures from across the globe. “We cut the cord with cable so we could have more variety and choice, but now we’re just being pushed back into packaged, limiting subscription models,” the petition reads. At the time of this writing, the petition had logged 11,340 signatures since launching Aug. 16.

That’s been fairly remarkable growth, Care2 said. “The momentum has been mainly driven by the sharing of Care2 members, which has been 2x the normal rate,” Care2 spokesman Alison Perris said in a statement.

It’s not clear what Care2’s next step will be. In the past the group has started social media campaigns and even staged protests at companies’ headquarters. But whatever happens, the hope is to communicate fans’ discontent to Disney, Perris said.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the petition.

Amazon Deal for Whole Foods Wins US Regulatory, Shareholder Approvals

Amazon on Wednesday cleared two of the biggest hurdles it needed to close its $13.7 billion (roughly Rs. 88,300 crores) acquisition of Whole Foods Market, with approvals from a US regulator and the grocery chain’s shareholders.

The US Federal Trade Commission said in a statement it would not pursue its investigation into the proposed merger further after reviewing whether the deal would substantially lessen competition or constituted an unfair method of competition.

Amazon said it was on track to close the merger, expected sometime this year. Earlier on Wednesday, Whole Foods said its shareholders voted in favour of the deal.

Buying Whole Foods gives the world’s largest online retailer a foothold in the $700 billion US grocery market, key for it to grab a greater share of shoppers’ wallets. It also gives Amazon more than 465 brick-and-mortar stores where it could showcase products and ready packages for home delivery.

The marriage between the online retailer and the pioneer organic grocery seller has sent shockwaves through the supermarket industry, already in the midst of a price war.

Much larger grocers like Kroger, with 2,796 retail food stores, and Wal-Mart Stores are racing to add online shopping options so they do not give ground to Amazon. Meanwhile, they are being forced to discount items as German grocery chains Aldi and Lidl expand in the United States.

“They’re definitely under pressure,” said eMarketer analyst Patricia Orsini. Without “some sort of e-commerce strategy… you’re going to lose those shoppers to a competitor.”

Amazon has a loyal and spendthrift following thanks to its shopping club Prime. However, its decade-long effort to deliver groceries to customers’ homes has been unable to unseat brick-and-mortar rivals.

“Prime members are keen to learn the benefits of a bricks-and-mortar approach to Amazon Grocery,” said Baird Equity Research analyst Colin Sebastian.

“The deal will close after they sort out more ‘back office’ issues,” he noted.

Whole Foods shares rose 0.7 percent in after-hours trading to $41.96, still shy of the deal’s $42 per-share price tag. Amazon shares dipped 0.4 percent, while shares of Kroger and Wal-Mart were largely unchanged.

Amazon Deal for Whole Foods Wins US Regulatory, Shareholder ApprovalsRegulatory heat
Antitrust experts had expected the deal to win government approval because Amazon sells few groceries currently and Whole Foods itself makes up a small fraction of US food sales.

Some critics, however, had argued that the government could attempt to block the merger since Amazon might leverage its retail and supply chain power to dominate a new market.

“You don’t normally see cases on theories that are speculative,” said Richard Feinstein, who headed the FTC’s bureau of competition under former President Barack Obama.

That has not stopped some in political office from questioning the merger.

Last month, the top Democrat on the US House of Representatives’ antitrust subcommittee voiced concerns about the plan and sought a hearing to look into the deal’s impact on consumers.

Amazon has frequently been in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump, who last week took aim at the company over taxes and jobs, without offering evidence. The retailer’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, owns the Washington Post, which Trump has also frequently criticised.

“Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the US are being hurt – many jobs being lost!” Trump wrote in a tweet. Trump made no mention of the pending Whole Foods purchase.

The FTC opted not to make a second request for information about the deal, which is often a burden for companies that have to provide extensive information that can drain time and resources to collect. Such requests have in the past led to concessions so a merger gains government approval.

“The FTC quickly decided that the combination did not create a significant danger of lessening competition in any market,” Erik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan, said.

Consumer Watchdog, a group that had urged the FTC to take action to block the merger, said in a statement it was disappointed. “Apparently the only way to hold Amazon accountable for its abuse of consumers is at the state level,” the group said.

The government could step in after the deal closes if Amazon were ever found to undermine competition illegally, according to Gordon and Feinstein. The FTC also said on Wednesday that it “always has the ability to investigate anticompetitive conduct should such action be warranted.”

Yahoo Hack: Canadian Accused Pleads Not Guilty in US Court

In his first US court appearance on Wednesday, Canadian Karim Baratov pleaded not guilty to charges that he helped Russian agents in a high-profile cyber-attack on Yahoo email accounts, his lawyer said.

Baratov, a 22-year old Canadian citizen born in Kazakhstan, was arrested in Canada in March at the request of US prosecutors. They charge he was paid to break into at least 80 email accounts by Russian intelligence agents who masterminded the 2014 theft of data from some 500 million Yahoo user accounts.

Baratov entered his plea during a brief appearance at the US Federal Court in the Northern District of California, lawyer Andrew Mancilla said. His next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Yahoo Hack: Canadian Accused Pleads Not Guilty in US CourtMancilla declined to comment on prospects for a plea bargain for Baratov, who presented himself on social media accounts as a wealthy young man who loved expensive cars. He waived his right to fight the US request for him to be extradited from Canada.

Baratov is the only person arrested to date among four men indicted in the case. The others include Alexsey Belan, who is among the FBI’s most-wanted cyber criminals, along with two officers in Russia’s Federal Security Services – Dmitry Dokuchaev and his superior, Igor Sushchin.

China’s JD.com Partners Qihoo.com in Push to Broaden Sales Channels

JD.com Inc on Thursday said it has reached a deal to sell goods through the popular browser, search engine and app store of Qihoo 360 Technology Co Ltd, as China’s second-biggest e-commerce firm seeks new ways of attracting users.

JD said it will share data with Qihoo 360 in a similar vein to partnerships with Tencent Holding Ltd, Baidu Inc and news feed app Toutiao, as it broadens sales channels to compete with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Unlike its bigger rival, JD has invested heavily in storage and logistics leaving it struggling for profitability, adding importance to original means of winning customers.

JD partnered social media giant Tencent three years ago and revealed at the end of 2016 that success of the partnership in drawing users spurred later deals, such as with search engine provider Baidu earlier this month. Accelerating revenue growth has pushed its shares up 66 percent this year.

On a quarterly basis, 25 to 35 percent of new users come from its Tencent partnership, JD said this month – a number that rises to about 50 percent during the annual “Singles’ Day” sale.

JD said the latest deal will see goods from its e-commerce site advertised on Qihoo apps, and allow users to make purchases without leaving the apps. The arrangement is similar to previous deals where users can purchase goods through Tencent’s WeChat app and Baidu’s search, forum and mapping apps.

Qihoo did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

China's JD.com Partners Qihoo.com in Push to Broaden Sales ChannelsOne app fits all
China’s 700 million smartphone users are increasingly using a smaller number of apps, say app makers and analysts, creating pools of consumer data confined to a handful of tech firms.

“Chinese users don’t really like to go to different apps. They like to stay in one place to do everything,” said Paul Yan, who oversees JD’s digital advertising and marketing business.

WeChat, for instance, unlike Western counterparts such as Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp, has its own ecosystem of internal mini-apps, including taxi booking, online shopping and payment system that is almost universally accepted in Chinese cities.

“Western users are accustomed going to different sites for different services,” Yan said. “Chinese users, they pick one place they trust and they want to do everything there.”

Reflecting the trend, over a third of WeChat users were active for over four hours a day in 2016, Tencent data showed, while Toutiao said the average user spent 76 minutes in its app. By comparison, Facebook has said its users spend 50 minutes on its site and messaging apps.

DreamHost Fights US Government Over Trump Protestor Data

A Web hosting firm is fighting a demand by US prosecutors for data on visitors to a site organising a protest during the inauguration of President Donald Trump in a fresh clash over digital privacy rights.

The firm DreamHost said it was challenging a warrant seeking to identify the visitors of the protest site DisruptJ20, which organised a demonstration against Trump at the time of his swearing-in on January 20.

DreamHost said in a statement Monday that US Justice Department was asking for more than 1.3 million visitor IP addresses, along with email addresses and other data “in an effort to determine who simply visited the website.”

DreamHost said the government’s request violated the principle of free speech and other rights.

“That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment,” the statement said.

“That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyones mind.”

The clash is the latest between US tech firms and law enforcement over user data, and comes one year after a showdown between Apple and the US government over efforts to access the iPhone of the assailant in the San Bernardino attacks.

DreamHost Fights US Government Over Trump Protestor DataCivil liberties and digital rights groups rose to defend DreamHost’s stand.

Mark Rumold of the Electronic Frontier Foundation warned in a blog post of the “staggering overbreadth of the search warrant,” and called the move an unconstitutional effort to prosecute Trump’s political opponents.

“No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible,” Rumold said.

“But the (constitution) was designed to prohibit fishing expeditions like this.”

DreamHost’s legal brief said the company previously turned over data in response to a subpoena on the organizer of the website, but that the additional information sought would “endanger the First Amendment interests of the innocent third parties who viewed or communicated with the website.”

Amazon Does ‘Great Damage’ to Retailers, Trump Tweets

President Donald Trump once again unloaded on Amazon, tweeting that the company is hurting other retailers and implying that it’s killing industry jobs across the US.

Amazon is causing “great damage to tax paying retailers,” Trump said in a Twitter post Wednesday, causing shares in the online retailer to fall as much as 1.2 percent in early trading.

“Towns, cities and states throughout the US are being hurt – many jobs being lost!” Trump said in the tweet.

Trump is losing the support of many company executives, some of whom resigned this week from a council of business leaders to protest the president’s response to the violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia. But he has often taken particular aim at Amazon and The Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, for its coverage. The Post is in a business partnership with Bloomberg News.

While it’s unclear what prompted Trump’s tweet, which seems to be taking on two issues – taxes and jobs – The Washington Post ran a scathing editorial Wednesday about Trump in the paper, and there were also pro-tax reform advertisements that ran on early morning talk shows.

It’s often difficult to parse Trump’s tweets, but he seems to be focusing partly on how Amazon’s sales and market share growth is hurting the traditional retail industry. His remarks come amid one of the most tumultuous years in the industry’s history. Brick-and-mortar chains, especially apparel sellers, are suffering from sluggish mall traffic and an exodus of shoppers to e-commerce.

A rash of chains have filed for bankruptcy this year, including Payless, Gymboree, HHGregg and RadioShack. And the biggest department-store companies, such as Macy’s, Sears Holdings and J.C. Penney, are shuttering hundreds of locations. The total number of store closings is expected to hit a record in the US this year, with Credit Suisse Group analyst Christian Buss estimating that the number could exceed 8,000.

On the other hand, Amazon is hiring rapidly. The online behemoth has pledged to hire more than 100,000 workers by 2018 and has been holding job fairs all over the US In some cases, fired department store workers are ending up at Amazon fulfillment centers.

Amazon Does 'Great Damage' to Retailers, Trump TweetsIn his tweet, Trump also hammered Amazon again on tax-related allegations. It’s unclear exactly what he means since the company has been opening distribution centers everywhere and now collects sales tax in each state that has one.

In June, Trump posted a tweet attacking “AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes.”

In December 2015, Trump also described The Post as a tax shelter that Bezos uses to keep Amazon’s taxes low. Without these arrangements, Trump argued, Amazon’s stock would “crumble like a paper bag.” Bezos actually owns The Post via a holding company separate from Amazon. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

Amazon has been battling a number of politicians from both the U. and Europe about its stance on tax. In the US, Amazon previously fought to only collect sales taxes for purchases in states where it doesn’t have a physical presence. Now it has a legion of distribution centers and collects sales tax in every state that has one.

The US retailer is currently fighting the European Union over its tax bill, while in March it won a $1.5 billion tax dispute with the IRS.

Facebook, Google Activate SOS Features After Barcelona Attack

Soon after the Barcelona attack that left 13 people dead, Facebook and Google activated their safety check features to let users in the vicinity inform their friends that they were safe and get nearby support.

Facebook created a page, titled “The attack in Barcelona, Spain” which users used to “check in as safe”, The Telegraph reported on Thursday.

Recently launched SOS alert feature by Google gave people up-to-date news and information about Barcelona attack.

The page also included helpful phrases for those who might be affected.

Facebook Safety Check was introduced in 2011 and was used for only natural disasters until 2015 Paris attack.

It was later widely used in terror attacks that took place in London, Nice and Berlin.

Facebook, Google Activate SOS Features After Barcelona Attack“When Safety Check is activated, users who Facebook determines to live or spend a lot of time in the affected area are sent a push notification asking if they want to check in as safe,” the report explained.

The feature sends a notification to friends of those who check in – confirming they have been marked as safe.

This also opens up ways for the people to offer help for those who are in need of help like food, shelter or medicines.

On the similar lines, Facebook introduced “Community Help” feature in February and claimed that it was inspired by the response to flooding in Chennai in which many people opened up their homes for the affected.

Smartron Unveils ‘tronX’ AI-Based IoT Platform

Home-grown technology and Internet of Things (IoT) company Smartron on Thursday unveiled ‘tronX’ – an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered IoT platform that would help make users’ daily life easier and smarter.

Terming it as one of the first global technologies being developed in India, the company said ‘tronX’ is an intelligent ecosystem that helps connect a range of devices.

Built on the world of ‘Internet of Trons’, the ecosystem allows instant access to profile, data, content, services, Cloud, care, community and other IoT devices whether you are at home, in the car or at the office.

“Smartron has been working for more than two years on creating a new connected ecosystem fuelled by AI-powered ‘IoT’ and ‘tronX’ is at the core of this brave new world,” Mahesh Lingareddy, Founder and Chairman, Smarton, told IANS here.

Lingareddy added that the company was excited to unveil ‘tronX’ that is a kind of next-generation operating system designed to run seamlessly across devices.

The platform has been designed to deliver “highly intelligent and localised experiences, services and care support critical to IOT success”.

On being asked about the help Smartron took in terms of hardware and software from other players, Lingareddy said that “we already have many companies that have partnered with us in delivering innovative hardware and software solutions”.

“If your phone foresees traffic through Maps, as soon as you wake up, it will automatically notify you. The platform would switch on the geyser for you and as the system goes through your daily schedule, it will even book a cab for you,” the company executive said.

To begin with, Smartron announced four verticals that are in the works at its R&D facility and already have built in capabilities that integrate in our lives: ‘tronX Personal’, ‘tronX Health’, ‘tronX Home’ and ‘tronX Infra’.

Smartron Unveils 'tronX' AI-Based IoT Platform‘tronX Personal’ offers personalised entertainment, travel, shopping, financial, health, event, communication and collaboration experiences across devices and contexts.

With ‘tronX Health’, the system monitors and manages medical history, insurance data and offers intuitive and preventive solutions from a range of partners who are already on board.

‘tronX Home’ helps control locking mechanisms, security updates, home appliances, services like water, electricity and payment modules for these services, all available through a Voice Activated Assistant.

‘tronX Infra’ is Smartron’s B2B vertical, offering an AI-assisted system that covers a range of monitoring and management services, thus increasing productivity and security for enterprises.

Smartron was founded with a vision to build India’s first true global OEM brand to revolutionise the country’s ecosystem and create experiences that are on par with global innovations.