Who watches the data collectors?

Indian politicians frequently speak about data as a national resource, and algorithms as well as Artificial Intelligence as technologies that can revolutionise the lives of citizens. But much of this promised technological development is premised on Indians giving up rights to their personal data, and the state either collecting or allowing private companies to use this information as they please.

The lack of a personal data protection law – and the government’s evident lack of interest in protecting data privacy – should concern us all.

“At present, it is as if the state can have deep learning on its citizens. In turn, we the citizens have no remedies for the abuse of that learning. You can switch off Siri, but not the state,” writes Menaka Guruswamy.

Read the piece here.

The normalisation of anti-Muslim hate speech

It has been evident for some time that hate speech, particularly targeted at the Muslim minority in India, travels unchecked across Facebook. Recent whistleblower revelations made it clear that pages associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh promoted anti-Muslim narratives that were not taken down due to “a lack of Indian language editors”.

Hemant Gairola dug deeper, joining four Hindutva groups on the social media platform and found pages that “stereotyped Muslims as terrorists; cautioned Hindus that their end was near if they did not ‘wake up’; taunted Hindus for not taking up arms; justified violence in the name of religion; called for the ‘elimination’ of the enemy; called for boycott of Muslims, including Bollywood actors; called for the declaration of a Hindu nation; and hailed Modi and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath”.

Read the piece here.

A compassion-less judicial system

It is no surprise that marginalised minorities are over-represented in India’s prisons. The question of whether you are likely to be put in jail – and remain there, rather than getting bail – can depend heavily on your relative clout, in terms of either social status or financial means. And in India, access to both of these tend to be associated with upper-caste Hindus.

“[The] lack of compassion may arise from the fact that a disproportionate number of prisoners in Indian prisons come from Muslim, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. Because of the abject poverty and powerlessness of most of the accused from these groups, they have little access to quality legal representation or aid,” write Ghazala Jamil and Manoj Kumar Jha. “The lack of compassion is not only a feature of the criminal justice system. Withholding compassion from certain categories of human beings has become a hallmark of majoritarian nationalism.”

Read the piece here.

Who is going hungry?

The Indian government pushed back against the Global Hunger Index this week, saying that the country’s ranking – which saw India fall seven places to 101 out of 116 – was “shocking”. It also claimed that the methodology used to arrive at this conclusion was “unscientific.”

Not everyone agrees.

Two Twitter threads sought to draw out some of the data points put forward in the report, coupled with context from reporting on what the last few years have told us about food and hunger in the country.

Is copyright being used to harass journalists?

First there was the Aaj Tak attempt to shut down Newslaundry’s Newsance show, sending more than 50 copyright claims and causing YouTube to take down the show – although it is still available on other platforms.

Next, Vasudevan Mukunth realised that an investigative report by the Wire into a device called Shyocan, “whose makers have claimed it can “attenuate” particles of the novel coronavirus by simply emitting photons into the air of a room” had inspired an individual to lodge a complaint with the website’s host, Amazon Web Services. The complaint has meant that the website has had to constantly face copyright concerns from its web host, even though their responses have explained the editorial choices clearly.

“It has been my experience, and that of every other editor, I imagine, that honest complaints of copyright infringment are addressed to the editor and the reporter in question – and not the website’s host,” Mukunth.

Read the piece on this experience here.