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Asia Pacific Dashboard Digest | Notes from the Asia-Pacific region, 26 April 2019 Related reading: Web con: 'Trends in Changing Data Breach Notification Laws'

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Dear, privacy pros.

It has only been a few weeks since I last wrote the introduction for the digest in early April, but it sure feels longer given the developments that took place during the intervening period.

As the fallout from the Christchurch shooting continues, Australia introduced regulatory measures similar to the proposed anti-“fake news” law in Singapore alluded to in that note. The proposal, containing potentially tougher penalties than the Singapore bill, seeks to prevent further “weaponization” of social media platforms by terrorists and extremists. The U.K. government quickly followed suit, publishing a position paper that recommends giving a newly created regulator sweeping new powers to tackle violent content, fake news and harmful material. New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Jonathan Edwards also discussed post-terrorism reforms in this IAPP podcast last week. 

The recent suicide attacks in Sri Lanka have just been claimed by a terrorist organization affiliated with the Islamic State, apparently in retaliation for the Christchurch massacres. Against such a volatile background, the spread of falsehoods and misinformation is highly likely to incite further violence. In the absence of regulatory powers similar to the proposals above, the government of Sri Lanka has recently taken steps to block access to Facebook and other social media networks completely.

In other news, Bytedance’s popular app TikTok was removed from the Android and Apple stores pursuant to a court order from an Indian state court, preventing new Indian users from downloading the app. While the ban arose out of concerns over pornographic content, critics worry that the move is a precursor to more stringent regulation of social media networks and curtailment of free speech by the Indian government.

These cases suggest that governments are still generally suspicious of the ability of social media networks to self-regulate harmful content on their platforms. They also demonstrate that some form of top-down regulation may be better for social media networks than an outright ban.

Among the usual news regarding breaches “du jour” in this week’s digest, I found the allegation that stolen Aadhaar data may have been used to remove voters from electoral rolls to be particularly alarming. We have long been warned that the democratic process has been hijacked by undue influence exerted over social media networks using the huge trove of information they have amassed on individual voters. However, the misuse of information, in this case, is certainly a more direct (and illegal) way to hack the process to bring about the desired result.

Finally, looking outside the region, it is also worth noting the trend highlighted in this article on The Privacy Advisor, which neatly summarizes a number of competition and privacy developments highlighted in earlier notes.

With that, I wish you happy reading.

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