October 18, 2017

Social media and blogging updates: Yahoo account hack, Twitter's going 280 characters, social media and democracy...

Yahoo! admits to all its accounts getting hacked in 2013

In one of the worst hacking attacks in history, the world first learned that 500 million Yahoo accounts had been compromised. Yahoo then admitted that hackers had in fact stolen data from a billion accounts. Now, it is reported that some 3 billion accounts had indeed been hacked - all the accounts that were is use at the time of the attack.

Facebook and other IT giants a silent threat to democracy?

An interesting debate is going on these days on the role of Facebook and other social media in political discourse and advertising. I give a glimpse of the major threads here; if you are interested in points and counter-points in detail, do check the links.

Jon Snow, Channel 4 newscaster, blames Facebook for not doing enough to check 'fake news' and rues that Google and Facebook together control majority of world news flow and their algorithms decide what people should know. Telegraph story on Jon Snow's views on Facebook

Bloomberg reports that there is growing perception in Europe about American social media giants that their targeted advertising can be a threat to democracy. EU antitrust official, Margrethe Vestager has been quoted in the report as having argued thus: If political ads only appear on the timelines of certain voters, then how can we all debate the issues that they raise? How can other parties and the media do their job of challenging those claims? How can we even know what mandate an election has given, if the promises that voters relied on were made in private? You can read the report here: Democracy never faced a threat like Facebook

In the US itself, starting with the role of social media in the 2016 Presidential elections, there has been a lot criticism, and some of it was reported by ITB earlier. Now, the 'misdirection of public opinion' and fake news on Facebook and its peers have come for heavy criticism. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has his own explanations on the matter. You can read a good New Yorker piece on it here: The failure of Facebook democracy; and this one in Gadgets Now, on use and abuse of social media for political purposes.  

This one gets punished for milking sympathy and identity theft on social media

On social media, emails and chat groups, you often get messages asking you to help people in distress. You resist, as you feel that it could be a fake. But some persons - gullible, very sensitive or  burdened with guilt - open their purse-string. 

Kati Ringer, a woman in the UK, did just that and made money before she caught up with the law. She stole photos of babies from at least two Instagram accounts, called them her own and approached people saying she needed money for one's treatment and the other's funeral.

Worse, when confronted by real mothers, she threatened the worst for the babies.

She has been served a severe punishment of  a suspended jail term, legal costs, a community work order and a ban on her using any social media account.

Twitter's little birdie to become fat?

Twitter has already rolled out its 280-character format to a few chosen ones. The facility is going to be given to more people in the coming weeks before Twitter decides about its universal use. 

People wrote a script and found a workaround to make their own 280 character tweets but that has been fixed by Twitter.

Twitter says, its data shows that about 9% tweets in English face the 140-character limit - which can be frustrating while trying to express oneself on Twitter, so this experiment. Interestingly, Chinese, Korean and Japanese tweets hardly ever go to even 140-character length!

October 14, 2017

GST on blogging income in India: Doubts cleared about income limit

This article is on applicability of Goods and Services Tax on blogging income, and relates to bloggers in India or advertisers / ad networks/ affiliates selling ads to Indian bloggers.
We carried this article earlier on applicability of Goods and Services Tax on bloggers in India. The information given in the article is still valid to the extent it has not been edited there, and some new clarifications have come from taxation experts and government. 

Many bloggers have petitioned CBEC and we at ITB have given them written representations and requested them on their Twitter handle to clear bloggers' doubts, but they seem to be busy in bigger things and have not given convincing answers except some that I have quoted in this post. Some taxation experts have interpreted the law in detail as it applies to bloggers. But after the GST Council meeting on 6.10.2017, there is great relief to bloggers. 

No GST for blogging income up to Rs. 20 lakh

Before the latest decision of GST Council, all  bloggers who earned anything by selling their services attracted GST. There was no exemption  regarding applicability of the limit of Rs. 20 lakh for bloggers because they traded in inter-state services.

The good news is that all service providers of any kind are now exempt from registration and payment of GST if their turnover is less than Rs. 20 lakh. Pl look at the factoid issued by CBEC on 6th October:

GST for bloggers

 This was followed by a tweet on FAQs, issued on 12th October:

No GST for bloggers in India

So, this clears all doubt that small bloggers with turnover below Rs. 20 lakh (=2 million)do not require to register for GST or pay this tax.