Über Desi

Keeping it real, desi ishtyle

Is Google playing political games with India’s map?

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And Betteridge’s Law may not hold the answer, in this case. You make the call after reading this post.

A few days back, I tweeted out something I noticed when checking out the new Google Maps – the Indian states of Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh were entirely listed as dotted lines (See below) instead of solid, indicating Google considered them, at best, disputed territories, and at worst, not part of India.

My limited understanding of international politics notwithstanding, I know that most maps these days split Kashmir in 3, to indicate regions controlled by India, and the ones not controlled by India. Additionally, the state of Arunachal Pradesh has been a point of contention between India and China for the better part of the last century. So, my assumption was that Google Maps was reflecting the same.

However, after a brief interaction over Twitter, my findings are as follows: Google Maps displays the state of Arunachal Pradesh as disputed territory (image on left) when you access it from the US (and perhaps, the rest of the world) but when you access Google Maps from India, the state of Arunachal Pradesh is shown as an integral part of India (image on right).

This post is not intended to stir “patriotic fervor” between Indians, Pakistanis and the Chinese but rather to encourage a discussion on how big technology companies are starting to indulge in politics, at an international level. Please feel free to add to this discussion in the comments space below.

Indian government enters new era of censorship

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This leaked memo contains a directive from the Department of Telecommunications of the Government of India to all ISPs in India explicitly directing them to block various YouTube links, Twitter handles and other web pages.
Per Economic Times reports,

Through four (1, 2, 3, 4) directives to Internet Service Providers between 18 August and 21 August, the department of telecom has blocked numerous web pages on concerns that communal tensions were being fanned in the wake of the unrest following violence in the border districts of Assam. After protests in Mumbai on August 18 turned violent, the government had said that hate content was being spread through the Internet by groups in Pakistan.

This Orwellian move by the Indian government comes in the wake of recent incidents in Assam and the rampant rumors surrounding those incidents which triggered a mass exodus of migrants from the North East from various Indian cities.

Just to highlight how ridiculous and politically tinged this move is, one of the banned accounts is a parody Twitter account of the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh.

“Game On” – A Bollywood Themed Gamer’s Anthem

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The video, the latest in a series of funny promos by The Guild, features Codex played by Felicia Day and Zaboo by Sandeep Parikh, in lead roles. As the video plays out, Zaboo convinces Codex, Bollywood ishtyle, to join him in playing the game. [via Om]

Delhi police outsources traffic control to Facebook

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The Delhi police is putting Web 2.0 in Orwellianism. After coining phrases like “When in rooms do as Roman does“, the Delhi police has gone high tech to deal with it’s traffic issues. [NYT] (Joel via GTalk)

Now, the city’s overburdened traffic police officers have enlisted an unexpected weapon in the fight against dangerous driving: Facebook.
The traffic police started a Facebook page two months ago, and almost immediately residents became digital informants, posting photos of their fellow drivers violating traffic laws. As of Sunday more than 17,000 people had become fans of the page and posted almost 3,000 photographs and dozens of videos.

A cursory glance at the Facebook page reveals the current followers somewhere around 19,000. Judging by the enthusiasm of those reporting traffic offenses, this endeavor appears to be quite popular among Delhi’s netizens. Genuine tips appear to be interspersed with personal wish lists and incoherent ramblings but overall the process appears to work.

The pros – under staffed police recruits citizen volunteers to help enforce traffic laws – and cons – big brother using technology to get citizens to spy on fellow citizens – are predictable and supporters and detractors can reiterate these points times ad nauseum.

One point few have seldom mentioned is that the basic premise of this campaign – get photo evidence on the road – is flawed. Not only can photographic evidence be altered but some of those generating these evidence are driving while clicking photos with their mobile phones. I’m admittedly unfamiliar with the driving laws in Delhi. Obviously there are no “texting/clicking while driving laws” in Delhi and this poses as much of a risk as someone riding without a helmet and definitely more risky than faulty number plates or tinted windows.

So what do you think? Is this traffic campaign by the Delhi police
a. effective
b. invasion of privacy
c. all of the above

Bonus big brother story (Rueters): RIM, the makers of Blackberry, famed for its consumer/corporate email security was forced by the Indian government to open up its email services for scrutiny, under the guise of national security.

Facebook dances its way into Indian hearts

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Recent anecdotal evidence, namely the sudden arrival of friends and relatives living in India on Facebook, suggests that Facebook has suddenly mushroomed in India, slowly overtaking Orkut as the social network of choice. There are some hard statistical numbers to back that claim, WATBlog as early as 2009 had shed light on this trend. Meanwhile back here in the US, the homeland of Facebook and Orkut, people are grasping at straws to explain how Facebook has nearly half of India’s population. Maybe it’s related to the fact that a small percentage of Indians and Brazilians are now on Facebook?

So the question become how did upcoming Goliath Facebook conquer reigning Goliath Orkut (Google)? Was it the “Like” button? Was it Facebook’s clean UI compared to Orkut? Was it Facebook’s ability to integrate with Twitter and other platforms?

Earlier this year, Tunku Varadarajan authored an insightful article in the Daily Beast “Why India Loves Facebook”. Sree Srinivasan sums up the article with this hilarious (but true) quote:

“They take to it naturally and with great passion. It allows them to do two things they love: Tell everyone what they are doing; and stick their noses into other people’s business.”

Further investigation reveals that Facebook’s popularity in India is related to all of the above and then this: [Pluggd.in via @amreekandesi]

Indian movies, Bollywood movies in particular, are notorious for this creative solution to most issues in this world, song and dance. Naturally when Zuck (Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook) visited India this year he got to use this “formula” to symbolize a. Facebook’s triumph over Google (Orkut) and b. Facebook dancing its way into Indian Internet users’ hearts.

Providing a venue for gupshup, breaking out into impromptu dance, the Facebookwalas sure know how to get the attention of the Indians.

Sergey Brin, are you listening?

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Bonus photo of Zuck in India. Zuck goes all out on the India angle with an elephant in the background and a street kid (get it? Slumdog Millionaire) on his side. (pic via DigitalBlog.India)

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