AJIT PAI, SON OF IMMIGRANT INDIANS, IS AT THE CENTRE OF US NET NEUTRALITY DEBATE

Ajit Pai, son of immigrant Indians, is at the centre of the raging net neutrality debate in the United States. He heads the US body which regulates the internet in America, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He is a Republican and was made the FCC chief in January 2017, the same month the Trump Government was inaugurated in the White House.

The FCC, the US equivalent of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), is bringing a proposal to repeal a 2015 law enacted by it under the Barack Obama Government. The FCC is overseen by US Congressional chairs. The repeal plan is slated for voting today and analysts have projected that it would be approved. Incidentally, Ajit Pai was appointed a commissioner in the FCC in 2012 by Barack Obama only.

The move by Pai, whose FCC bio* states that “consumers benefit most from competition, not pre-emptive regulation and regulators should be skeptical of pleas to regulate rivals”, has sharply divided America with critics saying it will kill the spirit of free internet. Critics argue that the repeal plan will benefit only few big telecom players who wield immense power over the flow of internet and telecommunication channels. The repeal bill, Restoring Internet Freedom Order, will effectively shut down or marginalize small players and will start a rush of predatory discriminating practices where one telecom company will try all to discredit its rival company’s data flowing through its cables.

And above all, the people will be the ultimate losers with their freedom to get unrestrained access to every content and data gone, something that is at the heart of net neutrality which aims to ensure level playing field for every content, every data flowing through communication channels, be it by the world’s largest service provide or a start-up.

India has also been through this important debate. We should not forget the controversy generated by moves like Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero plans. These differential pricing plans were discriminatory in nature as they would have given preferential treatment to content and data of one telecom company or internet service provider (ISP) over the other. People were naturally outraged at this and their mobilization forced the government and the TRAI to initiate consultations to build a framework to ensure net neutrality in the Indian market. And its outcome has been positive so far with TRAI vouching to uphold the principal of net neutrality in India in its final recommendations on the issue that came out last month.

But Ajit Pai’s may undo all that in America, the world’s largest free market for the internet, and a sort of role-model for the world. And Pai’s move is supported by a lobby of few powerful companies including Verizon, one of America’s biggest telecom services providers and Pai’s former employer, as many media reports* suggest. A Guardian report* writes that Pai is adamant to move ahead with his repeal plan in spite of “members of the public across the political spectrum, be it Democrats or Republicans, supporting the net neutrality rules as revealed in the many polls*.”

Pai’s move has also unnerved the Internet’s founding fathers* Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf and many other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker. They have written an open letter to the US Congress calling on it to cancel the proposed vote today calling Pai’s repeal plan flawed and an imminent threat to the Internet. But Pai, too, is unnerved. He tweeted this morning to let the world know that there would be no change in his plans, “U.S. @SenateMajLdr supports @FCC plan to restore Internet freedom, saying our Internet economy is the “direct result of a bipartisan desire to create an environment of advancement–one that utilized a light regulatory touch.”

Ajit Pai’s parents were doctors. His mother was from Karnataka and father from Andhra Pradesh. They migrated to America where Pai was born in 1973 in Buffalo, New York. A graduate from Harvard and University of Chicago Law School, Pai’s law career includes assignments mostly with the US judicial services and the US Congress in difference capacities as well as stints with private corporations like Verizon Jenner & Block.

©SantoshChaubey

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INTERNET’S FOUNDING FATHERS CALL ON US CONGRESS TO SAVE INTERNET FROM TRUMP’S MAN

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf, the founding fathers of the Internet, have written to the US Congress to save the Internet from the disastrous consequences of a proposed repeal of a Barack Obama era law on net neutrality that ensured level playing field for all content and every sort of data by ensuring stiff regulations for the Internet service providers (ISPs).

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under the Barack Obama presidency, had adopted the net neutrality rules in February 2015 and enacted it in a law in June that year. The law gave the US government sweeping power over the network providers to check the discriminatory practices with the content flowing through their channels.

Here, in India, we are going through the grinding of that process and thankfully, after over a year of consultation papers, public comments and meetings, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) last month decided to uphold the supremacy of net neutrality in India.

Now Ajit Pai, son of Indian immigrants and a Republican, who was made the FCC chief by US President Donald Trump in January 2017, is bringing a repeal proposal to that landmark law which is scheduled for voting on December 14.

But the reports that the proposed repeal plan is expected to be approved have worried the proponents of a free internet accessible for all, and the letter by the founding fathers of the Internet reflects that sentiment.

The letter addressed to the Democratic and Republican chairs that control the FCC says that “the FCC’s proposed order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology” terming the proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order an imminent threat to the Internet, “The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed order to repeal net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.”

The letter has urged to US lawmakers to cancel the proposed vote. The open letter that is signed by 19 other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker and Internet Achieves founder Brewster Kahle, alleges the FCC headed by Pai is acting in haste ignoring exerts’ comments, over 23 million pro net neutrality comments by public and against the established practice, has not held even a single public meeting to discuss its proposed repeal order.

The open letter also alleges that the FCC didn’t bother to investigate and explain to people the flaws of its online comment system “including bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC’s on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system.”

BELOW IS THE TEXT OF THE OPEN LETTER SIGNED BY THE INTERNET’S FOUNDING FATHERS AND PIONEERS:

We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. We are writing to respectfully urge you to call on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to cancel the December 14 vote on the FCC’s proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order (WC Docket No. 17-108 ).

This proposed Order would repeal key network neutrality protections that prevent Internet access providers from blocking content, websites and applications, slowing or speeding up services or classes of service, and charging online services for access or fast lanes to Internet access providers’ customers. The proposed Order would also repeal oversight over other unreasonable discrimination and unreasonable practices, and over interconnection with last-mile Internet access providers. The proposed Order removes long-standing FCC oversight over Internet access providers without an adequate replacement to protect consumers, free markets and online innovation.

It is important to understand that the FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017. Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order dismantles 15 years of targeted oversight from both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs, who understood the threats that Internet access providers could pose to open markets on the Internet.

The experts’ comment was not the only one the FCC ignored. Over 23 million comments have been submitted by a public that is clearly passionate about protecting the Internet. The FCC could not possibly have considered these adequately.

Indeed, breaking with established practice, the FCC has not held a single open public meeting to hear from citizens and experts about the proposed Order.

Furthermore, the FCC’s online comment system has been plagued by major problems that the FCC has not had time to investigate. These include bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC’s on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system.

Compounding our concern, the FCC has failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests about these incidents and failed to provide information to a New York State Attorney General’s investigation of them. We therefore call on you to urge FCC Chairman Pai to cancel the FCC’s vote. The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed Order to abolish net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.

Signed,

Frederick J. Baker, IETF Chair 1996-2001, ISOC Board Chair 2002-2006
Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman, Mozilla Foundation
Steven M. Bellovin, Internet pioneer, FTC Chief Technologist, 2012-2013
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web & professor, MIT
John Borthwick, CEO, Betaworks
Scott O. Bradner, Internet pioneer
Vinton G. Cerf, Internet pioneer
Stephen D. Crocker, Internet pioneer
Whitfield Diffie, inventor of public-key cryptography
David J. Farber, Internet pioneer, FCC Chief Technologist 1999-2000
Dewayne Hendricks, CEO Tetherless Access
Martin E. Hellman, Internet security pioneer
Brewster Kahle, Internet pioneer, founder, Internet Archive
Susan Landau, cybersecurity expert & professor, Tufts University
Theodor Holm Nelson, hypertext pioneer
David P. Reed, Internet pioneer
Jennifer Rexford, Chair of Computer Science, Princeton University
Ronald L. Rivest, co-inventor of RSA public-key encryption algorithm
Paul Vixie, Internet pioneer
Stephen Wolff, Internet pioneer
Steve Wozniak, co-founder, Apple Computer

©SantoshChaubey

UNGA: PAKISTANI PROPAGANDA HAS A TOUGH JOB THESE DAYS

The article originally appeared on India Today.

The 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly is in progress in New York and the Pakistani delegation here has some tough job on its hand to do, obviously including the routine anti-India propaganda.

So the prime minister of Pakistan is busy spewing venom against India in New York where he is leading his country’s delegation to the UNGA while ministers and senior officials of his government back home in Islamabad are complementing his efforts.

And their efforts are based on negating two highly hostile perceptions about Pakistan, especially with the Donald Trump presidency in America – one, that it is a safe terror haven and the other, that trusting Pakistan in Afghanistan affairs have been counter-productive and it is better to go with India.

So, Pakistan’s prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is busy telling the world community and more importantly to the US that how India is an existential threat for Pakistan and it is rather a terror victim with an impressive track record in fighting and eliminating terrorists and the US declaring it a safe haven for terrorists is unjustified, even if he wasn’t given a chance to have one-on-one meeting with Donald Trump.

The fact is, Trump has not met a Pakistani prime minister, be it Abbasi or his predecessor Nawaz Sharif, so far in his presidency and it is a telling sign that Pakistan has lost its credibility in Washington.

Like Nawaz Sharif was humiliated at the US-Arab-Islamic Summit in Riyadh in May this year, Donald Trump’s first major interaction with the Muslim nations of the world, this time, too, the Pakistani prime minister met the same fate. Reportedly, Trump refused to meet Abbasi as ‘he was too busy’.

Abbasi then had to settle down on a meeting with US Vice-President Mike Pence where, as per Pakistani claims, the two sides agreed to remain engaged “to achieve shared objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region.” Also, Abbasi told yesterday, in another boastful claim, that Trump thought positively on Pakistan’s role in the war against terror, refuting claims of downward spiral in US-Pakistan ties.

While the truth is, the US is disappointed and angry over Pakistan’s double-dealings, the country that has been a major recipient of US financial aid, over $15 billion in just last five years. While unveiling his government’s Afghanistan centric South Asia policy last month, Trump had slammed Pakistan and had warned that the US would no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings and had demanded that Pakistan’s attitude of doublespeak had to change immediately.

Abbasi, reportedly, also complained to the US, in fact, in his meeting with Mike Pence about US policy change on Afghanistan which seeks greater Indian role in Afghanistan rebuilding process, something that Pakistan believes is hostile to its interests in the region. And today, he went on to say that Pakistan sees ‘zero role for India in Afghanistan and will never accept India politically or militarily engaged in Afghanistan’.

Repeating Pakistan’s rant on Kashmir, an integral part of India where Pakistan is fuelling terror and separatism, that India is suppressing the freedom struggle of the Kashmiris, Abbasi, after a long time, again took the line that Pakistan has developed tactical nuclear weapons to take on the Indian threat. Pakistan had left the practice of issuing hollow nuclear threats to India after the surgical strike last September in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir that left Pakistan’s ruling elite humiliated and divided.

Back in Pakistan, its ministers and officers are busy extending helping hands to their prime minister.

Its Foreign Office is repeating the routine Pakistani propaganda that “India is involved in funding terrorism in Pakistan” with a new vigour. Apart from blaming India for fomenting terror in its provinces including the restive Balochistan province, Pakistan is also blaming India to fund the anti-Pakistan campaign by Baloch activists in Geneva while the reality is the world community has now started accepting Pakistan’s atrocities in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.

The country is also taking on other countries like Japan that endorse the Indian viewpoint that Pakistan is a terror sponsor nation. The Indo-Japan joint statement last week during Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s India visit had denounced Pakistan as a country harbouring terrorists.

Yesterday, Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan accused India of trying to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $50 Billion Chinese investment that passes through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, legally an Indian territory. The same minister had last week boasted that it was not Pakistan’s job to satisfy the US. And only a week later, the Pakistani prime minister is trying to woo the US administration in the US.

©SantoshChaubey

RIGHTIST, LEFTIST OR CENTRIST, YOU MUST FEEL OUTRAGED OVER GAURI LANKESH’S MURDER

A democracy can survive and emerge stronger only if it learns to get along with differing ideologies in a symbiotic relationship where ideologies, too, understand the importance of coexistence, be it rightist, leftist or centrist or so on. That brings accountability in a system driven by people while a continued streak of an ideology and its dominance, on the other hand, is detrimental for a democratic set-up.

And that is why everyone must come forward to denounce the dastardly act of gruesome killing of Gauri Lankesh, a senior journalist who epitomized what journalism was conceived as and what it means – a pillar of democracy and thus our societies.

Journalism is meant to give voice to the millions of silent majority in a country like India; journalism is expected to be an effective check in the wheels of development in a democratic society like ours; and journalism is designed to be a tool to spread not just information but also ideas in a developing economic like ours where the majority is still quality illiterate and under developed.

So, a journalist can be a news gatherer, an information disseminator, an activist or a crusader. It all depends on interplay of circumstances and yes, personal choices. And the ideological environment that he or she dwells in plays a central role in this shaping up of role (and opinion).

Gauri Lankesh, who never accepted government advertisements for her eponymous periodical to maintain her independence, was a fearless journalist who would speak her mind, right or wrong we may go on debating. But she was busy doing the kind of journalism that journalism expected her to do….something that we can say cause based journalism…irrespective of her personal inclinations.

If she was killed for that, we should see this as an ominous sign for the health of our democracy, the signs that have been here for long – with killing of journalists, rationalists, activists and whistleblowers like Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi Satyendra Dubey and S Manjunath and so on. The list is long.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 27 journalists have been killed in India in the line of duty in last 25 years. Half of them were working on corruption stories. And no one has been convicted in any of these killings.

The annual report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is even more disturbing. It presents more comprehensive data according to which between 1990 to 2016, 101 journalists and mediapersons were killed in India. Globally, 122 journalists were killed in 2016 including five in India. In 2017 so far, 25 journalists have been killed including Gauri Lankesh in India.

And the conviction rate has been nil or abysmally low, organizations like the Press Council of India and the Press Freedom have said in their detailed reports. The Press Council of India, in fact, has demanded that the government should enact a new law to ensure safety of journalists.

Yes, we have a robustly functional democracy that is surviving well for the past seven decades but it has its own inherent flaws that have put shackles in its stride to become a stronger, mature and model democracy like America, most of the European countries and other western nations are.

They could travel to achieve so much because they learnt to develop an ecosystem where different ideologies coexisted and thrived, something where we have been failing. And Gauri Lankesh’s murder, like every other such case, reminds us again that we are still suspended in that mode.

Being a rightist or a leftist or centrist is not an issue. Every ideology has its good and bad elements and followers. The question is of balance and interplay of ideologies in a democratic set-up that ensures accountability in every level of administration and governance.

The countries that progressed to become model democratic states saw healthy development of economy and society because ideologies respected each other when it came to change of guard. Something that in turn ensured accountability and thus their growth and development, minimizing democratic flaws and autocratic features like corruption, nepotism, one-party rule, opaque systems, administrative apathy and so on.

©SantoshChaubey

WHERE WAS CHINESE STATE MEDIA’S FUSS THIS WEEKEND?

The weekend passed without any fuss this time. The Chinese state media didn’t come with any editorial warning India of war or disastrous consequences, be it People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party (CPC), or its hawkish tabloid Global Times or China’s state-run news agency Xinhua.

Let’s begin with Global Times, the sister publication of People’s Daily that has been the front of the Chinese state media pushing for an India-China war (scenario?) ever since the border standoff between the two countries on the Doklam Plateau began around mid-June.

The only editorial with harsh war rhetoric available on the opinion section of its website is from August 7. Titled ‘India misjudges China’s hope for peace’, it mocks India for miscalculated assessment of Chinese ‘silence’ and then throws the routine, i.e., ‘countermeasures from China will be unavoidable’.

The pattern of all other editorials, especially during the weekend, have been back to viewpoints like the developments around the South China Sea dispute, or the Sino-US trade row or even the Sino-India trade war but the hawkish tone of military war has taken a leave it seems. Now whether it is temporary or the Chinese propaganda machinery will be back to its virtual war with India only time will tell.

To continue..

©SantoshChaubey

DONALD TRUMP THREATENS TO BAN WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFINGS AFTER ROW OVER FBI DIRECTOR COMEY’S OUSTER

The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified and extended.

US President Donald Trump has indicated that he may do something unthinkable again, after trying to ban Muslims from some countries and immigrants from the US in which he miserably failed. He has threatened to stop the White House Press briefings all altogether, a tradition that has been in place since 1929 when the first White House Press Secretary George Akerson was appointed by President Herbert Hoover.

With a barrage of tweets, he is doing his favourite pastime again, i.e., media bashing. But what is important that he has gone a step further and has suggested that he may stop the White House press briefings all together and would instead prefer to send written handouts.

Donald J. Trump‏Verified account
@realDonaldTrump
The Fake Media is working overtime today!
5:23 PM – 12 May 2017

Donald J. Trump‏Verified account
@realDonaldTrump
As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!….
5:29 PM – 12 May 2017

Donald J. Trump‏Verified account
@realDonaldTrump
…Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future “press briefings” and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???
5:37 PM – 12 May 2017

His latest flashpoint with Media is the way his press office has dealt with his unexpected firing of James Comey, the FBI Director. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy Press Secretary of the White House, first said that Comey’s firing would not affect at all the investigation into the Russian meddling in the US presidential election. Then she said that Comey’s removal would hasten the investigation and the White House decision was shaped by it.

But all this has been dumped by Donald Trump himself who has said he fired Comey to ensure that the Russian meddling investigation is done “absolutely properly” and Comey’s firing may, in fact, ‘lengthen the investigation’. Also, before it, several White House officials sent out messages that Comey’s firing was for mishandling the email leak issue of Hillary Clinton and was, in no way, related to the investigation into Russian hacking.

Now that is a lot of fodder for any country’s media and the way Trump’s White House mishandled the James Comey firing affair, it has swept the US media. Many US senators have vocally criticized the decision, terming it an attempt by Trump to affect the FBI investigations as it may prove that Trump was benefitted from the Russian meddling in the US presidential election last year. The White House’s moment of humiliation was further added by the comments of the acting FBI Director who praised Comey and said the agency had full faith in him.

Donald Trump’s press wing, under his Press Secretary Sean Spicer has seen wide criticism and therefore humiliation because of its inaccurate briefings and the harsh language used by its spokespersons including Sean Spicer.

Spicer, in fact, began on a wrong note in his very first press briefing when he termed Donald Trump’s inauguration as the most watched of all US presidential inaugurations so far, something that he was forced to retract very soon. The list of his controversies is long including the one where he messed up his wisdom with inaccuracies and misplaced comparisons when he said that ‘even Nazi Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons while speaking about Syrian chemical attack’, something for which he had to issue public apology.

And this White House press wing and its Press Secretary and other spokespersons have to speak for a president who himself has given rise to series of controversies ever since his inauguration on January 20 this year, be it his divisive rhetoric, his immigration and travel ban order or the Mexican border wall or Obamacare repeal or pulling US out of international trade deals or threatening strategic military alliances like the NATO.

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTAN MILITARY FINALLY ACCEPTS DAWN LEAKS INQUIRY COMMITTEE REPORT, JOURNALISTS BEWARE!

The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified.

After a meeting between Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif and its army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa today, it seems the issue of Dawn leaks has finally settled now. According to media reports in Pakistan, its army’s public relations wing has issued a clarification that the Dawn leaks issue is closed chapter after it found the action taken by the government on the inquiry committee’s report satisfactory and withdraws its earlier tweet that had rejected a notification issued last month by the Nawaz Sharif government over action taken in the matter.

The Dawn leaks case refers to a front page story by the Daily Dawn’s columnist Cyril Almeida’s last October, quoting government sources, on rift between Pakistan’s civilian and military establishment over crackdown on Pakistan’s terrorist groups active in India and Afghanistan. The article had further written quoting government source that this dichotomy was forcing Pakistan to a diplomatic isolation. It had caused quite a stir in India’s volatile neighbourhood and had seen a standoff between its all powerful military and Nawaz Sharif’s government that threatened to snowball if something was not done to appease it.

And the action was swift. Official rebuttal were issued. Almeida was banned from travelling abroad. Pakistan’s information minister Pervaiz Rasheed was forced to step down pending an inquiry, a move that has been endorsed by the inquiry committee that was formed in November to investigate the matter. This is the only addition to the notification issued today otherwise contents of both notifications are similar.

No one knows and nobody will probably ever know what transpired in the top-level meeting between Sharif and Bajwa as the contents of the inquiry committee report that the government has decided not to make public. But its outcome is exactly opposite to the Pak army’s earlier stand after the Sharif government had announced last month its follow-up action to be taken on the inquiry committee report.

After the Sharif-Bajwa meeting today, the Ministry of Interior has issued another notification, that looks more or less same, as the one issued last month and was rejected by the army saying it was not as per the recommendations of the inquiry committee report. On April 29, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had tweeted expressing Pak army’s displeasure over the Dawn leaks report. After today’s development, the tweet has become infructuous.

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor‏Verified account
@OfficialDGISPR
Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected.
3:22 PM – 29 Apr 2017

Nawaz Sharif has accepted the recommendations of the Dawn Leaks Inquiry Committee and has issued directions of disciplinary action to be taken against the daily, its editor Zaffar Abbas and its reporter and columnist Cyril Almeida. The notification issued by Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior also says that “the Dawn Leaks Inquiry Committee recommends that the role of Daily Dawn, Zaffar Abbas and Cyril Almeida may be referred to All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) with a direction to take disciplinary action against them.”

Besides this disciplinary action, the inquiry committee has also emphasized on the need to develop “a code of conduct for print media especially when dealing with issues related to security of Pakistan.”

The Dawn leaks report has cost another high profile person his office. Nawaz Sharif had to sack his Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs, Tariq Fatemi, for leaking information of the high level civilian-military leadership meeting. Also, disciplinary action has been recommended against a the principal information officer of Pakistan’s foreign ministry.

©SantoshChaubey

DONALD TRUMP THANKS SOCIAL MEDIA FOR HIS WIN (AND RIGHTLY)

Donald Trump has attributed social media as a ‘key element’ in his win. He said in CBS’ 60 Minutes, “The fact that I have such power in terms of numbers with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.,”, I think it helped me win all of these races where they’re spending much more money than I spent.”

When we see it in composite numbers, Republican Donald Trump is way ahead of Democrat Hillary Clinton. While writing this, Donald Trump, the US President Elect, has a combined Facebook-Twitter-Instagram following of 33.7 million that is a huge 9.5 million more than Hillary Clinton’s. Following is the split of their followers base for these three social media platforms.

Donald Trump
Facebook: 14.7 M
Twitter: 15.1 M
Instagram: 3.9 M

Hillary Clinton
Facebook: 9.5 M
Twitter: 11.1 M
Instagram: 3.6 M

These figures say Donald Trump is significantly ahead of Hillary Clinton in terms of Facebook and Twitter followers – two of the three most talked about social media platforms that along with YouTube help shaping public opinion on issues – like we saw in the case of the Arab Spring – a multi-country revolution in the beginning of this decade that is attributed to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. He is having a slight edge even on Instagram, the junior brethren of these two.

And when Donald Trump says that ‘he thinks that social media has more power than the money they (Hillary’s campaign) spent’, he makes a perfect sense.

America is a connected country with firsts in telecom and internet revolutions. According to Statistica, the US has around 190 million Facebook users, 67 million Twitter users and 67 million Instagram users. That means a lot in a developed society of 320 million residents.

So even if Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is busy clarifying that the Facebook content is authentic and just less than 1% of it can be termed fake and he is terming the ‘criticism of Facebook for spreading fake news’ as crazy, we have reasons to believe when Donald Trump says social media helped him win or when Hillary Clinton blames FBI director James Comey for her defeat who reopened the Hillary’s role into the classified emails probe days before the polls, on October 28.

Okay, Hillary doesn’t say anything about social media here. But it is social media only that can shape opinion so rapidly – in a week – something that has potential to decide the electoral outcomes – at least in a connected society like the US – in a society where even many Democrats and states/regions who had voted for Barack Obama in the previous two polls, went on to vote Donald Trump – in a society that stands bitterly divided after Donald Trump’s victory – a fact that also tells us that there are very limited chances of some surge or drop in the followers base of Trump or Hillary post the election result.

Just to sum up, a February 2013 observation by Adweek says, “Social media takes up a lot of time, and internet users are happy to get stuck in. This leads to the use of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter becoming second-nature, forming habits that influence their lives, both on and offline.”

When it was so four years ago, imagine it now – when social media platforms have made rapid strides including new platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat – that are taking the world by storm.

©SantoshChaubey

YES, LEADERS CAN HAVE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE POSITIONS

WikiLeaks has released parts of paid (in millions), private speeches of Hillary Clinton that she delivered to audiences like the Wall Street bankers. The dump is part of trove hacked from email of John Podesta, Hillary’s campaign head. These so-called speeches have always been controversial. Bernie Sanders would always reiterate his demand to make transcripts of these speeches public. Donald Trump, though fast losing the race (of popularity and of ratings) with his misogynistic, crude, sexist remarks, continues to do so.

Yet Hillary refused to budge.

On their part, activists were always on the job. They had already flagged some excerpts in January and a comprehensive stuff is out now.

And on their part, Hillary’s team has gone on record to deny the authenticity of these papers, blaming them on Russian hackers who want to jeopardize Hillary’s electoral chances.

But on her part, Hillary doesn’t look so perturbed. Even if Trump mocked her on her answer, she sounded good when she answered why a leader needed to ‘have a public and a private position’ on an issue.

She said, “That was something I said about Abraham Lincoln after having seen the wonderful Steven Spielberg movie called ‘Lincoln. It was a masterclass watching President Lincoln get the Congress to approve the 13th Amendment. It was principled and it was strategic. I was making the point that it is hard sometimes to get the Congress to do what you want to do, and you have to keep working at it, and yes, President Lincoln was trying to convince some people, he used some arguments, convincing other people, he used other arguments. That was a great, I thought, a great display of presidential leadership.”

And it seems her explanation has gone down well in the public because now her team looks to own it (even if they will still disown the WikiLeaks trove). Her campaign manager Robby Mook said in a TV show after the debate, “Let’s be clear. I think there’s a distinction between what goes on in negotiations and what her positions are on the issues and have been on the issues.”

Yes, leaders can have public and private positions on an issue. That is only natural. That is human. Ethical politics is all about maintaining a fine balance between what you feel and what is needed.

©SantoshChaubey 

GOOGLE TO ALSO REPEAT APPLE’S MISTAKE IN INDIA

The article’s Hindi version appeared on iChowk.

Google has launched its much talked about range of Pixel smartphones. Pixel smartphones will be available in two sizes – Pixel and Pixel XL. The phones are open for pre-order booking in US, UK, Germany, Canada and Australia. Other markets will follow. In India, Pixel will be available for pre-order on October 13.

Pixel is the first serious challenge for Apple from Google in the smartphone hardware, the segment that has made Apple the most valuable company globally. Two-third of Apple’s profit comes from iPhone. Pixel has been designed and produced by Google and Google is publicizing it with ‘Made By Google’ tag (there is a website as well – https://madeby.google.com/intl/en_in/phone/) while Google’s earlier trysts with smartphone hardware, i.e., Motorola’s acquisition and Nexus outsourcing, were basically experimental platforms to fine-tune its operating system Android, now the world’s most used OS. They were never in race with iPhone for any slot.

pixel-madebygoogle

But now Google is going to repeat the same mistake which Apple has done.

iPhone is globally the most profitable phone brand and Apple is in Indian market for a long time now yet sale of Apple products including iPhone and Apple revenue in India is still 1% of its global performance.

The reason is its elitist (read absurd) pricing which is totally out of place in a price-sensitive market like India. The most premium and high-end smartphones in India are available in the range of Rs. 50,000-60,000 but if we see the overall picture, Rs. 10,000-30,000 is the most in-demand range for smartphones here whereas iPhone’s range for its latest offering (iPhone7) starts at Rs. 60,000 and goes upto Rs. 92,000.

This is in a country where the per capita income in 2015-16 was still Rs. 7774.

Now that Apple is seeing decline in iPhone sales in its growth driver China and stagnation in its other developed markets like US, UK or Europe, it needs a market like India, the world’s second biggest smartphone market. But Apple can never succeed in India at this price-range. Apple still wants to maintain iPhone’s ‘super-pricey’ tag in the Indian market. While that can sustain iPhone’s image of being a luxury brand, it will never allow Apple to become a big market player here.

And now Google is going to adopt the similar branding mantra.

Google Pixel starts at Rs. 57,000 in India and goes up to Rs. 76,000. We can only expect that Google Pixel will become another iPhone at this unjustifiably high price-range in India although cracking the Indian market is more imperative for Google than Apple.

Except India, Apple’s iPhone is the biggest brand in US, China and every other big market and earns maximum profit even if its market-share on unit shipments may not be the largest one in many markets. So, Apple commands a premium return. Now, Google will have to face Apple and other established brands including Samsung, the largest selling cellphone brand globally, in these markets. As Apple has a nearly non-existent presence in India, the country can be the big opportunity for Google to start on a solid base that it needs to take on Apple globally. And Google’s strong brand perception can come handy here.

Google is among the most valuable and strong brands. We can gauge its brand prowess by the fact that internet search has become synonymous with the term ‘google or googling’ and we should not be surprised if the term gets dictionary space in future. Its OS Android has 97% market-share in India – an absolute domination that tells us that almost every smartphone in India uses Android as its OS. So Google has already this software ecosystem advantage in the Indian market but given the price-range that it has chosen for its Pixel range of phones, it is never going to succeed on the hardware front. It is never going to get those volumes that any new business venture needs.

According to a report by Counterpoint Research, India has 220 million smartphone users and the Indian smartphone market has become the world’s second largest leaving behind the US market. But if we see the population penetration here, it is still at around 20% of the overall mobile subscription base in the country that is at 1.1 billion. From feature phones to smartphones – with a faster growth rate – that presents a huge opportunity.

Since India is the fastest growing smartphone market with 17% growth rate that is projected to increase further and its overall mobile subscription base is projected to reach at 1.4 billion by 2021 and as Indians are expected to buy around 150 million smartphones this year, Apple or Google or any other company can ignore the Indian market at its own peril. If Samsung and other companies have been able to crack the Indian market, it is because they have kept its price sensitivity on top of their marketing strategy – launching models and variants at every price point.

©SantoshChaubey