What We’re Watching: WhatsApp sues India, US to (re)probe COVID origins, mob boss vs Turkish president

Whatsapp logo and binary cyber codes.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

WhatsApp sues India: First it was TikTok. Then Facebook and Twitter. Now WhatsApp is the latest target of India's crackdown on online free speech. The social media messaging app, used by hundreds of millions of Indians daily, has filed a lawsuit against the Indian government to stop a new law that would require WhatsApp to trace users' encrypted messages. The law grants Delhi sweeping powers to block or remove any content that threatens national security, public order, or whatever the Indian government considers to be decency or morality. WhatsApp argues this would violate privacy rights, and is willing to fight it out in court. So far, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been successful in stifling online criticism of his government, especially over its handling of the country's ongoing COVID crisis. But WhatsApp's immense popularity among Indians gives the Facebook-owned tech firm considerable leverage, and at a moment when his approval rating has already hit all-time lows, Modi may fear a backlash if the messaging app suddenly goes offline.


Another COVID origins probe: Did it come from a bat or from a lab? The origins of COVID continue to perplex. But after the WSJreported earlier this week that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology got sick with COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, the Biden administration directed US intelligence agencies to re-investigate the origins of the disease. Barely three months ago, a joint China/WHO probe "concluded" that the virus was most likely transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, but it did not entirely rule out that it could have come from the Wuhan lab. Moreover, many countries questioned the findings because the report was co-written by the Chinese, who have an interest in deflecting blame. Will the new report establish more credibly whether the virus was in fact leaked — accidentally or on purpose — from the Wuhan lab? Biden's spooks have 90 days to find out.

Mob boss vs Turkish president: Sedat Peker, a convicted Turkish mobster who lives in exile, has threatened "all-out war" on the government of strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But it's not with guns, it's with... YouTube. Peker has recently racked up more than 30 million views with videos clips where he sits in what look like various Dubai hotel conference rooms — shirt open to the navel and gold chain blinging — methodically spilling the beans about all kinds of corruption, extra-marital affairs, murders, mob ties, drug trafficking, and other malfeasance by members of Turkey's ruling AKP party, government officials, and even Erdogan himself. The president has defended his officials, but Peker, who is planning to release several more videos, says: "A dog that doesn't know how to bark will call a wolf home." We have no idea what that means, but it sounds like he means business. Special bonus: can any readers tell us what's scribbled on the whiteboard behind Peker in this photo? Let us know here.
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