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EdTech startup Byju’s tries to calm workers down after office raid



Sarita Rai

Byju’s, India’s most valuable startup, sought to reassure employees and partners after a weekend raid on the offices of an education company by an agency investigating money laundering in the country.

Officials from the Enforcement Administration searched the startup’s offices in Bangalore and seized documents and digital data, the agency said in a tweet. The investigation is under the Foreign Exchange Management Act.

“Byju’s has made every effort to fully comply with all applicable foreign exchange laws and all of our cross-border transactions have been duly verified by both its professional advisors/advisers, investment fund advisors/advisers and other experienced counterparties,” Baiju Ravendran said. the founder and CEO of the startup wrote in a letter to employees.

The investigation comes as the $22 billion company is in talks with investors to raise funds to address a liquidity squeeze. The firm also tried to approach lenders for a $1.2 billion emergency loan restructuring after the once-high-profile start-up missed its March 31 financial filing deadline for the year.

Ravendran wrote that the company has made a number of overseas acquisitions as part of its growth strategy and has moved funds overseas to pay for deals. He added that all transactions were carried out through normal banking channels with appropriate documentation.

More than 70 investors have invested in Byju’s, he said, and they have done a thorough due diligence. “We are confident that the authorities will come to the same conclusion,” he added.

Beau Ravindran, the son of educators, founded his eponymous startup in 2015. The firm, whose parent company is officially known as Think & Learn Pvt, is the largest of a host of start-ups that have thrived over the past decade on the back of growing mobile connectivity in India. and foreign investment.

“Finally, I want to express my gratitude to all of you for your continued hard work and commitment to our mission of transforming education in India and around the world,” Ravindran wrote. “I understand that this news may have caused concern, and I want to assure you that we remain unwavering in our commitment to our students and our vision.”


Echoes of history in a new national campaign to protect children online



Growing concerns about the mental health of young people have prompted state legislatures across the country to propose a range of age limits to protect minors online. Lawmakers say the rules should help keep young people safe from online pornography, predators and harmful social media posts.

The current push for age restrictions on certain online content echoes a similar legal requirement three decades ago, when the internet was in its infancy. In 1996, Congress passed a major telecommunications law making it illegal to knowingly send or display “obscene or obscene” material to anyone under the age of 18.

This law had a longstanding precedent: federal regulations, go back to the 1920s which forbade radio and television broadcasts from broadcasting obscene language so that a child wandering into the living room would not hear it.

Rules against pornography in the 1990s strong bipartisan support. But civil liberties groups believed that online obscenity bans violated the First Amendment and stifled free speech. Among other objections, they stated that it was too difficult and expensive for websites to verify a visitor’s age. This could have resulted in sites simply getting rid of anything that was not suitable for children, creating a Disney-style internet.

To protect Americans’ access to information that could potentially be considered obscene under the new law, such as educational materials about AIDS, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the government, challenging part law the so-called Communications Decency Act.

The ACLU wanted his name to appear in the lawsuit, said Chris Hansen, former senior group lawyer. But to be a plaintiff, the group had to be directly threatened with the law, and there was nothing on its website that could potentially “harm” children. So the ACLU loaded Supreme Court ruling about comedian George Carlin’s riff on the seven dirtiest words in the English language, which included a transcript of Mr. Carlin’s monologue in all his unspiced glory.

The ACLU also hosted a quiz that asked readers to guess seven obscenities.

After a federal court in Philadelphia temporarily suspended the law, the government filed an appeal, and Reno v. The ACLU, named after Bill Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno, was reviewed by the Supreme Court, where it argued that restrictions on free speech provided by law could limit the unique potential of the Internet and deprive people, including minors, of access to all kinds of information. information.

The American Civil Liberties Union argued that the Internet, where users typed or clicked to get to a web page, was more like a book or newspaper than radio or television. Ann Beesonformer assistant legal director of the group. Language in printed materials, which people freely viewed, was more easily regulated than in broadcast media, where the audience had less control over what they were exposed to.

The judges at that time were not particularly familiar with the Internet. So the court staged a demonstration for employees to show how easy it is to find pornography. Senator Ted Cruz, then Clerk of the Supreme Court, later told how he, along with Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, reviewed “tough, explicit” search results for images of fruit, sometimes used as an obscene euphemism for breasts.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court sided with the ACLU, holding that federal restrictions could limit free speech.

The judges said general restrictions were unacceptable because soon parents would be able to use content filtering software to protect their children, and age verification systems at the time, which typically included checking a user’s credit card, were not yet widely available.. (This has changed; today, many modern online age verification systems use credentials, such as a driver’s license, to verify a user’s age. One vendor said they are now easy to integrate and cost as little as 10 cents per visitor.)

In its ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the long-standing principle of American law that “you may not censor the speech of adults in the name of protecting minors.” Hansen said. If the ACLU had lost, “The Internet wouldn’t be what it is now.”

But that was before the current, “extremely online” era, when critics say powerful social media algorithms have fueled the spread of hateful and divisive comments; massive disinformation; and encouraged young girls to post about anorexia and self-mutilation.

To try and increase online safety for kids, California passed the Age Appropriate Design Code Act last year. The legislation requires online services that are likely to be used by young people, such as social media and video game platforms, to default to the highest privacy settings possible for minors.

It will also require these services to disable by default features that may pose a risk to minors, such as buddy finder, which can allow adult strangers to contact children.

Technology industry association NetChoice has filed a lawsuit to block child protection from coming into effect next year. In a lawsuit filed in December, NetChoice said the restrictions would stifle important resources for users of all ages, echoing arguments made by the ACLU in the 1990s.

In March, the Congressional Research Service, the public policy institute that serves Congress, also gave its opinion. urging legislators consider the possible unintended consequences of new age restrictions on the Internet, such as companies collecting more user data and restricting content.

Despite this, legislators continue to propose new rules for age and content on the Internet.

Last week in the Senate, Brian Schatz, a Hawaiian Democrat, pledged that his new Child Online Protection Bill “will help us stop the growing health crisis of children on social media by setting a minimum age.”

Audio produced Jack D’Isidoro.

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