Vice looks to win over Arab millennials with Mideast launch

Shane Smith, the co-founder and CEO of Vice Media, visited the twofour54 media zone in Abu Dhabi in April. (AP)
Updated 14 November 2017
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Vice looks to win over Arab millennials with Mideast launch

LONDON: The US-based company Vice Media has launched in the Middle East aiming to win over a new audience of young Arabs with its often controversial content.
Vice Arabia — together with its regional partner Moby Group — launched on Nov. 13 in Dubai, with the screening of an film documenting the lives of young people living across the Middle East and North Africa.
The documentary — entitled Bil Arabi — is the first piece of content to be published by the platform. It features the region’s youth talking about topics as diverse as religion, politics, drugs, love and money.
“Capturing their fears, emotions, hopes and dreams, it’s testament to the important work we’ll aim to do at Vice Arabia in representing the many voices of young people across the region,” said Islam Al-Rayyes, editor-in-chief, Vice MENA. Vice Arabia will create original content in Arabic, some of which will be translated for its English media platforms.
The regional launch of the brand has been welcomed by many young Arabs.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of Vice. Having a Vice Arabia is even better because I know for sure that the team will tell our stories as Arabs, and the way Vice do things is always on point and with a twist,” said a blogger and host of a Saudi hip-hop radio show, known as Big Hass.
Vice Arabia will also house a regional hub of its creative agency Virtue Worldwide, which will work with regional brands creating sponsored content.
Media commentators will watch with interest to see if Vice can maintain its reputation for hard-hitting content, while operating in a region where journalists can face censorship issues.
Vice has previously reported on issues such as the treatment of migrant workers in Dubai.
“I’m sure it will ruffle some feathers, but probably not as much as you might expect,” said Austyn Allison, editor of Campaign Middle East, based in Dubai.
“If it stays away from the most touchy political subjects, it can still seem edgy. And the post-Arab Spring youth are doubtless ready for that. The region is young, and growing more progressive by the day,” he added.
“As long as it manages to talk to as many of the youth as possible, while keeping grounded about the limits of the society where it will publish, it should find a welcome niche as a means of controlled rebellion and self-expression among a demographic ready and willing to redefine their sense of identity.”


Twitter warns global users their tweets violate Pakistani law

Updated 11 December 2018
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Twitter warns global users their tweets violate Pakistani law

  • Pakistan has previously threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content its government found offensive
  • Pakistan banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010 while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots

WASHINGTON: When Canadian columnist Anthony Furey received an email said to be from Twitter’s legal team telling him he may have broken a slew of Pakistani laws, his first instinct was to dismiss it as spam.
But after Googling the relevant sections of Pakistan’s penal code, the Toronto Sun op-ed editor was startled to learn he stood accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad — a crime punishable by death in the Islamic republic — and Twitter later confirmed the correspondence was genuine.
His perceived offense was to post cartoons of the prophet several years ago.
Furey and two prominent critics of extremism in Islam say they are “shocked” to have received notices by the social media giant this past week over alleged violations of Islamabad’s laws, despite having no apparent connection to the South Asian country.
They say the notices amount to an effort to stifle their voices — a charge Twitter denies, arguing the notices came about as a result of “valid requests from an authorized entity,” understood to mean Pakistan, helped users “to take measures to protect their interests,” and the process is not unique to any one country.
But Furey is the third prominent user in the space of days to publicly complain about receiving a message linked to Pakistan.
The other two are Saudi-Canadian activist Ensaf Haidar and Imam Mohammad Tawhidi, a progressive Muslim scholar from Australia who was born in Iran.
Both are outspoken critics of religious extremism and have accused the social media giant of helping to silence progressive ideas within Islam.
Furey, who detailed his experience in a column for his newspaper on Saturday, told AFP: “I’m somewhat alarmed that Twitter would even allow a country to make a complaint like this, as it almost validates their absurd blasphemy laws.”
The tweet in question was a collage of cartoons of Mohammad that he posted four years ago.
“Looking back, I remember I did it right after there had been an Daesh-inspired attack in retaliation over the cartoons,” Furey wrote in his column, adding he had not posted similar material before or since.
Tawhidi meanwhile was sent a similar notice flagging a tweet that called on Australian police to investigate extremism in mosques following a deadly knife attack in Melbourne in November.
The scholar attached the legal notice sent to him by Twitter informing him of possible violations of Pakistani law, and tweeted: “I am not from Pakistan nor am I a Pakistani citizen.
“Pakistan has no authority over what I say. Get out of here.”
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Twitter told AFP: “In our continuing effort to make our services available to people everywhere, if we receive a valid requests from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.”
The spokesperson added: “We notify users so that they have the opportunity to review the legal request, and the option to take measures to protect their interests.”
Pakistan has previously threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content its government found offensive.
It banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010 while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots.
Furey told AFP that although he was taken aback by the notice, “I’m at least glad they brought it to my attention that the Pakistan government has their eye on me.”
But he added: “One troubling consequence to all of this is that even people in countries without these blasphemy laws may start to self-censor for fear of the reach foreign governments will have over them in the online world.”