‘I made mistakes,’ Facebook CEO wrote in notes for testimony

Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 11 April 2018
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‘I made mistakes,’ Facebook CEO wrote in notes for testimony

WASHINGTON: Here’s what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wanted 44 senators to know about the scandal in which Cambridge Analytica used the massive social platform to access 87 million users: He made mistakes. Facebook’s mission is to “help people connect.” And no, he’s not resigning.

“Founded Facebook. My decisions. I made mistakes. Big challenge but we’ve solved problems before. Going to solve this one,” read Zuckerberg’s notes under the heading “Accountability” and the bullet point “Resign?” Zuckerberg left the notes on his desk during a break in testimony to the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees, and an Associated Press photographer took a picture.

Not so fast, the much older senators told Zuckerberg, 33, who was perched atop a seat pillow for the much-anticipated hearing into whether and how the breach affected the 2016 elections. They peppered him with questions about an array of Facebook’s lengthy privacy policy and data, but didn’t always seem to know how to follow up Zuckerberg’s talk of algorithms and AI systems. So one member of the joint committee, average age 62, got to the point.

“I just don’t feel like we’re connecting,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, told Zuckerberg in hour four of the hearing. “Your user agreement sucks.”

This time, there was no flop sweat, perhaps because the senators spent most of the first of two days of hearings reading questions for Zuckerberg on privacy issues rather than attacking him as expected on broader matters such as Russia’s role in election meddling or Facebook’s lag in responding to the data breach. It wasn’t as if senators could forget about the Russian meddling. Multiple investigations are probing the interference. Besides, someone dressed as a Russian troll watched from the audience wearing a pointy, blue-and-green wig.

Under “Election integrity (Russia),” Zuckerberg’s notes read, “Too slow, making progress.”

Under “Data safety,” the notes read, “Made mistakes, working hard to fix them.” Zuckerberg repeatedly told senators that unsatisfied Facebook members can adjust their privacy settings — or delete their accounts.

And under “Defend Facebook,” the notes advised the CEO that “If attacked,” he should respond: “Respectfully, I reject that. Not who we are.”

Twitter widely noted the apparent age or knowledge gap between Zuckerberg and the senators.

“Wrap it up, Grandpa Grassley,” tweeted one user to the Judiciary Committee chairman, who was deep into his first term in the Senate when Zuckerberg was born in 1984.

Some senators of a certain age utilized posters to illustrate their questions, such as Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, who’s served in the Senate since 1975. He asked Zuckerberg about hate speech, in places like Myanmar.

“What’s happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy,” Zuckerberg answered.

“We all agree with that,” Leahy snapped.


Arabic cinema wins over movie-goers

Updated 17 September 2018
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Arabic cinema wins over movie-goers

  • Oscar-nominated Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour premiered her short film set in Riyadh, ‘The Wedding Singer’s Daughter,’ at the Venice Film Festival
  • Earlier in the year Ziad Doueiri was the first Lebanese film director to be nominated for an Oscar with his film ‘The Insult’

LONDON: Arabic cinema has increasingly captured the imagination of movie-lovers around the world this year, with Arab film-makers winning award nominations and securing high-profile screenings at major film festivals.
This month the Oscar-nominated Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour premiered her short film set in Riyadh, “The Wedding Singer’s Daughter,” at the Venice Film Festival. Al-Mansour previously wrote and directed the film “Wadjda,” which was the first foreign-language Oscar entry from Saudi Arabia in 2014.
Earlier in the year Ziad Doueiri was the first Lebanese film director to be nominated for an Oscar with his film “The Insult.”
“Arab cinema’s profile has been on the rise. There are several different Arab movies being shown at Venice (film festival) this year,” said Joseph Fahim, an Egyptian film critic and the curator of this year’s London-based Safar Film Festival, which runs on Sept. 13-18.
Daniel Gorman, the director of London’s biannual Shubbak festival, which showcases mainly contemporary Arabic culture, art and film, said he that has seen the appeal of Arabic film grow in the UK.
“There is a huge interest and appetite for creative work coming from across the Arab world and there is strong interest in the UK to hear the voices of people from across the region, in an area that is generally represented in headlines in newspapers. Film is an excellent way of doing that,” he said.
Festivals have played a vital role in boosting awareness of Arab film, he said.
“(They) are able to bring new audiences to new work as they bring this concentrated moment of activity. A festival tends to have a bit more reach in terms of media coverage and audience awareness.
“(It) brings people along to something which they might not go to as a one-off screening,” Gorman said, explaining how the Shubbak festival also works with local schools and community groups to increase access to Arabic film and art.
This year’s Safar film festival — which is in its fourth year and organized by the Arab British Center — has focused on the theme of literature and film in the Arab world.
Fahim has created a program that includes movies dating back to the 1960s that have been buried deep in their respective country’s archives, as well as new films that have not been screened in London yet.
One of the films included is the Tunisian “In the Land of Tararanni,” originally released in 1973 and based on a collection of short stories by Ali Dougai.
It was one of the more tricky recordings to track down, said Nadia El-Sebai, executive director at the Arab British Center.
“There are films in this program that audiences will have no idea how many people it took to get that film,” she said, explaining the lengthy negotiations with ministries of culture, national archives and old friends and contacts to track down the much sought-after recordings.
There were other movies they had to give up on ever finding, including those lost in Syria or Iraq, or old versions of films that have not yet been digitised by national archives, she said.
More recent festival entries include this year’s Egyptian film “Poisonous Roses,” adapted from a 1990s cult novel, as well as the European premiere of the work of an Iraqi filmmaker — “Stories of Passers Through” — which traces the stories of Iraqis exiled from their country during the Saddam Hussein regime.
The literary theme of this year’s festival was chosen as a reaction to the growing popularity of contemporary Arab cinema, with the event’s organizers wanting to delve into the history of Arabic film.
“We are delighted by the increasing access to Arabic cinema. There are more films plugged into the London film festival this year. We have other other festivals — the Shubbak festival (in London), and the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival,” said El-Sebai.
“For this year’s edition we thought we would like to take the opportunity to go a little deeper into the history and heritage of Arabic cinema, and the industry,” she said.
“Safar is taking place just before London Film Festival (LFF), which was another motivation for us to look at something a bit different as we are definitely going to see really amazing contemporary films at the London Film Festival,” she said.
The LFF — which begins on Oct. 10 — is set to feature work by Syrian filmmaker Soudade Kaadan as well as the Saudi Arabian director Mahmoud Sabbagh’s latest dark comedy “Amra and the Second Marriage,” among other Arab productions.
Fahim was also keen to use the Safar event as a way of bringing audiences’ attention to a broader range of Arabic movies, highlighting the heritage of the film industry.
“It is reminding people that Arab cinema did not spring out today — there is a long history,” he said, adding that he wanted to question audience expectations.
“There have been a flood of amazing images from Arab cinema being displayed at festivals and most critics had no idea what they were. The more I spoke to people, the more I realized that there is a certain expectation of what Arab movies should be,” he said.
“We wanted to challenge what people expect from Arab cinema … I am tired of seeing Lawrence of Arabia a gazillion times on the big screen,” he said.
He said the selected films in the festival will hopefully challenge preconceptions. He referred to the inclusion of the 1964 Egyptian film — “The Search” — based on the writer Naguib Mahfouz’s novel. “It is a crime noir. It is essentially an existential noir and I don’t think many people will expect to see that,” he said.
Arabic cinema, however, needs to be better promoted, he said, noting a dearth of adequate film critics.
“At the big festivals it sometimes feels like Arab cinema is the bottom priority for critics,” he said.
“We need more perceptive writing. I could name you on one hand the film critics who know their stuff. That needs to change. Maybe we need to have more different voices. Film criticism is still being dominated by white male writers — although it has been developing — but that is still the norm,” he said.