Saudi Embassy in US appoints Arab News columnist Fahad Nazer as spokesperson

The Saudi Embassy in Washington. (Twitter: @SaudiEmbassyUSA)
Updated 24 January 2019

Saudi Embassy in US appoints Arab News columnist Fahad Nazer as spokesperson

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Washington has appointed Arab News columnist Fahad Nazer as its official spokesperson, it was confirmed on Thursday.

Nazer replaces Fatimah Baeshen, who served in the role since September 2017. Baeshen is returning to her field of socioeconomic development work, according to an embassy statement.  

“We are pleased to welcome Fahad as spokesperson for the embassy in Washington, D.C. His vast knowledge of Saudi Arabia's political and socio-economic landscapes will undoubtedly help him to tell the story of the Kingdom in the United States,” said Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi ambassador to the US, in a statement. 

“We are immensely grateful to Fatimah Baeshen for the tremendous service she provided on behalf of the Kingdom, and we wish her luck in her next endeavors. I am confident Fahad will continue her excellent work, and that his expertise and insights will greatly contribute to the team here in Washington and its core objective of strengthening Saudi-US relations.”

Fahad Nazer

Before his appointment, Nazer was an International Fellow at the National Council on US-Arab Relations, where he provided expertise on political, social, and economic developments in Saudi Arabia, and on the threat posed by extremist groups on the Arabian Peninsula.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the Kingdom as spokesperson for the Embassy,” Nazer said. “Through his leadership, Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman has built an exceptionally talented team with a determination and vigor reflective of the Saudi people. I look forward to working within the team to build greater understanding, and deepen the cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States.”

Nazer, who has been a frequent columnist for this newspaper, has held positions with JTG, Inc., Array Information Technology, Inc., and the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. He previously served as a political consultant to the embassy.

He confirmed his appointment in a Twitter post.

He thanked Prince Khalid bin Salman for appointing him to the role.

“I look forward to playing my role in strengthening the Kingdom’s strategic partnership with the United States of America,” Nazer said in a tweet.

Facebook targets fake news in Arabic language media

Updated 19 February 2019

Facebook targets fake news in Arabic language media

  • Social media giant reveals plans to roll out further initiatives across the Arab world
  • “We want to empower people to decide what to read, trust and share”

LONDON: Facebook has again found itself under scrutiny amid global efforts to stamp out fake news circulating on social media sites. Nashwa Aly, Facebook’s head of public policy for the Middle East and North Africa, spoke to Arab News about the company’s new Arabic-language fact-checking service.
Q: Has the fact-checking service in Arabic already started? If so, are there any results as to how many articles are being flagged as false?
A: The third-party fact-checking in Arabic rolls out as of this month, so still no results to share yet. We recognize the implications of false news on Facebook and we are committed to doing a better job to fight it. More than 181 million people use Facebook every month across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), so this is a responsibility that we take very seriously, and we’re excited to see through the this launch in partnership with AFP MENA. 
How many people will be working on it and what kind of volume of false stories do you expect to identify daily?
It varies by country, but AFP draws on the resources of multiple local bureaus, as well as centralized Arabic-speaking fact-checkers, to fact-check content.
Why did Facebook choose to enter into this initiative? Is the fake news problem any worse in Arabic compared with other languages? Are there any specific issues in challenging this problem in Arabic compared with other languages?
This expansion with AFP, with whom we already have successful fact-checking partnerships across the Latin American and Asia Pacific regions, is a step forward in our efforts to combat Arabic-language misinformation, and we will continue to take steps to expand our efforts globally this year. This initiative is particularly important across MENA, given that misinformation is a major concern in the region.
The present challenges do not necessarily stem from the Arabic language. However, there are some challenges that can arise, such as how to treat opinion and satire. We strongly believe that people should be able to debate different ideas, even controversial ones. We also recognize that there can be a fine line between misinformation and satire or opinion. This can make it more difficult for fact-checkers to assess whether an article should be rated as “false” or left alone.
It appears from the announcement that Facebook will not be actively removing “fake news” links identified under this initiative with AFP. Is that right, and if so, do you think the initiative goes far enough?
The way this will work is that when fact-checkers rate a story as false, we significantly reduce its distribution in News Feed — dropping future views on average by more than
80 percent. Pages and domains that repeatedly share false news will also see their distribution reduced, and their ability to monetize and advertise removed.
We also want to empower people to decide what to read, trust, and share. When third-party fact-checkers write articles about a news story, we show them in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. We also send people and Page Admins notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that has been determined to be false.
Finally, to give people more control, we encourage them to tell us when they see false news. Feedback from our community is one of the various signals that we use to identify potential hoaxes. 
Facebook also entered into an initiative with the UAE National Media Council to fight fake news. Is it looking to any other agreements in this field regionally, especially in Saudi Arabia?
The partnership with the UAE National Media Council and the launch of third-party fact-checking in Arabic, in partnership with AFP MENA are both key steps in our efforts against false news but are not nearly done yet. We plan to continue to take steps to expand our efforts this year both globally and regionally.