Arab News at 44: the year we made the headlines

Arab News celebrates its 44th anniversary on Saturday as the biggest English-language daily in Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo)
Updated 21 April 2019
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Arab News at 44: the year we made the headlines

  • Arab News celebrates its 44th anniversary with a fast-rising global readership, and a host of new digital and print offerings
  • Throughout this year, Arab News has seen a significant increase in readership in the Kingdom and around the world

JEDDAH: Arab News celebrates its 44th anniversary today as the biggest English-language daily in the Kingdom with a fast-rising readership and a commitment to maintaining the quality journalism that has been a bedrock of the paper during its long history.

Throughout this year, Arab News has seen a significant increase in readership in the Kingdom and around the world, with new digital and print offerings, including the launch of the Pakistan edition, spearheading the newspaper’s global and digital expansion. A series of online and print elements — including Road to 2030, The Face, The Space, The Case and The Startup — draws attention globally and nationally.

A look back at the Arab News coverage that made headlines this year.

 

Arab News relaunch 

April 3, 2018: Arab News relaunched last year with a new design, and a new approach to stories that is better suited to the Internet age. Aside from a change in the newspaper’s masthead — the first since it began publication in 1975 — the newspaper had a radical redesign with an emphasis on elegant graphics and background facts giving richness to our stories. The relaunch — after an April Fools’ Day teaser campaign that suggested the paper would no longer be published in printed form — was announced at a gala dinner in Dubai.




Guests take a look at Arab News souvenir edition during the International Media Gala, organized by Arab News in Dubai. 

Women driving

June 24, 2018: The General Directorate of Traffic issued driver’s licenses to 10 women after a royal decree issued by King Salman in September 2017 announced the end of a decades-long ban on women driving. An iconic image of a Saudi woman driving by New Yorker magazine illustrator Malika Favre, commissioned by Arab News for the cover of its souvenir edition on June 24, was shared around the world. The design won two Awards of Excellence at this year’s Society for News Design honors. The cover image was also recognized in the international design awards run by HOW magazine. The end of the driving ban is a historic move that sends a clear message to the world that changes in Saudi Arabia under Vision 2030 are real and significant.

 

Prince Khaled bin Salman writes exclusively for Arab News

July 23, 2018: The world must confront Iranian aggression in a way that it failed to do in the 1930s with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the then Saudi Ambassador to the US, warned in an exclusive political essay published in Arab News.

 

Imran Khan interview

July 26, 2018: In an exclusive interview with Arab News in July, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan said his country enjoyed a “very special relationship with Saudi Arabia” and he planned to nurture it further.

 

Hajj coverage

August 19, 2018: As part of Arab News CSR initiatives, we gave out tens of thousands of umbrellas to protect pilgrims from the sun during Hajj season. An Arab News team also covered all the major days of Hajj, including Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah. A total of 2,371,675 pilgrims performed Hajj in 2018, according to the General Authority for Statistics. The pilgrims who came from outside Saudi Arabia numbered 1,758,722, while 612,953 came from inside the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia invited more than 800 foreign media representatives to cover Hajj events.




As part of Arab News’ CSR initiatives, the newspaper gave out tens of thousands of umbrellas to protect pilgrims from the sun at Hajj 2018.

 

Pope Tawadros II

Dec. 4, 2018: In an exclusive interview with Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, Tawadros II, the 118th Pope of Alexandria, Patriarch of the See of St. Mark and leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, described events in Syria and Iraq, with the rise of Daesh, as “very painful,” and pointed out that Christians who had to seek asylum abroad were among the most affected. However, his concerns extended beyond the plight of Christians alone, and he argued that a “weakening of Arab countries” means “the weakening of Arabs as a whole … Christians and Muslims alike.”

 

Winter at Tantora

Dec. 20, 2018: The northern Saudi city of Al-Ula hosted a special season of events and festivities, as the Royal Commission for the Governorate of Al-Ula organized Winter at Tantora. The cultural festival was designed to showcase the wonders of Al-Ula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to the world. It included cultural events, a spectacular equine experience, and musical performances by some of the world’s greatest artists, such as Saudi singer Mohammed Abdo, Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli, Iraqi musicians Ilham Al-Madfai and Kazem Al-Saher, Bahrain’s Rashed Al-Majid and Iraqi artist Majed Al-Mohandes.

 

MBS Asia tour
Feb. 17, 2019: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s tour of Pakistan, India and China made headlines around the globe. Saudi authorities praised the outcome of the Pakistan leg of the trip, with deals worth $20 billion signed by the two nations. During his visit to India, Crown Prince Mohammed said that he expects Saudi Arabia’s investments in the country to be worth $100 billion in the next two years. The crown prince also witnessed the signing of agreements in investment, tourism, housing and information and broadcasting. In China, he met with Vice Premier Han Zheng and attended the China-Saudi cooperation forum. That was followed by a ceremony to sign agreements on petroleum, chemicals, investment, renewable energy and anti-terrorism.




Faisal J. Abbas, Editor in Chief of Arab News, presents a copy of the newspaper to Pakistan President Dr. Arif Alvi on Feb. 18, 2018 on the sidelines of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Pakistan visit. (AN photo)

50:50 by 2020

March 7, 2019: The Arab News newsroom philosophy is based on gender equality. The proportion of women working for the newspaper rose to more than a third in 2018, moving closer to the goal of a 50:50 gender-balanced newsroom by 2020, according to the Arab News “gender equality meter,” published in March. Arab News last year outlined its aim to become the first newspaper in Saudi Arabia to have a gender-balanced newsroom. The announcement was made at the opening of the inaugural Arab Women Forum at King Abdullah Economic City. The drive, referred to internally as the “50:50 by 2020” initiative, covers all the newspaper’s bureaus and areas of operation.

 

Saudi National Day coverage

March 7, 2019: A video produced for Saudi National Day by Arab News scooped the top prize in an international media award ceremony held in Dubai. The video was commissioned to launch the newspaper’s ‘Road to 2030’ section which encompasses a series of reports focusing on tracking the progress and reforms happening in the Kingdom, such as allowing women to drive and reopening cinemas. The online video category at the WAN-IFRA Middle East Awards was the latest award given to the Saudi Arabian English-language daily since its relaunch in April 2018, after picking up silver in the “redesigned product category” at the WAN-IFRA Print Innovation Awards, held in Berlin on Oct. 9.

 

Preachers of Hate

March 25, 2019: Arab News in March launched Preachers of Hate — a weekly series, published in print and online, in which we profile, contextualize and analyze extremist preachers from all religions, backgrounds and nationalities. Subjects include the Saudi cleric Safar Al-Hawali, the Egyptian preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the American-Israeli rabbi Meir Kahane, the Yemeni militia leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, and the US pastor Terry Jones, among others.

 

Sharqiah Season
March 14, 2019: The Sharqiah Season, a 17-day festival in Eastern Province cities, delivered extensive entertainment for both Saudis and visitors to the Kingdom. Key events included the Red Bull Air Race and the Formula 1 H20 boat event, as well as concerts by Akon, Deadmau5, Pitbull and French Montana.

First anniversary of cinemas
April 18, 2019: Arab News marked the first anniversary of cinemas opening in Saudi Arabia. As part of the country’s Vision 2030 program of reforms, Saudi Arabia lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas, paving the way for theater chains to unveil ambitious plans to open hundreds of cinemas across the nation in the next decade. The Saudi government announced that SR131 billion ($35 billion) will be invested in cinema and theater construction, mainly in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. The Kingdom’s cinema industry — which will serve a population of more than 32 million, most of whom are under the age of 30 — is expected to generate $1.5 billion in annual revenue by 2030.

 


Facebook still auto-generating Daesh, Al-Qaeda pages

Updated 19 September 2019

Facebook still auto-generating Daesh, Al-Qaeda pages

  • Facebook has been working to limit the spread of extremist material on its service, so far with mixed success
  • But as the report shows, plenty of material gets through the cracks — and gets auto-generated

WASHINGTON: In the face of criticism that Facebook is not doing enough to combat extremist messaging, the company likes to say that its automated systems remove the vast majority of prohibited content glorifying the Daesh group and Al-Qaeda before it’s reported.
But a whistleblower’s complaint shows that Facebook itself has inadvertently provided the two extremist groups with a networking and recruitment tool by producing dozens of pages in their names.
The social networking company appears to have made little progress on the issue in the four months since The Associated Press detailed how pages that Facebook auto-generates for businesses are aiding Middle East extremists and white supremacists in the United States.
On Wednesday, US senators on the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation questioned representatives from social media companies, including Monika Bickert, who heads Facebook’s efforts to stem extremist messaging. Bickert did not address Facebook’s auto-generation during the hearing, but faced some skepticism that the company’s efforts were effectively countering extremists.
The new details come from an update of a complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission that the National Whistleblower Center plans to file this week. The filing obtained by the AP identifies almost 200 auto-generated pages — some for businesses, others for schools or other categories — that directly reference the Daesh group and dozens more representing Al-Qaeda and other known groups. One page listed as a “political ideology” is titled “I love Islamic state.” It features an IS logo inside the outlines of Facebook’s famous thumbs-up icon.
In response to a request for comment, a Facebook spokesperson told the AP: “Our priority is detecting and removing content posted by people that violates our policy against dangerous individuals and organizations to stay ahead of bad actors. Auto-generated pages are not like normal Facebook pages as people can’t comment or post on them and we remove any that violate our policies. While we cannot catch every one, we remain vigilant in this effort.”

“Yet those very same algorithms are auto-generating pages with titles like ‘I Love Islamic State,’ which are ideal for terrorists to use for networking and recruiting.”

John Kostyack, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center

Facebook has a number of functions that auto-generate pages from content posted by users. The updated complaint scrutinizes one function that is meant to help business networking. It scrapes employment information from users’ pages to create pages for businesses. In this case, it may be helping the extremist groups because it allows users to like the pages, potentially providing a list of sympathizers for recruiters.
The new filing also found that users’ pages promoting extremist groups remain easy to find with simple searches using their names. They uncovered one page for “Mohammed Atta” with an iconic photo of one of the Al-Qaeda adherents, who was a hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks. The page lists the user’s work as “Al Qaidah” and education as “University Master Bin Laden” and “School Terrorist Afghanistan.”
Facebook has been working to limit the spread of extremist material on its service, so far with mixed success. In March, it expanded its definition of prohibited content to include US white nationalist and white separatist material as well as that from international extremist groups. It says it has banned 200 white supremacist organizations and 26 million pieces of content related to global extremist groups like IS and Al-Qaeda.
It also expanded its definition of terrorism to include not just acts of violence intended to achieve a political or ideological aim, but also attempts at violence, especially when aimed at civilians with the intent to coerce and intimidate. It’s unclear, though, how well enforcement works if the company is still having trouble ridding its platform of well-known extremist organizations’ supporters.
But as the report shows, plenty of material gets through the cracks — and gets auto-generated.
The AP story in May highlighted the auto-generation problem, but the new content identified in the report suggests that Facebook has not solved it.
The report also says that researchers found that many of the pages referenced in the AP report were removed more than six weeks later on June 25, the day before Bickert was questioned for another congressional hearing.
The issue was flagged in the initial SEC complaint filed by the center’s executive director, John Kostyack, which alleges the social media company has exaggerated its success combatting extremist messaging.
“Facebook would like us to believe that its magical algorithms are somehow scrubbing its website of extremist content,” Kostyack said. “Yet those very same algorithms are auto-generating pages with titles like ‘I Love Islamic State,’ which are ideal for terrorists to use for networking and recruiting.”