Qatari media incites boycott of Bahrain’s Palestinian workshop, but ignores leaks about own regime attendance

Qatari media incites boycott of Bahrain’s Palestinian workshop, but ignores leaks about own regime attendance
A Twitter poll from senior Al Jazeera New channel anchor Jamal Rayyan asked “Do you support Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel’s organization of an economic conference in Bahrain to finance the deal of the century and the liquidation of the Palestinian cause?” (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 June 2019

Qatari media incites boycott of Bahrain’s Palestinian workshop, but ignores leaks about own regime attendance

Qatari media incites boycott of Bahrain’s Palestinian workshop, but ignores leaks about own regime attendance
  • Experts predict that comments come as a result of Iranian and Qatari media propagating a negative view of the workshop, which is being falsely portrayed as an effort to force Palestinians to sell-away their right to a state
  • Dubbed “Peace for Prosperity,” the conference is expected to bring together leaders from several governments, civil society and the business sector

DUBAI: Qatari media has been upping the ante with articles and opinion pieces shedding negative light on the US-lead “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop in Bahrain, which led to Palestinian officials to have a negative view of the summit and urge other Arab states of boycotting it.

“We call on the countries that have agreed to attend the Bahrain workshop to reevaluate their decision,” the secretary of the PLO’s executive committee, Saeb Erekat, told Arab News in an interview yesterday. 

Experts predict that comments come as a result of Iranian and Qatari media propagating a negative view of the workshop, which is being falsely portrayed as an effort to force Palestinians to sell-away their right to a state. 

“‘A two-day international Peace to Prosperity economic workshop in Bahrain undermines #Palestinians and their calls for sovereignty’” read a tweet from Qatar-owned English version of The New Arab, a newspaper based in London. 

Another tweet by the same news website read: “In-depth: ‘Palestinian political and religious leaders have slammed Jared Kushner’s so-called Deal of the Century Israel-Palestine peace plan, due to be revealed in part in a controversial Bahrain summit‘”

While a Twitter poll from senior Al Jazeera New channel anchor Jamal Rayyan asked “Do you support Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel’s organization of an economic conference in Bahrain to finance the deal of the century and the liquidation of the Palestinian cause?”

The results showed 71 percent against while 29 percent for.

Also, articles from Middle East Eye and Middle East Monitor – both Qatari-backed and pro-Hamas and pro-Muslim Brotherhood – have exaggerated the ‘failings’ of the workshop in Manama.

But while Qatari media has aggressively pushed against the Bahain summit, Israel-based Haaretz has published an article claiming that Qatar plans to attend and participate in the conference, which takes place on June 25 and 26.

No reports of Qatar confirming or denying the Haaretz article were found by Arab News.

Dubbed “Peace for Prosperity,” the conference is expected to bring together leaders from several governments, civil society and the business sector.

Trump’s office said the conference was a “pivotal opportunity... to share ideas, discuss strategies, and galvanize support for potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement.”

The Palestinians see this as offering financial rewards in exchange for accepting ongoing Israeli occupation.

“Attempts at promoting an economic normalization of the Israeli occupation of Palestine will be rejected,” Erekat said.

(With AFP)


Facebook expands Shops to WhatsApp, Marketplace in commerce push

Facebook said it would introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior. (File/AFP)
Facebook said it would introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

Facebook expands Shops to WhatsApp, Marketplace in commerce push

Facebook said it would introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior. (File/AFP)
  • Facebook Inc (FB.O) is expanding its "Shops" feature to its messaging app WhatsApp in several countries.
  • Users will be able to use this search from content on the app or on photos on their own camera rolls.

Facebook Inc (FB.O) is expanding its "Shops" feature to its messaging app WhatsApp in several countries and to Facebook Marketplace in the United States, the company said on Tuesday as it announced changes to its commerce tools.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said it would also introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior.

The social media giant, which launched Shops last year as a way for people to find and buy products on Facebook and Instagram as part of its push into ecommerce, said it has more than 300 million monthly Shops visitors and about 1.2 million monthly active Shops.

Zuckerberg said during Facebook's last earnings release that e-commerce is one of the company's three key areas of focus, along with working on augmented and virtual reality and helping content creators earn money on Facebook's platforms.

The company said it would in the coming months test an artificial intelligence tool called 'visual search' so users shopping on its photo-sharing site Instagram can click on items and find similar products in Shops.

Users will be able to use this search from content on the app or on photos on their own camera rolls, Zuckerberg said.

Facebook is also working on ways using augmented reality that shoppers can try on items, including from ads, Zuckerberg said, speaking in a live audio room on Facebook.


Twitter opens applications to test new content subscription features

Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations. (File/AFP)
Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

Twitter opens applications to test new content subscription features

Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter users can apply to get first access to "Super Follows," which will let them sell exclusive content to paying subscribers.

Twitter Inc said Tuesday it will seek applications from users who want to be the first to test new content subscription and ticketing features, as the social platform works to build more ways for users to earn money. 

Twitter users can apply to get first access to "Super Follows," which will let them sell exclusive content to paying subscribers, and "Ticketed Spaces," to charge for entry into audio chat rooms they host on the platform.

Both features are part of Twitter's plan to compete with other social media companies to attract more influential content creators by letting them earn money from fan followings.

Users must have at least 10,000 followers on Twitter to be eligible to apply for Super Follows, and at least 1,000 followers to apply for first access to Ticketed Spaces.

The company aims to select "a diverse set of voices," from the applications, said Esther Crawford, senior product manager at Twitter.

The company will take a 3% cut of a creator's revenue until the user hits $50,000 in earnings, after which Twitter will keep 20%, in order to help up-and-coming creators earn more money at the start, Twitter said.

Crawford added that Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations which have built an audience on Twitter.


British minister urges same rules for streaming services, broadcasters -Times

British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

British minister urges same rules for streaming services, broadcasters -Times

British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
  • British government draw plans to make streaming services follow the code of British regulator Ofcom, says Culture Secretary.
  • The government will consult on whether it is time to set the same basic rules for video-on-demand services as is done for traditional broadcasters

June 23 : Britain’s streaming services and broadcasters should be on a level playing field, as traditional broadcasters now compete with “one hand tied behind their backs,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Wednesday.
Dowden is to unveil plans for a white paper on broadcasting that aims to make streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ follow the code of British regulator Ofcom, he said in the Times newspaper “Every “linear” broadcaster — BBC, Sky and so on — has to comply with stringent content and audience protection standards,” Dowden said in an article published on Wednesday.
“You might assume the same is true of video-on-demand services such as Amazon Prime and Disney+. You’d be wrong.”
The government will consult this summer on whether it is time to set the same basic rules for video-on-demand services as is done for traditional broadcasters, he added.
“The white paper will also set out proposals on how we ensure public service broadcasters are given sufficient visibility...online, and ensure viewers can continue to find and watch original and high-quality British programs.”
Separately, Britain’s Conservative government said it plans to sell Channel 4, launched 39 years ago as an alternative to the BBC and ITV, to help secure its future as a public service broadcaster.
“In summer I will consult on the sale of Channel 4,” Dowden wrote, adding that he would proceed on the lines that an alternative ownership model retaining the broadcaster’s public service remit would better serve both it and Britain.


Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda

Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda
Updated 23 June 2021

Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda

Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda
  • Facebook's algorithm amplified military propaganda in Myanmar following the military takeover, revealed report.
  • After the coup, the military junta temporarily blocked access to Facebook because it was being used to share anti-coup comments and organize protests.
Facebook’s recommendation algorithm amplifies military propaganda and other material that breaches the company’s own policies in Myanmar following a military takeover in February, a new report by the rights group Global Witness says.
A month after the military seized power in Myanmar and imprisoned elected leaders, Facebook’s algorithms were still prompting users to view and “like” pro-military pages with posts that incited and threatened violence, pushed misinformation that could lead to physical harm, praised the military and glorified its abuses, Global Witness said in the report, published late Tuesday.
That’s even though the social media giant vowed to remove such content following the coup, announcing it would remove Myanmar military and military-controlled pages from its site and from Instagram, which it also owns. It has since enacted other measures intended to reduce offline harm in the country.
Facebook said Tuesday its teams “continue to closely monitor the situation in Myanmar in real-time and take action on any posts, Pages or Groups that break our rules.”
Days after the Feb. 1 coup, the military temporarily blocked access to Facebook because it was being used to share anti-coup comments and organize protests. Access was later restored. In the following weeks, Facebook continued to tighten its policies against the military, banning all military entities from its platforms and saying it would remove praise or support for violence against citizens and their arrest.
“Once again, Facebook shows that it’s good at making broad sweeping announcements and bad at actually enforcing them. They’ve had years to improve their work in Myanmar but once again they are still failing,” said Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist and whistleblower who found evidence of political manipulation in countries such as Honduras and Azerbaijan while she worked there.
The struggle between the military regime that deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government and those opposing it has sharpened in recent months.
Soldiers and police have killed hundreds of protesters. Last week, the United Nations’ office in Myanmar expressed concern about escalating human rights abuses after reports that a group opposed to the junta may have executed 25 civilians it captured and allegations that troops had burned down a village.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, had over 22.3 million Facebook users in January 2020, more than 40 percent of its population, according to social media management platform NapoleonCat.
“What happens on Facebook matters everywhere, but in Myanmar that is doubly true,” the report says. As in many countries outside the Western Hemisphere, mobile phones in Myanmar often come pre-loaded with Facebook and many businesses do not have a website, only a Facebook page. For many people in the country, Facebook effectively is the Internet.
On March 23, just before the peak of military violence against civilians, Global Witness said it set up a new, clean Facebook account with no history of liking or following specific topics and searched for “Tatmadaw”, the Burmese name for the armed forces. It filtered the search results to show pages, and selected the top result — a military fan page whose name translates as “a gathering of military lovers.”
Older posts on this page showed sympathy for Myanmar’s soldiers and at least two advertised for young people to join the military — but none of the newer posts since the coup violated Facebook’s policies. However, when Global Witness’s account “liked” the page, Facebook began recommending related pages with material inciting violence, false claims of interference in last year’s election and support of violence against civilians.
A March 1 post, for instance, includes a death threat against protesters who vandalize surveillance cameras.
“Those who threaten female police officers from the traffic control office and violently destroy the glass and destroy CCTV, those who cut the cables, those who vandalize with color sprays, (we) have been given an order to shoot to kill them on the spot,” reads part of the post in translation, according to the report. “Saying this before Tatmadaw starts doing this. If you don’t believe and continue to do this, go ahead. If you are not afraid to die, keep going.”
Facebook said its ban of the Tatmadaw and other measures have “made it harder for people to misuse our services to spread harm. This is a highly adversarial issue and we continue to take action on content that violates our policies to help keep people safe.”
Global Witness said its findings show that Facebook fails to uphold the “very basics” of its own guidelines.
“The platform operates too much like a walled garden, its algorithms are designed, trained, and tweaked without adequate oversight or regulation,” said Naomi Hirst, head of the digital threats campaign at Global Witness. “This secrecy has to end, Facebook must be made accountable.”

Trial of Moroccan journalists raises fears of repression

Morocco’s national press union has called for the provisional release of the two journalists but defended the right of the plaintiff to seek justice in a fair trial. (AFP)
Morocco’s national press union has called for the provisional release of the two journalists but defended the right of the plaintiff to seek justice in a fair trial. (AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

Trial of Moroccan journalists raises fears of repression

Morocco’s national press union has called for the provisional release of the two journalists but defended the right of the plaintiff to seek justice in a fair trial. (AFP)
  • The trail of the two Moroccan journalists accused of sexual assault have raised fears of increasing state repression.
  • Rights activists believe the authorities are using pre-trial detention to target political opponents by applying the law unevenly.

CASABLANCA: New hearings took place on Tuesday in the trials of two dissident journalists in Morocco accused of sexual assault, whose detention rights groups see as evidence of increasing state repression and a push to silence dissent.
The two men, Soulimane Raisouni and Omar Radi, who both deny the accusations against them, have spent a year in pre-trial detention and Raisouni has been on hunger strike for over two months, raising concerns about his health.
The cases have brought into focus fears that the ruling authorities are increasingly intolerant of dissent and will manipulate Moroccan law to silence critics, a group of rights organizations said in April.
“What remains of press freedom in Morocco is under siege, and those who dare to publicly criticize the increasingly repressive regime face prosecution on dubious charges and slander campaigns,” said the groups, which included Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The Moroccan government and the judiciary deny that the prosecution is politically motivated. The plaintiffs in the cases accuse the rights groups of ignoring what they call their own quest for justice in a system that has often shielded sexual abusers.
The Minister in charge of Human Rights, Mustapha Ramid, did not respond to Reuters calls or messages but has previously described Morocco as “neither a hell nor a paradise for human rights.”
The government says the judiciary is independent in line with Morocco’s 2011 constitution and that courts implement national law.

OUTSPOKEN CRITICS
Rights activists believe the authorities are using pre-trial detention to target political opponents by applying the law unevenly. Raisouni and Radi are outspoken critics of public policy, the judiciary and Morocco’s human rights record.
“There was no written justification for this pre-trial detention,” said Ahmed Benchemsi of Human Rights Watch, who was observing the trial.
Several other cases have been brought against prominent dissidents over the past two years, including a historian accused of money laundering and another journalist, Raisouni’s niece, who was convicted of having an illegal abortion.
“The detention of Soulaiman and Omar is vindictive because of their work as journalists and their human rights activism,” said the niece, Hajjar Raisouni, who was pardoned in 2019.
Radi, a journalist and activist, has been held since July last year on charges of raping a woman and spying, which he also denies. The court in Casablanca will on Tuesday hear the core of the charges against him.
Raisouni, a newspaper editor detained in May 2020, is accused of sexually assaulting a man. Hearings on his case have focused on whether he is well enough to stand trial, with the prosecution accusing him of delaying tactics.
His wife and defense team say his hunger strike has left him dangerously ill and that he should be in hospital. Prison authorities and the state-appointed National Human Rights Council have said his health is stable.
Lawyers for the pair said their detention before the trial was arbitrary and “a violation of the presumption of innocence,” adding that both men had provided guarantees of attending the trial.
Raisouni’s accuser, publicly identified only as “Adam,” told Reuters that efforts to cast the case as political were denying his right to justice and accused rights groups of failing to support the LGBTQ community in Morocco.
Radi’s accuser, Hafsa Boutahar, his colleague, said she was “speaking up for all raped women” and accused rights groups of victim-blaming.
Morocco’s national press union has called for the provisional release of the two journalists but defended the right of the plaintiff to seek justice in a fair trial.