Twitter launches spam awareness drive in MENA

Twitter launches spam awareness drive in MENA
Twitter launched the campaign on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 27 November 2019

Twitter launches spam awareness drive in MENA

Twitter launches spam awareness drive in MENA
  • Twitter wants to educate people about the safety tools they can make use of to identify spam behavior

RIYADH: A major campaign to raise awareness about internet spam among social media users in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was launched by Twitter on Monday.

The platform shared a series of videos in Arabic on its @TwitterMENA account as part of a safety drive aimed at helping people to identify and report unsolicited online communications.

George Salama, Twitter’s MENA head of public policy, government and philanthropy, told Arab News: “We have launched the social awareness campaign to educate people on Twitter about how to deal with spam and to highlight our efforts around the health of the public conversation in the region.

“We want to educate people about the safety tools they can make use of, such as the ability to report the type of spam, in addition to tips and techniques to help identify spam behavior.”

He said spam was a kind of platform manipulation and could take many forms. It could be commercially motivated to divert attention from a Twitter conversation to certain products and initiatives or associated to inauthentic engagements that attempted to make accounts appear more popular than they were.

Sometimes referred to as junk, it could also take the form of coordinated activity that attempted to artificially influence conversations through the use of multiple accounts, fake accounts or automation, Salama added.

“We use the term (anti-spam challenges) to describe our process for confirming whether a human is in control of an account we suspect is engaging in platform manipulation.”

FASTFACTS

• Twitter challenged 291 million accounts for spammy behavior in the 12 months between July 2018 and June 2019.

• 50 percent fewer accounts were challenged in the first half of 2019 compared with the second half of 2018.

• Approximately 75 percent of challenged accounts failed the tests and were ultimately suspended.

For example, Twitter may require an account holder to verify a phone number or email address, or complete a reCAPTCHA test (to tell humans and robot software apps apart), he said, adding that these challenges were simple for authentic platform users to solve, but difficult or costly for spam and malicious account owners to complete.

“Accounts which fail to complete a challenge within a specified period of time may be suspended. We challenged 291 million accounts for spammy behavior in the 12 months between July 2018 and June 2019,” said Salama, noting that 50 percent fewer accounts were challenged in the first half of 2019 compared with the second half of 2018.

The Twitter official pointed out that approximately 75 percent of challenged accounts failed the tests and were ultimately suspended.




George Salama, Twitter head of public policy & government relations for MENA. (Photo/Supplied)

“We have made a number of investments in machine learning including the acquisition of Fabula AI (a London startup), which focused initially on expanding applications to stop spam,” he said.

Machine learning played a key role in Twitter’s attempts to serve the public conversation, he said, and Fabula AI had employed a world-class team of researchers to detect network manipulation. 

“In September, we expanded our policies to prohibit financial scams. We want Twitter to be a place where people can make human connections and find reliable information.”

Salama added that Twitter wanted to stop people from using its services to deceive others into sending them money or personal financial information via scam tactics, phishing, or other fraudulent methods.

“Using scam tactics on Twitter to obtain money or private financial information is prohibited under this policy. People are not allowed to create accounts, post tweets, or send direct messages that solicit engagement in such fraudulent schemes,” he added.


Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia
Updated 15 April 2021

Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by Houthis toward Saudi Arabia, Al-Ekhbariya reported on Thursday.
The attacks targeting Jazan are the latest in a long line of hostile actions against the Kingdom by the Iran-back Houthi militia. 
Jazan University was one of the targets as well as other civilian sites protected under international humanitarian law, coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said in a statement on the Saudi Press Agency, adding that the actions amount to war crimes.
The attacks originated from Sa’dah governorate in Yemen, Al-Malki added.
The coalition said the attack is a continuation of the Houthis’ systematic and intentional hostile attempts to target civilians. 
The Houthis, who took over the capital of Yemen, Sanaa, in 2014, have been condemned for their actions against the Kingdom. 
The Saudi government has said the Houthi attacks are not only against the  Kingdom and its economic facilities, but rather the center of the global economy, the security of its exports and its oil supplies, while also affecting maritime navigation.

Saudi Arabia has consistently backed efforts to resolved the war in Yemen peacefully.
Last week, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman held talks with Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, and reiterated that the Kingdom supports “all efforts to end the conflict, implement a cease-fire, alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and reach a political resolution that guarantees peace and prosperity for the brotherly people of Yemen.”
In March, Saudi Arabia announce a peace initiative to help end a war that has ravaged Yemen for the last six years. The initiative, which has received wide support, includes a cease-fire supervised by the UN, the reopening of Sanaa airport, and new talks to reach a political resolution to the conflict. Restrictions on the Red Sea port of Hodeidah would also be eased, allowing access for ships and cargo.
The UN’s chief, Antonio Guterres, backed the deal and urged all sides to take this opportunity to pursue peace and work with his special envoy, Martin Griffiths, on ways to proceed “in good faith and without preconditions.”


Yemen’s information minister, Moammar Al-Eryani, said members of the international community with open channels to the Houthis must use their leverage to encourage it to sever ties with Iran and commit to the Saudi-led peace initiative.
“These countries must put pressure on the Houthis to stop their daily crimes and violations against civilians in their areas of control, which are considered war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Al-Eryani told Arab News in an interview last week.
A Yemeni news agency reported last month that the Houthis had “provisionally” accepted the Saudi initiative to end the war in Yemen, but were demanding unchecked flights from Sanaa airport to unlimited destinations before giving the peace plan their final approval.
Soleimani’s shadow
Qassem Soleimani left a trail of death and destruction in his wake as head of Iran’s Quds Force … until his assassination on Jan. 3, 2020. Yet still, his legacy of murderous interference continues to haunt the region
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Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden
Updated 15 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden
  • In addition to providing artificial limbs, the facility will also offer maintenance of prosthetics, rehabilitation services and physiotherapy

LONDON: The Saudi-based King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) has officially opened an artificial limbs clinic in the Yemeni city of Aden, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

Qasim Buhaibeh, the Yemeni minister of public health and population, thanked KSrelief for its work to help the Yemeni people. He also praised the achievement of establishing the prosthetic limb facility, which he said “will contribute to providing medical services and alleviating the suffering of those who are injured and the victims of mines.”

Saleh Al-Dibani, the director of KSrelief in Aden, said the organization has provided the prosthetic limb center with the resources it needs to help 1,434 beneficiaries, including 300 new prosthetic limbs.

A KSrelief worker is seen with young patients at the new prosthetic limb center in Aden. (SPA)

He added that KSrelief is also providing resources for maintenance of prosthetics, rehabilitation services, physiotherapy, and to hire medical staff in coordination with the Yemeni Ministry of Health.

“The project of equipping and preparing artificial limbs is one of the most important projects funded by KSrelief in the governorates of Aden, Taiz, Seiyun and Marib, with the aim of supporting the Yemeni health sector,” said Al-Dibani.

The center is part of the framework of humanitarian and relief efforts being provided by Saudi Arabia, through KSrelief, to the Yemeni people.


Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom
Updated 15 April 2021

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

RIYADH: The Asbar Center for Studies, Research and Communications announced the launch of the Asbar Observatory on Development, the first of its kind in monitoring and anticipating future development in the Kingdom.
Established in 1994, the Asbar Center is a scientific organization dedicated to conducting studies and research on development and policies.
Dr. Fahad Al-Orabi Al-Harthi, president of the Asbar Center, said the new observatory is one of the center’s initiatives. 
“The idea of launching the observatory comes within the framework of the center’s efforts to keep pace with developments witnessed in various fields in the Kingdom, in order to achieve its ambitious Vision 2030,” he said.
Through the observatory, Al-Harthi noted, the Asbar Center seeks to build a national system that contributes, in cooperation with the responsible authorities, to monitoring development needs and providing information to authorities.
Al-Harthi also said the observatory will assist decision-makers in shaping life in Saudi Arabia and anticipating its future through foresight tools. In preparation for a pioneering developmental journey that supports changes, the observatory will also anticipate future opportunities and challenges by analyzing their effects and developing innovative solutions to them.
“The mechanism of the Asbar Observatory project relies on the work of local and international development indicators,” Al-Harthi said.
“The observatory will focus on monitoring development and issuing reports to the competent authorities on progress, social innovation, sustainable development and social responsibility. It will also issue future forward-looking studies.”
Al-Harthi said he hopes the Asbar Observatory will enhance the Kingdom’s presence in various global fields while maintaining its distinguished international position.


Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king

Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king
Updated 15 April 2021

Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king

Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king

RIYADH: King Salman on Thursday appointed Prince Mishaal bin Majed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as adviser to the king, with the rank of minister, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Prince Mishaal has been governor of Jeddah since 1997 and a member of the Allegiance Council since 2007. 

He is president of the governing council of the assembly and president of the Social Development Forum and chairman of the board of the Society of Majid bin Abdul Aziz for Development and Social Services.


Beggars exploit charitable sentiment during Ramadan

Beggars exploit charitable sentiment during Ramadan
Updated 15 April 2021

Beggars exploit charitable sentiment during Ramadan

Beggars exploit charitable sentiment during Ramadan
  • Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has warned citizens to be wary and recommends using the proper channels to give to charity

JEDDAH: A surge in beggars has been witnessed across Saudi Arabia, taking advantage of the holy month and the acts of charity obligatory upon Muslims.

The scene is not new to residents of the Kingdom. For years, beggars who have arrived illegally through various means such as smuggling, originally from areas such as Africa, Afghanistan and Yemen — and even local citizens — have roamed the streets asking for money.

Migrant smuggling, the irregular movement of people through international borders, is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities and has been an issue in the Kingdom for years. The situation dramatically worsened after the Houthis, the Iran-backed militia group, gained power in Yemen, and thousands of people have tried to escape into the Kingdom from the improvised nation.

On the rugged mountain terrain of the Saudi-Yemen border, criminals are smuggled into the Kingdom, more often than not finding their way into major cities and using various ploys to grab people’s attention and money. 

The spirit of giving is prevalent during Ramadan, when Muslims undertake acts of kindness. Giving money is the simplest form of charity but many beggars have been found to be part of an organized gang, mobilizing children, infants and old men and women to do their work.

HIGHLIGHT

Illegal immigrants also poses a security challenge. Some illegal immigrants have been implicated in criminal activities such as smuggling weapons and narcotics, and have committed crimes such as theft, espionage or subversive acts that threaten national security. This is a global issue that many countries have been struggling with. 

All-too familiar scenes — of disheveled-looking young men in torn dirty clothes, barefoot children standing under the scorching sun and walking on unbearably hot pavements, babies passed out in their prams with heavily covered women pushing them between cars or idly waiting at traffic stops without concern for the harm exhaust smoke can do to their health — seem to double during Ramadan.

Such sights may grab people’s attention, prompting them to give a few riyals intended to satisfy the beggars and encourage them to get off the streets — only to find them returned to the same spot the next day.

“These scenes are all too familiar,” one resident, Afaf Al-Ghamdi, said. “I pass by the same streets going to and from work, and everyday I see the same woman with different babies just walking between the cars. It’s heartbreaking to see, but we’re heeding the warnings and we need to stop encouraging them. Organized crime is real and it’s no excuse nowadays not to perform an act of charity safely.”

Though the act itself might seem harmless to some, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has warned citizens to be wary and recommends using the proper channels to give to charity, with many applications and platforms now available to do so.

As Saudi Arabia continues to make positive improvements toward its digital transformation goals by increasing the efficiency of e-services, the General Authority for Zakat and Tax’s (GAZT) application, “Zakaty,” had made giving easier and safer. In its fourth year, GAZT has made Zakaty available through a website and a call center. More than SR40 million ($10.6 million) was collected last Ramadan, which social security beneficiaries registered at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development benefited from.

Illegal immigrants also poses a security challenge. Some illegal immigrants have been implicated in criminal activities such as smuggling weapons and narcotics, and have committed crimes such as theft, espionage or subversive acts that threaten national security. This is a global issue that many countries have been struggling with. 

Last month, Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib said that smuggling was a form of organized crime run by networks that could have grave security, health, economic and social implications for society.

The penalty for smugglers, or those involved in facilitating the illegal entry or movement of illegal migrants, will be a sentence of no less than 15 years in jail, a fine of up to SR1 million ($266,000) and confiscation of vehicles or property intended to transport or house them.