Following ‘electronic social media intelligently is essential’

Following ‘electronic social media intelligently is essential’
Roger Harrison
Updated 04 December 2019

Following ‘electronic social media intelligently is essential’

Following ‘electronic social media intelligently is essential’
  • Arab News caught up with Harrison at the inaugural Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh

RIYADH: Roger Harrison was a senior reporter at Arab News for the best part of 20 years. Now “keeping the keyboard hot” from his home in Mallorca, he has not retired, but is busy plotting writing projects.
Arab News caught up with Harrison at the inaugural Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh where he was a keynote speaker on Tuesday.
Reflecting on his time with the paper, he observed that the environment was a bit “wild west”.
“I had a car accident and wrote to Arab news — the ‘Green Truth’ was a national institution, and I thought, why not? The letter described the curious and inventive driving habits I had encountered and their result,” he said.
The then editor-in-chief, Khaled Al-Maeena, called him and said the letter was too long to publish. “I thought, well the man had the courtesy to call at least. Then he said something that was to change my life — ‘Can we print it as an article please?’”
It appeared and Al-Maeena called again telling Harrison that the piece had caused what he described an enormous reaction. It was the beginning of a long career and the foundations of a firm friendship.
“I had no experience,” said Harrison. “I learned my trade on the hoof and seemed to please people with the output. I just wonder if that could happen now in the age of the focus on qualifications rather than tangential ability. Mr Khaled took a calculated risk and it seemed to pay off.”
Over the years Harrison covered stories from interviewing the great and the good, travel and even some eccentric but carefully researched pieces that sailed quite close to the wind.
“All that the editor-in-chief was concerned with was: Can you prove what you allege?” If the answer was yes, then it was usually printed.
Being very much a local newspaper, people brought problems to find a solution. On one occasion a large camp of expatriate laborers was found to be living in abject poverty — little or no food having received no wages for months.
“We did some digging, got the facts, wrote the story and printed it,” said Harrison. “A furious phone call resulted demanding my dismissal. I produced the file of documents and evidence, and Al-Maeena politely but firmly defused the caller.”
Harrison recalls that the high point of his time at Arab News was chasing three gliders around the Kingdom with a camera, resulting in a bestselling book.
“I had to make a choice — a fortnight with Boeing in Arizona at a ‘hands on’ experience with Apache gunship helicopters or traveling with Prince Sultan bin Salman and his co pilots around the Kingdom. I chose the latter; it was a seriously good call.”
One of the least glamorous moments was being caught in a dumpster late at night looking for dead cats. “Someone told us that a veterinarian was offering decent burials of pets for good money. But, there was a whisper that this was not so. So, a colleague and I checked. We found a couple of dead cats in the dumpster.”
Then the police turned up — an interesting moment or two ensued as they had to decide what a crazy Englishman was up to holding a bag of dead felines. “Fortunately my colleague had a golden tongue and explained us out of it.”
As to the future of the printed newspaper? Harrison has a very clear view on the importance of critical thinking and fact checking. He observed that printed papers say what you might have read on social media yesterday.
“I think the desire for immediate gratification and information that drives news on social media is a problem that will not go away,” he noted.
“The difference is that the constraints put on printed media to be accurate, truthful and right do not apply to the Internet as much if at all. Therein lies the problem; what is true, what is fact?”
So how to get round that challenge?
Harrison believes that early education in critical thinking and the need to read electronic social media intelligently is essential. “The Internet is our new world; it’s where we live. If we don’t adapt to our new environment, we will suffer hugely, and might not even realize it until too late,” he said.
Still fizzing with ideas, Harrison has some major projects in line involving what he refers to as “my second home”. The “big one” as he calls it involves traveling to all the Kingdom’s official and proposed UNESCO world heritage sites.
“Outside the Kingdom, many people have a one-dimensional view of what the place is like. The fact is that it has an incredible cultural history stretching back twenty millennia and more — it is, culturally, enormously rich. It is time that story was told,” he said.
“In truth,” Harrison concluded, “I never really worked for Arab News. I just followed my passion, had some incredible experiences, learned much, had enormous fun and someone paid me!”


Google adds end-to-end encryption messaging to its Android app

The feature will only be active provided that both users have it turned on. (File/AFP)
The feature will only be active provided that both users have it turned on. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 June 2021

Google adds end-to-end encryption messaging to its Android app

The feature will only be active provided that both users have it turned on. (File/AFP)
  • Google adds the end-to-end encryption feature for messaging to its Android app.
  • Users will be able to know the feature is turned on because the send icon will have a small padlock on it.

LONDON: Google announced on Wednesday a series of new features to be added to its Android phone system, most notably end-to-end encryption for messaging.

In contrast to Apple’s iMessage system which had the end-to-end encryption for years, Google only developed the feature in November, and it is now being rolled-out to devices with access to rich communication services (RCS).

The feature will only be active provided that both users have it turned on, are connected to Wi-Fi or mobile data, and have RCS enabled under chat settings. Otherwise, the advanced chat features on Android will revert back onto regular short message service (SMS) messaging.

Users will be able to know the feature is turned on because the send icon will have a small padlock on it.

In a statement, Google said: “No matter who you’re messaging with, the information you share is personal. End-to-end encryption in Messages helps keep your conversations more secure while sending.”

Other new Android features include enabling users to star messages in the Google app, to find them more quickly in future, contextual emoji suggestions, Google Assistant updates, and Android Auto updates for cars.

Google’s earthquake-alerts feature, initially introduced in New Zealand and Greece, was also being extended to Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.


Indian police target Twitter with a criminal complaint

Twitter claimed the new IT rules, which came into effect on May 26, were a threat to freedom of expression. (File/AFP)
Twitter claimed the new IT rules, which came into effect on May 26, were a threat to freedom of expression. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 June 2021

Indian police target Twitter with a criminal complaint

Twitter claimed the new IT rules, which came into effect on May 26, were a threat to freedom of expression. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter was targeted with a criminal complaint by Indian police amid growing tensions with Indian government regarding IT rules.
  • Twitter said it is making every effort to comply with the new regulations, including appointing a new interim chief compliance officer in India. 

LONDON: Twitter has been targeted with a criminal complaint by Indian police after a video was shared on the platform of an elderly Muslim man being beaten up.

Police in Uttar Pradesh province in India on Tuesday filed a case accusing Twitter and several other social media platforms of intentionally provoking unrest between members of different communities and religions. 

The video posted to Twitter shows an elderly Muslim man being beaten by a group of young men and having his beard cut off. In another video, the victim recounts the incident and says that he was forced to chant a Hindu slogan during the incident.

Three suspects are in custody. 

In response, India’s Minister for Communications, Electronics and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is also minister of justice, said that “what happened in UP (Uttar Pradesh) was illustrative of Twitter’s arbitrariness in fighting fake news.”

“While Twitter has been over-enthusiastic about its fact-checking mechanism, the failure to act in multiple cases like UP is perplexing and indicates its inconsistency in fighting misinformation,” he added.

Prasad also published a series of tweets highlighting Twitter’s failure to comply with India’s newly introduced IT laws.  

 

 

In response, Twitter said on Tuesday that it is making every effort to comply with the new regulations, including appointing a new interim chief compliance officer in India. 

The social media giant is already on shaky ground in India. In recent weeks, tensions have grown between the Indian government and Twitter over new IT rules giving authorities more powers to regulate online content. 

Twitter claimed the new IT rules, which came into effect on May 26, were a threat to freedom of expression.

However, the government warned that failure to comply might result in social media platforms losing their status as content intermediaries. 

The requirements will make social media companies, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, more accountable to legal requests from the Indian government and police in regards to removing posts and content deemed unlawful by the authorities.   


Carlos Ghosn on the dark side of Japan, life in Lebanon and his upcoming documentary

Carlos Ghosn on the dark side of Japan, life in Lebanon and his upcoming documentary
Updated 18 June 2021

Carlos Ghosn on the dark side of Japan, life in Lebanon and his upcoming documentary

Carlos Ghosn on the dark side of Japan, life in Lebanon and his upcoming documentary
  • The former Nissan chairman was arrested in Tokyo in 2018 over allegations of false accounting and financial misconduct
  • In Dec. 2019, Ghosn pulled off a complex and dramatic escape that could have come straight from a Hollywood movie

LONDON: Carlos Ghosn, the auto-executive-turned-fugitive who plotted a brazen escape from Osaka in December 2019 following his arrest by Japanese authorities on charges of financial misconduct, has denounced what he calls Japan’s darker side — its legal system.

Ever since the French-Lebanese-Brazilian former chairman of Japanese car giant Nissan was arrested at Tokyo International Airport on Nov. 19, 2018, before launching a daring escape a year later hidden inside a luggage box on a private jet, the world has watched Ghosn’s capers with rapt attention.

Speaking exclusively to Arab News, the 67-year-old Ghosn, now on Interpol’s most-wanted list, again asserted his innocence and accused a powerful business cabal of being in league with Japanese prosecutors in discrediting him.

“When you go to Japan, you have the impression you are in a mature democracy where your rights are going to be respected, where you’re going to be dealt with with fairness. There is nothing more wrong than that,” Ghosn told Arab News.

“Prosecutors win in 99.4 percent of the cases, which means as long as they turn their eyes on you and for any reason they decide to pursue you on any matter, you have zero chance of getting out.”

Ghosn has denied accusations of underreporting his compensation and misusing company funds to support a lavish lifestyle. The former auto executive insists that he was the victim of a corporate coup linked to a decline in Nissan’s financial performance as the Japanese automaker resisted losing autonomy to its French partner Renault.

That is why Ghosn says he had to jump his $14 million bail and flee rather than face charges in what he claims to be an unfair trial.

“Whenever you have a coalition between executives in a company, the Tokyo prosecutor, and Hideki Makihara, the minister of industry in Japan, there is no more place for justice. It’s over. It’s a killer coalition where you have zero chance of prevailing.”

Ghosn likened his treatment to the 2011 Olympus scandal and others at Toshiba, Takata and Fukushima, where he claims the same hidden hands have wrangled their favored results.

Mainstream media has picked up on only a fraction of the murky world underpinning the whole debacle, says Ghosn, who intends to set the record straight in a new MBC documentary, “The Last Flight.”

“When you read the articles that are being published, and will continue to be published, they are focusing on one specific aspect, one specific individual, one specific event,” Ghosn said.

“I think this documentary, from what I’ve seen, is really giving somebody who is not aware or has little awareness about what was going on a sense about how it started, who the main actors are, and what forces are at play.”

 

 

Among those interviewed are officials in Japan’s justice ministry, a Japanese prosecutor, Ghosn’s Japanese lawyer, France’s former minister of finance, and Ghosn’s former boss.

Despite Ghosn and his wife Carole’s involvement in the feature’s production, he insists the film will offer a balanced portrayal of events.

“The interest into a documentary like this is to try to present the facts in a very objective way, giving the opportunity for the different parties to express themselves. So instead of the public listening to one voice which is biased about what happened, they have the opportunity to listen to the different voices and to the different positions.”

The trials of Ghosn’s former colleague Greg Kelly and the two Americans who helped him escape — father and son Michael and Peter Taylor — were continuing at the time of this interview.

On Monday, both Taylors confessed to aiding and abetting the auto executive’s escape from Japan to Lebanon via Turkey in December 2019 in exchange for $1.3 million. Ghosn believes the documentary will have no impact on the outcome of the Kelly and Taylor trials.

Nevertheless, he said that the film will show he is the victim of a character assassination orchestrated by the Japanese government, the French media and his former employers in response to his role in the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance — an attack he was unable to challenge in the public domain.

“Between November 2018 and December 2019 when I flew out, I was not authorized to talk. I couldn’t talk to the press. Every time I tried to talk to the press, I paid a very high price for it,” Ghosn said.

“So for 14 months, we had a litany of information about a character assassination, the source of which was Tokyo, with the collusion of the Japanese government, the Tokyo prosecutor’s office and Nissan from one side, relayed unfortunately by French public officials, some Renault accomplices, and the media in France, around the angle that they didn’t support this guy because there was something fishy about what he has done in the companies.”

Ghosn has already tried to tell his side of the story in two books: the first, published in French and Arabic, and soon to be translated to English and Japanese, setting out to counter the allegations made against him, while the second, co-written by his wife, describes the “human side” of the story, “how we have been, from her side and my side, dealing with this ordeal during these 14 months.”

Following his escape from Japan, Ghosn headed to his native Lebanon, where his wife was waiting for him. He has been there ever since.

With his days as an executive in the automotive industry over, Ghosn has occupied himself with pro bono work with the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, where he has developed a business program. He is also involved with several local startups.

Dubbed “Mr. Fix It” for essentially saving Nissan from bankruptcy, Ghosn strongly denies he has designs on a career in politics to help rescue Lebanon from economic ruin.

“I’m dedicating my time to re-establishing my reputation, defending my rights, fighting the different legal battles that have been launched against me or that are launching against the company that treated me so badly,” he said.

Lebanon faces an unprecedented crisis on multiple fronts. Its currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value on the black market and the country is struggling with shortages of gas and electricity.

Following 10 months of deadlock, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is still trying to form a cabinet amid seemingly endless squabbling with Michel Aoun, the country’s president, and his son-in-law, the US-sanctioned former foreign minister Gebran Bassil.

On top of all this, the country is reeling from the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast, which leveled a whole city district and left more than 200 dead and thousands more wounded. Ghosn nevertheless believes Lebanon can find workable solutions if it implements proper reforms.

“I think there is a perception that this problem is so complicated that there is no obvious solution. This is wrong. There is no problem that man has created that man cannot solve.

“This requires choices. This also means that whoever the Lebanese public decides to back makes choices, that they implement reforms, and that these reforms are successful.

“This is not the only country in the world that has this kind of economic dysfunction.”

Twitter: @Tarek_AliAhmad


Spotify launches Greenroom, a Clubhouse competitor

Spotify has the advantage of already being an audio platform through its focus on music. (AFP)
Spotify has the advantage of already being an audio platform through its focus on music. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2021

Spotify launches Greenroom, a Clubhouse competitor

Spotify has the advantage of already being an audio platform through its focus on music. (AFP)
  • Spotify launches Greenroom, a live discussion app similar to Clubhouse.
  • Other tech giants have also jumped into the live audio sector with Twitter launching Spaces in December and Facebook hosting Live Audio Rooms.

NEW YORK: Spotify on Wednesday launched a live audio app called Greenroom, the Swedish online music streaming giant’s answer to the popular platform Clubhouse.
Greenroom allows users to join live discussions or to host their own.
Spotify launched Greenroom after acquiring Betty Labs, the company behind the popular sports-focused audio platform Locker Room.
Along with podcasts, social audio has taken off over the past year with the San Francisco-based Clubhouse leading the way.
Since December, Clubhouse has been downloaded over 18 million times, according to the site AppMagic.
Other tech giants have also jumped into the live audio sector with Twitter launching Spaces in December and Facebook hosting Live Audio Rooms.
Questions remain, however, over the ability of the various platforms to monetize their content.
They will also have to compete with Discord, which has been offering live audio since 2015 and has more than 140 million users although it has been more focused on video game players.
Spotify has the advantage of already being an audio platform through its focus on music and, more recently, podcasts.


Facebook AI software able to dig up origins of deepfake images

Deepfakes are photos, videos or audio clips altered using artificial intelligence to appear authentic. (File/AFP)
Deepfakes are photos, videos or audio clips altered using artificial intelligence to appear authentic. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 June 2021

Facebook AI software able to dig up origins of deepfake images

Deepfakes are photos, videos or audio clips altered using artificial intelligence to appear authentic. (File/AFP)
  • New artificial intelligence software will identify deepfake images and locate their origin, reveleaed Facebook.
  • Facebook’s new software runs deepfakes through a network to search for imperfections left during the manufacturing process.

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook scientists on Wednesday said they developed artificial intelligence software to not only identify “deepfake” images but to figure out where they came from.
Deepfakes are photos, videos or audio clips altered using artificial intelligence to appear authentic, which experts have warned can mislead or be completely false.
Facebook research scientists Tal Hassner and Xi Yin said their team worked with Michigan State University to create software that reverse engineers deepfake images to figure out how they were made and where they originated.
“Our method will facilitate deepfake detection and tracing in real-world settings, where the deepfake image itself is often the only information detectors have to work with,” the scientists said in a blog post.
“This work will give researchers and practitioners tools to better investigate incidents of coordinated disinformation using deepfakes, as well as open up new directions for future research,” they added.
Facebook’s new software runs deepfakes through a network to search for imperfections left during the manufacturing process, which the scientists say alter an image’s digital “fingerprint.”
“In digital photography, fingerprints are used to identify the digital camera used to produce an image,” the scientists said.
“Similar to device fingerprints, image fingerprints are unique patterns left on images... that can equally be used to identify the generative model that the image came from.”
“Our research pushes the boundaries of understanding in deepfake detection,” they said.
Microsoft late last year unveiled software that can help spot deepfake photos or videos, adding to an arsenal of programs designed to fight the hard-to-detect images ahead of the US presidential election.
The company’s Video Authenticator software analyzes an image or each frame of a video, looking for evidence of manipulation that could be invisible to the naked eye.