World first AI Artathon announces participating teams in Saudi Arabia

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The 20 teams that qualified for Saudi Arabia’s AI Artathon were announced on Saturday at the King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center. (Supplied)
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The 20 teams that qualified for Saudi Arabia’s AI Artathon were announced on Saturday at the King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center. (Supplied)
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Updated 25 January 2020

World first AI Artathon announces participating teams in Saudi Arabia

  • Applicants spent three days taking part in workshops and training sessions to enhance their skills, before forming teams to create concepts for AI art
  • The top teams will join a two-month AI training program in order to create their final artworks

RIYADH: The 20 teams that qualified for Saudi Arabia’s AI Artathon were announced on Saturday at the King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center.
The world’s first AI Artathon officially opened on Thursday in Riyadh, with 300 experts in data science and AI, graphic designers and artists competing to create visual arts using artificial intelligence.
The gathering received over 2,000 applications from 50 countries.
Applicants spent three days taking part in workshops and training sessions to enhance their skills, before forming teams to create concepts for AI art. The top teams will join a two-month AI training program in order to create their final artworks.
The top ten pieces will be selected for an exhibition at the Global AI Summit, held in Riyadh on March 30 and 31, and the top three teams will split a prize fund of SAR500,000 ($133,000)
Prince Badr Bin Abdullah Bin Farhan, minister of culture, said the ministry was pleased to be supporting the initiative of the Artathon, and highlighted its importance for Saudi Arabia.
“Since its inception, the Ministry of Culture has been invested in nurturing the talent and creativity of people in Saudi Arabia, and the study of the connection between art and AI will give us ample opportunity to do so,” he said in his address.
Abdullah bin Sharaf Al-Ghamdi, president of the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA), said that the Artathon is intended to highlight the creative potential of AI and its positive benefits to humanity.
“The AI Artathon is an important part of the Global AI Summit. We are very pleased to see all of the competitors coming together, from Saudi Arabia and around the world, to collaborate and create,” said Al-Ghamdi.
“The Global AI Summit aims to bring together global government and business leaders, AI experts, academics and investors so that Saudi Arabia can lead discussions on how we can shape the future of AI together,” he added.
Esraa Madi, a data science instructor in the Artathon, said that she was happy to see the new opportunities for AI unfolding in the Kingdom.
“This is going to open so many doors in two previously unrelated fields: Art and AI. A lot of the artists came in not knowing how we as data scientists and AI experts could help them in their art, so it was interesting even though it was challenging,” she told Arab News.
Mohammed Dayal Al-Shamrani, a participating artist, told Arab News that he was happy to see more opportunities for local artists to showcase their talents back home instead of having to leave the country to get involved in art.
“I used to travel to Dubai a lot, because of the opportunities for artists that I couldn’t get back home. I even did the research for my doctorate in Dubai. But since these new opportunities have arisen here in Saudi, I haven’t needed to go back at all,” he said.
The Artathon program is sponsored by the Public Investment Fund and is supported by strategic partners the Ministry of Culture and the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones.


Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

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Updated 12 July 2020

Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

  • Due to pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine

RIYADH: Chinese video platform TikTok is under fire once again, as rumors of the app being a tool used by the Chinese government to spy on users resurface online.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is a video-sharing site similar to the now-defunct Vine, where users share short clips of themselves which can be altered using AI technology.
Lip-syncing along with a track, using filters, and adding special effects give users the chance to create short clips that can be shared and downloaded in several social media platforms.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users downloaded TikTok to watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine. The app has also gained significant popularity in the Middle East with influencers such as Saudi model Roz, UAE-based content creators Khalid and Salama, and Saudi top TikToker iimeeto, who recently celebrated reaching four million followers on the platform.
Rania Mohammed, a fourth year medical student at Dar AlUloom University in Riyadh, said that TikTok was “the only thing keeping her sane” as she struggled with the pressures of school and quarantine.
“As a med school student, my attention span and free time are both severely limited,” she told Arab News. “Taking a 15 minute break to watch silly TikToks has helped me keep motivated. The specific brand of humor on that app is the fastest way to make me laugh.”
Mai Alhumood, a government employee, said that she downloaded the app while she was bored and became “quickly addicted” to the platform’s fun short videos.
“People are so creative on TikTok, and the challenges that keep going viral are so interesting,” she told Arab News.
However, the app has long-suffered from accusations of spying and gathering users’ private information on behalf of the Chinese government, leading to both temporary and permanent bans in countries around the world.
Recently, it was reported that Amazon requested that employees remove the app from their smartphones in an email over “security risks.” The company later retracted its directive.
Saudi cybersecurity expert Abdullah Al-Jaber believed that concerns over the security of TikTok’s collected data stemmed from the app’s country of origin and its rules and regulations.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a ‘threat to the sovereignty and security of the country’ following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.

• Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding ‘illegal content’ such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.

• Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. He said that banning the app would be ‘punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.’

“TikTok collects data in a very similar way to US applications,” he told Arab News. “However the main concern is that the US has regulations and compliance that must be met when collecting customer data, such as GDPR data privacy regulation. In the case of TikTok, we don’t know as much about how the data is being used or stored because we don’t know their regulations.”
Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a “threat to the sovereignty and security of the country” following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.
Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding “illegal content” such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.
Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. In an interview with Gray Television, Trump said that banning the app would be “punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.”
“Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful,” he said.
While Saudi Arabia has yet to announce a ban of any kind of TikTok, local users and followers are trying to practice caution while using the app anyway.
Alhumood considered making videos on the platform, but dismissed the idea and only uses it to follow other people’s videos.
“I have ideas for it, sure, but I’d rather not take the risk. I don’t even have a username or a registered account, and that’s one of the better things about TikTok. I only have the app, but I can still watch all the videos without giving them my private information.”
Mohammed also said that she had no interest in creating videos herself, though she did have a registered account in order to comment on videos and keep track of her favorites.
However Al-Jaber said that, in his opinion, registering an account on TikTok did not necessarily pose more of a risk than using other social media.
“If you use Facebook or Twitter, it’s not much different than using TikTok,” he said.