Facebook’s Giphy deal draws UK competition watchdog’s attention

Facebook’s Giphy deal draws UK competition watchdog’s attention
Facebook bought Giphy, a popular website for making and sharing animated images, or GIFs, in May to integrate it with its rapidly growing photo-sharing app, Instagram. (File/AFP)
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Updated 12 June 2020

Facebook’s Giphy deal draws UK competition watchdog’s attention

Facebook’s Giphy deal draws UK competition watchdog’s attention
  • Facebook bought Giphy, a popular website for making and sharing animated images, or GIFs, in May to integrate it with its rapidly growing photo-sharing app, Instagram
  • According to Facebook, 50% of Giphy’s traffic comes from Facebook’s apps, with half of that coming from Instagram

LONDON: Facebook’s acquisition of popular GIF website Giphy is being scrutinized by Britain’s competition watchdog for possibly reducing competition in the United Kingdom.
The parent of messaging app WhatsApp bought Giphy, a popular website for making and sharing animated images, or GIFs, in May to integrate it with its rapidly growing photo-sharing app, Instagram.
While a formal probe is yet to begin, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) earlier this week served Facebook with an initial enforcement order and on Friday began the first stage of an investigation, inviting comments on the transaction from any interested party.
Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Giphy sought to quell some of the concerns in a statement. “Everyone will continue to have the same access to GIPHY. We look forward to demonstrating how this partnership is a win for our users, partners, and content creators,” it said.
According to Facebook, 50% of Giphy’s traffic comes from Facebook’s apps, with half of that coming from Instagram.
The deal, pegged at around $400 million by news website Axios, came through as Facebook was already under scrutiny over antitrust concerns, and the company is now taking fire for its decision to not challenge inflammatory posts by US President Donald Trump.
Some advocacy groups had already raised concerns when the deal was announced and Facebook had then said that Giphy’s integrations with other social platforms like Twitter, Snapchat and ByteDance’s TikTok would not change.
The American Economic Liberties Project, an antitrust advocacy group, had said that Facebook and Google are monopolizing online communications through such deals, while urging the Federal Trade Commission to probe the deal.
Alphabet Inc’s Google had acquired GIF platform Tenor in 2018 and integrated it into its image search function.


Arab News, FII Institute partner to shed light on the future of regional media industry

Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J, Abbas (L) and FII Institute CEO Richard Attias.
Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J, Abbas (L) and FII Institute CEO Richard Attias.
Updated 19 April 2021

Arab News, FII Institute partner to shed light on the future of regional media industry

Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J, Abbas (L) and FII Institute CEO Richard Attias.
  • Cooperation to produce research, panel discussions and industry level, government white papers

Riyadh: Arab News — the Middle East’s leading English language daily — is partnering with the Future Investment Initiative Institute to shed light on the future of the regional media industry. 

The year-long cooperation — marking the newspaper’s 46th anniversary — will see the co-production of a series of expert panel discussions, surveys, white papers and recommendations of how the industry can survive the digital disruption and create sustainable models for the future. 

“The past two decades saw traditional media dramatically impacted by rapidly developing technology. The rise of tech giants, social media platforms has created an uneven competitive environment and curtailed many traditional media outlets ability to have a sustainable growth model, be it through advertising or subscription models,” said Faisal J. Abbas, Editor-in-Chief of Arab News. 

“While technology has had a positive impact on many new businesses and individual content creators/influencers; it has meant that established, credible media organizations are left with no means to sustain the costly process of producing, editing and disseminating credible news. It has also made it easier for other entities to illegally benefit from, infringe on these organizations copy rights.” He added. 

The partnership between Arab News and FII Institute will see the larger impact of technology on economic models of media businesses discussed. It will also cover topics such as the negative impact of social media platforms on matters such as the rise of fake news, increase in hate speech and loss of personal privacy. 

“As part of the FII institute commitment to empowering the world’s brightest ideas to materialize and scale sustainability, we are delighted to partner with Arab News on this deep dive into the media industry, and find solutions to help the industry evolve and resolve its digital transformation issues,” said Richard Attias, CEO of the FII Institute.

“As such, we invite all key players — be it traditional media, tech companies, social media platforms, advertising agencies, government officials — to take part in the discussions as per the year-long agenda which will be announced soon. By including the relevant stake holders, we are sure our Institute and Arab News can help bringing points of view closer, identify exact issues and hopefully come up with creative solutions to all of them,” added FII Institute’s Richard Attias. 

The first deliverable of this cooperation, will be a white paper produced by the Arab News Research and Studies Unit (RSU) based in London. The paper, to be released in May, will be published under the title of “The Myth of Digital Transformation” and will seek to explain in detail the technical problems that face the media industry from a commercial perspective and what impact do they have on various levels. 

The paper will be available for distribution via Arab News and the FII Institute websites, and a panel discussion will be held following its release to shed light on its findings. 


Ramadan series ‘Al-Tawoos’ to be investigated in Egypt over use of ‘inappropriate’ language

Ramadan series ‘Al-Tawoos’ to be investigated in Egypt over use of ‘inappropriate’ language
Updated 19 April 2021

Ramadan series ‘Al-Tawoos’ to be investigated in Egypt over use of ‘inappropriate’ language

Ramadan series ‘Al-Tawoos’ to be investigated in Egypt over use of ‘inappropriate’ language
  • Egyptian TV soap “Al-Tawoos” has become the first Ramadan series to be investigated by Egypt’s media regulatory body
  • The council said it had received “numerous complaints” about “the use of language that does not agree with the council codes”

CAIRO: Egyptian TV soap “Al-Tawoos” has become the first Ramadan series to be investigated by Egypt’s media regulatory body for its alleged use “of language offensive to family values.” 

The Supreme Media Council issued a statement Sunday saying it had launched an urgent investigation with those who produced the show and the television channel airing it, Al Nahar TV. 

The council said it had received “numerous complaints” about “the use of language that does not agree with the council codes.”

The regulatory body added that while it respects freedom of expression, it insisted that Egyptian family values must remain “a priority for purposeful art” in order “to preserve the identity and cohesion of families and move away from any image that distorts it.”  

“Al-Tawoos” – Arabic for The Peacock -- is set in a social context dominated by mystery and suspense, and stars Syrian actor Gamal Soliman, Egyptian veteran Samiha Ayoub, Sahar Al Sayegh, Khaled Alish, among others.  

Soliman plays the role of a veteran lawyer Kamal El Ostoul who specializes in compensation cases, but circumstances force him to investigate a rape case that turns his life upside down.

When the promo of the series first came out, it started trending among social media users who said they saw a huge resemblance between the show and the infamous Fairmont rape crime.  

The notorious case involved a group of men accused of drugging a girl and raping her as she lay unconscious at a private after party at the five-star Fairmont Nile City hotel. 

The crime has become a case of public opinion and has received international criticism. Some preparators remain outside Egypt and some others who were under arrest were released on bail. 

Though in the TV series has changed the occupation and socio-economic class of the survivor, yet the show still appears strongly inspired by the hotel gang rape case.


NEOM CEO talks AI health care, flying taxis with WIRED Middle East

Nasr — who will be appearing on a magazine cover for the first time — shared new details about the use of AI-powered health-care systems and flying taxis. (Supplied/WIRED)
Nasr — who will be appearing on a magazine cover for the first time — shared new details about the use of AI-powered health-care systems and flying taxis. (Supplied/WIRED)
Updated 18 April 2021

NEOM CEO talks AI health care, flying taxis with WIRED Middle East

Nasr — who will be appearing on a magazine cover for the first time — shared new details about the use of AI-powered health-care systems and flying taxis. (Supplied/WIRED)
  • Saudi Arabia’s Chief Executive of NEOM Nadhmi Al-Nasr has shared new details about the ambitious mega city project
  • The cover issue, which will be released this week, features interviews with key executives from NEOM

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Chief Executive of NEOM Nadhmi Al-Nasr has shared new details about the ambitious mega city project changing the landscape of tackling environmental challenges in urban planning.

“I dream of 200 or 300 years from today, when there is a NEOM model being developed worldwide that has helped reduce emissions, reduce the environmental challenge,” Nasr told WIRED Middle East in a rare media interview.

Nasr — who will be appearing on a magazine cover for the first time — shared new details about the use of AI-powered health-care systems and flying taxis, a press release shared with Arab News said.

The cover issue, which will be released this week, features interviews with key executives from NEOM who paint a picture of how urban planners are attempting to create a city that is expected to span centuries with the use of new technologies.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman first announced the project NEOM at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh 2017. The crown prince said that the 170-km coastal strip in the northwest of the country would be free of cars and streets, with zero carbon emissions.

The smart city will be powered entirely by clean energy, a major step in Saudi Arabia’s shift away from an oil-based economy.

The first phase of the $500 million project is scheduled for completion by 2025.


Veteran producer, cameraman in Iraq dies of COVID-19

Veteran producer, cameraman in Iraq dies of COVID-19
This 2003 photo shows Khodeir Majid at the AP office at the Palestine hotel. (AP)
Updated 17 April 2021

Veteran producer, cameraman in Iraq dies of COVID-19

Veteran producer, cameraman in Iraq dies of COVID-19
  • He went on to cover the breakdown in security and the sectarian bloodbath that prevailed for years, as well as the US occupation, the rise of the Al-Qaeda terror network, and finally, the war against the Daesh group

BEIRUT: Khodeir Majid, who covered Iraq’s numerous conflicts as a video producer and cameraman for The Associated Press for over 17 years, has died, relatives said Friday. He was 64.
The cause of death was complications due to the coronavirus. Majid had been hospitalized for about three weeks, but his condition rapidly deteriorated in the last few days and he died Friday morning.
Majid joined the AP in Baghdad in March 2004, a year after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. He went on to cover the breakdown in security and the sectarian bloodbath that prevailed for years, as well as the US occupation, the rise of the Al-Qaeda terror network, and finally, the war against the Daesh group.
Killings, kidnappings and bombings were an everyday occurrence, sometimes with multiple bombings on the same day.
Through it all, Majid, known as Abu Amjad to family and friends, was a beloved colleague and a calming presence in the Baghdad bureau. He was a dedicated journalist and a good friend to many, working quietly and behind the scenes to make sure accreditation and paperwork were secured, badges were collected, interviews were nailed and stories were covered. “Abu Amjad was a rare source of joy during difficult times working in Baghdad for the past 17 years. He will be remembered as a kind and dedicated professional,” said Ahmed Sami, the AP’s senior producer in Baghdad.

BACKGROUND

Majid was buried in Iraq’s Shiite city of Najaf Friday. He is survived by his wife and five children.

Samya Kullab, the AP’s correspondent in Baghdad, recalled Majid’s dedication and commitment toward getting evasive ministers and officials to grant the AP interviews. “He chased the Transport Ministry for months recently. ‘He keeps saying next week but don’t worry, I will not stop calling’ — such was his dedication to getting the story.”
“I never forget,” he would say.
Kullab and other Baghdad colleagues also recalled his kindness.
“His wife would make these date biscuits he shared with me on one occasion. I mentioned casually that I liked them,” Kullab said. “The next day I had date biscuits to last a month.”
Majid was buried in Iraq’s Shiite city of Najaf Friday. He is survived by his wife and five children.


Acclaimed Turkish actor sued for ‘insulting president’ with Twitter posts

Acclaimed Turkish actor sued for ‘insulting president’ with Twitter posts
Genco Erkal. (Photo/Twitter)
Updated 18 April 2021

Acclaimed Turkish actor sued for ‘insulting president’ with Twitter posts

Acclaimed Turkish actor sued for ‘insulting president’ with Twitter posts
  • Genco Erkal, one of the most popular stage actors and theatre directors in Turkey, has claimed in speeches that playwrights were censoring their plays to receive financial support from local municipalities

ISTANBUL: Leading Turkish actor Genco Erkal, 83, announced on Saturday that he is facing an investigation for exercising his freedom of expression.

Erkal, an outspoken government critic, is being investigated for “insulting the Turkish president” and will give his testimony on Monday.

His social media postings on Twitter since 2016 are being examined, Erkal said, without giving further details.

“Insulting the president” has become a widespread excuse for launching investigations against prominent popular figures, with several top actors and musicians being investigated despite their age.

Charged with “insulting the president publicly” over critical remarks made during a TV program, veteran actors Mujdat Gezen and Metin Akpinar attended three hearings this year but were acquitted.

On the program, 79-year-old Akpinar blamed the social polarization in the country on the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and said that “maybe leaders could be hung from their feet or poisoned in cellars” if Turkey’s democratization process couldn’t be achieved peacefully.

During the same broadcast, 77-year-old veteran actor Gezen said, “[Erdogan] tells the people ‘know your place.’ Look Recep Tayyip Erdogan, you cannot test our patriotism. Know your place.”

Genco Erkal, one of the most popular stage actors and theatre directors in Turkey, has claimed in speeches that playwrights were censoring their plays to receive financial support from local municipalities and said that his award-winning theater, Dostlar (Friends) Theatre, had not received any support for years because of the support he gave to the anti-government Gezi protests in 2013.

Dostlar Theatre, founded in 1969, is known for staging plays that are critical of the government’s political line and that try to raise social awareness on specific topics.

In his Twitter posts, Erkal criticized the wrongdoings of the government and highlighted social problems.

Even at his age, Erkal still organizes countrywide tours each year to reach a wider audience in every province of the country and has staged a critical play — “On Living” — about the late Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet.

Erkal recites one of Hikmet’s poems when on tour: “Living is no joke, you must live with great seriousness like a squirrel, for example, I mean expecting nothing except and beyond living, I mean living must be your whole occupation.”

An administrative court in Ankara ruled in 2014 that the refusal of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to offer funding to Erkal’s theater was “against the principles of justice and equality.”

Turkey ranked 154th out of 180 countries in the 2020 Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index.

Between 2014 and 2019, Turkish authorities launched 128,872 investigations into insults against Erdogan, and Turkish courts sentenced 9,556 of those charged with insulting the president, including politicians, journalists, actors, elder people and even children.