Muslim politician Lord Sheikh wins UK press lawsuit 

Muslim politician Lord Sheikh wins UK press lawsuit 
Baron Mohamed Iltaf Sheikh is a Conservative member of the House of Lords. (Courtesy LordSheikh.com)
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Updated 30 July 2020

Muslim politician Lord Sheikh wins UK press lawsuit 

Muslim politician Lord Sheikh wins UK press lawsuit 
  • Lord Sheikh: I have consistently sought to promote interracial and interfaith understanding, tolerance and respect
  • Lord Sheikh: To find myself accused by a newspaper of the very conduct which I have always opposed was profoundly hurtful

LONDON: A senior British Muslim politician has won his case against a major UK media company over an online article published in August 2018, accusing him of appearing at a “hate conference” in Tunisia.

Baron Mohamed Iltaf Sheikh, a Conservative member of the House of Lords, successfully sued Associated Newspapers Ltd. (ANL) for libel after it ran an article on its website MailOnline under the headline: “EXCLUSIVE: Top Tory peer’s appearance at Corbyn’s ‘hate conference’ in Tunisia comes after YEARS of rubbing shoulders with Islamists, hate preachers and Holocaust deniers.”

The article was published under the byline of MailOnline’s Associate Global Editor Jake Wallis Simons, and referred to a 2014 conference in Tunis, the International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression, where it was alleged Jeremy Corbyn MP, the former leader of the Labour party, participated in a wreath-laying ceremony for deceased members of a Palestinian terrorist group, the Black September Organization.

On Thursday, Lord Sheikh’s solicitor, Callum Galbraith, told the High Court in London that the Tory life peer, had been invited to speak at the conference held shortly after hostilities had broken out between Israel and Hamas in the 2014 Gaza War, which Israel called Operation protective Edge, and which resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 people. 

In his speech, Lord Sheikh had advocated, consistent with UK government policy, that to achieve a lasting peace, a two-state solution should provide security for the state of Israel and respect for the rights of the Palestinian people. Lord Sheikh was neither involved in, nor aware of, the wreath-laying ceremony until 2018.

Galbraith informed the court that ANL accepted “there was and is no truth in the allegations advanced in the article” and that it was “happy to set the record straight and apologize” to Lord Sheikh.

After the hearing, Lord Sheikh, who became a life peer in 2006, said: “I have consistently sought to promote interracial and interfaith understanding, tolerance and respect. I am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism, and I have always spoken out against anti-semitism. 

“To find myself accused by a newspaper of the very conduct which I have always opposed was profoundly hurtful. I am delighted to have been able finally to clear my name from these shocking and unfounded allegations, and thank my legal team … for their constant support in what, for me, has been a very difficult and distressing time.”


Elaph partners up with FT to produce Arabic-language ‘How To Spend It’ magazine

HTSI Arabic aims to launch in September 2021 and will be published in London. (Supplied)
HTSI Arabic aims to launch in September 2021 and will be published in London. (Supplied)
Updated 16 June 2021

Elaph partners up with FT to produce Arabic-language ‘How To Spend It’ magazine

HTSI Arabic aims to launch in September 2021 and will be published in London. (Supplied)
  • This will mark the first time that HTSI is available in the Arabic language as the FT branches out to a new audience across the Middle East and North Africa
  • HTSI is an award-winning luxury magazine from FT Weekend that presents themed issues on fashion, interiors, art, travel and lifestyle

LONDON: London-based daily Arabic online newspaper Elaph has signed an agreement on Wednesday with the Financial Times (FT) to produce the latter’s luxury magazine, How To Spend It (HTSI), in Arabic.

HTSI is an award-winning luxury magazine from FT Weekend that presents themed issues on fashion, interiors, art, travel and lifestyle.

This will mark the first time that HTSI is available in the Arabic language as the FT branches out to a new audience across the Middle East and North Africa.

“This is a big step. They have content in other languages like German and Italian, but this is the first time the FT starts something in Arabic,” Elaph founder and Editor in Chief Othman Al-Omair told Arab News.

HTSI Arabic will be distributed in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt and Morocco. It will also be available in an online edition.

FT CEO John Ridding said in a statement: “As a global brand with global reach, we are always excited to bring the FT’s quality journalism to new regions. This association with Elaph allows us to bring one of our flagship publications to a very substantial audience.”

Jo Ellison, editor of HTSI, said: “This launch aligns with the FT’s wider strategy of growing its brand reach through enhanced reader engagement. The Arabic-speaking world represents an important readership for [HTSI] and the combination of the FT’s HTSI editorial with original content from Elaph represents a bespoke offering for those readers who seek out unique lifestyle features and themes.”

The Arabic-language version aims to bring top content related to these themes, geared toward Arab audiences. The result will be a mix of translated content from HTSI as well as exclusive original content.

“We will cooperate with them to deliver content that is integrated with Arab thoughts,” Al-Omair said.

The Elaph founder added that reporters will also work in countries such as Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt “to cover our interests and theirs.”

HTSI Arabic aims to launch in September 2021 and will be published in London. Its print edition will be produced by Les Imprimeries Le Matin in Morocco, a division of Group Maroc Soir newspaper.


India slams Twitter for not complying with new IT rules

Growing tensions between India’s government and US big tech have angered firms that have spent millions of dollars to build hubs in the country. (File/AFP)
Growing tensions between India’s government and US big tech have angered firms that have spent millions of dollars to build hubs in the country. (File/AFP)
Updated 16 June 2021

India slams Twitter for not complying with new IT rules

Growing tensions between India’s government and US big tech have angered firms that have spent millions of dollars to build hubs in the country. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter deliberately defied the country's new IT rules, said India's technology minister.
  • The rules are aimed at regulating content on social media firms such as Facebook, WhatsApp messenger and Twitter,

NEW DELHI: India’s technology minister said on Tuesday that Twitter Inc. had deliberately defied and failed to comply with the country’s new IT rules, which became effective in late May.

The new rules or the so-called Intermediary Guidelines, announced in February, are aimed at regulating content on social media firms such as Facebook, its WhatsApp messenger and Twitter, making them more accountable to legal requests for swift removal of posts and sharing details on the originators of messages.

The rules also require big social media companies to set up grievance redressal mechanisms and appoint new executives to coordinate with law enforcement.

India’s technology ministry wrote to Twitter on June 5, warning the company of “unintended consequences” if it did not obey the rules, Reuters previously reported.

Prasad did not directly say on Tuesday whether Twitter had lost intermediary protections, but a senior government official told Reuters that Twitter may no longer be eligible to seek liability exemptions as an intermediary or the host of user content in India due to its failure to comply with new IT rules.

“There are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbor provision,” Prasad tweeted. “However, the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May.”

Twitter, Prasad added, had chosen the “path of deliberate defiance when it comes to the Intermediary Guidelines.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment though it said on Monday it was keeping India’s technology ministry apprised of the steps it was taking.

“An interim Chief Compliance Officer has been retained and details will be shared with the Ministry directly soon,” it said. “Twitter continues to make every effort to comply with the new guidelines.

New Delhi-based digital advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation said it was only up to courts, and not the government, to decide whether companies such as Twitter remained intermediaries for alleged non-compliance such as appointment of executives.

Growing tensions between India’s government and US big tech have riled firms that have spent millions of dollars to build hubs in their largest growth market, to the extent some are rethinking expansion plans, people close to the matter have told Reuters previously.


France’s Macron calls for European tech company push by 2030

The latest plan to help European start-ups includes ramping up funding scheme. (File/AFP)
The latest plan to help European start-ups includes ramping up funding scheme. (File/AFP)
Updated 16 June 2021

France’s Macron calls for European tech company push by 2030

The latest plan to help European start-ups includes ramping up funding scheme. (File/AFP)
  • Macron outlines a strategy to create technology giants in France worth 100 billion euros by 2030.
  • France is leading a Europe-wide initiative to improve funding for start-ups.

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday outlined an ambitious push for Europe to create 10 technology giants worth 100 billion euros ($121.26 billion) each in valuation by 2030, in a bid to rival US companies that dominate the sector.

The goals are part of a Europe-wide initiative France is trying to lead to improve funding for start-ups, especially in their later stages of growth, to propel them into a bigger league where they can attract more investors and top staff.

Macron has pushed to make France into a “start-up nation” since coming to power in 2017, rendering the country more attractive to foreign investors through labor reforms for example.

French efforts to create “unicorns,” or companies worth at least $1 billion, are still overshadowed by US equivalents, however. Macron said last year he expected France to have 25 “unicorns” by 2025.

The latest plan to help European start-ups includes ramping up funding schemes, through EU-wide finances and by encouraging more venture capital funds to invest, according to a manifesto signed by some 200 businesses, which includes start-up association and other companies.

They also recommended modernizing regulations in Europe as well as creating competitive stock option schemes as part of initiatives to scale up European technology firms.


Anti-Arab speech surges on social media during Gaza clashes, survey shows

Anti-Arab speech surges on social media during Gaza clashes, survey shows
Updated 15 June 2021

Anti-Arab speech surges on social media during Gaza clashes, survey shows

Anti-Arab speech surges on social media during Gaza clashes, survey shows
  • Between May 6 and May 21, when clashes with Israel were most severe, hate speech against Palestinians rose dramatically in comparison with the same period in 2020
  • The same period also witnessed widespread censorship of Palestinian posts on social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

LONDON: Violent speech directed against Arabs and Palestinians on social media increased 15-fold during the recent hostilities in Gaza, a report has found. 

Between May 6 and May 21 when clashes with Israel were most severe, hate speech against Palestinians rose dramatically in comparison with the same period in 2020, according to the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement, or 7amleh.

The center recorded 1.09 million posts on social media platforms, with 16.8 percent containing racism, slurs or incitement against Arabs. 

Among tweets shared widely, one reads: “A good Arab is a dead Arab,” while another reads: “Death to all Arabs.”

Most violent speech (58 percent) took place on Twitter, compared with only 8 percent on Facebook and 1 percent on Instagram.

The same period also witnessed widespread censorship of Palestinian posts on social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

7amleh documented 500 cases of digital rights violations of Palestinians, which included content being taken down and accounts being removed.

Tech giants have been the targets of strong criticism from users for censoring Palestinian content.

Facebook was the target of a coordinated social media campaign launched by pro-Palestine activists in an attempt to push down the app’s ranking on Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play.

While Instagram changed the way it displays content after claims of blocking Palestine-related content, other social media giants have been reluctant to take similar steps. 

Instagram said that the “stories” feature was built according to an algorithm that favors original content as opposed to existing and reshared posts. As a result, any Palestine-related content that was reshared from other accounts was pushed lower in the Instagram feed. 

Social media has been crucial for people in the Middle East to document and spread information on destruction of homes, forced displacement and violence. 


UK backlash prompts WhatsApp privacy campaign

The campaign comes as the messaging platform faces pressure from other encrypted messaging services. (File/AFP)
The campaign comes as the messaging platform faces pressure from other encrypted messaging services. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 June 2021

UK backlash prompts WhatsApp privacy campaign

The campaign comes as the messaging platform faces pressure from other encrypted messaging services. (File/AFP)
  • WhatsApp announced on Monday the launch of a privacy-centered advertisement campaign in the UK aimed at combatting pressure from governments.
  • The campaign is intended to promote benefits of its end-to-end encryption feature.

LONDON: WhatsApp announced on Monday the launch of a privacy-centered advertisement campaign in the UK aimed at combatting pressure from governments to change the way the platform encrypts messages.

The campaign follows customer criticism against changes to its terms and conditions, announced in early 2021, and is intended to promote benefits of its end-to-end encryption feature.

WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption, meaning that messages can only be read on the device which sends one and the device which receives it. The platform itself, and its parent company Facebook, cannot view or intercept them. 

In January, WhatsApp announced changes to its terms and conditions which sparked concern from thousands of users who wrongly thought the messaging app would start sharing encrypted messages with Facebook.

The changes, however, were mainly related to enabling companies to accept payments via WhatsApp. 

At the time, WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart took personal responsibility for the confusion the announcement had created.

Since then, however, the end-to-end encryption feature received criticism from the UK government, with Home Secretary Priti Patel describing the use of end-to-end encryption as “not acceptable.”

Patel argued that this feature puts children at risk and offers a hiding place for child-abusers and other criminals.

The campaign comes as the messaging platform faces pressure from other encrypted messaging services, with many users switching away from WhatsApp in the wake of the policy update confusion.