Google delays return to office and eyes ‘flexible work week’

Google delays return to office and eyes ‘flexible work week’
Google was one of the first companies to ask its employees to work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 15 December 2020

Google delays return to office and eyes ‘flexible work week’

Google delays return to office and eyes ‘flexible work week’
  • As the company looks to the post-pandemic future it is exploring new ways of working, including ‘flexible work weeks’

Google’s parent company Alphabet on Monday confirmed that it is delaying the return of workers to its offices until at least September 2021, and is testing the use of “flexible work weeks” in the longer term.

In an email on Sunday to Google staff, Alphabet chief executive Sundar Pichai said the company is exploring a schedule that combines “collaboration days” in the office with days spent working from home.

According to the New York Times, Pichai wrote: “We are testing a hypothesis that a flexible work model will lead to greater productivity, collaboration and well-being.” He noted that no company the size of Alphabet has created a “fully hybrid workforce model.”

Google confirmed on Monday that the e-mail is genuine. The move comes as the US begins a mass vaccination drive that authorities hope will turn the tide in the country worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak, where the national death toll that on Monday surpassed 300,000.

Google and other Silicon Valley firms shifted to remote working early in the pandemic, relying on the internet tools they create to allow employees to do their jobs. Google originally expected that staff would begin to return to their offices in early 2021, but the date has moved as the pandemic has developed in the US.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has said he expects the transition away from the office to remote working will be a lasting change at the social network, and that it will look to hire employees to work from home, wherever they are located.

 


Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online

Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online
Updated 13 sec ago

Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online

Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online
  • Move comes after the social media platform came under scrutiny

DUBAI: Instagram has announced new additions to its safety features for teens, which will be rolled out next year.

The move comes after the social media platform came under scrutiny following research that was revealed by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on how the platform affects teens.

The leaked research documents showed that 32 percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse; 13.5 percent of teen girls said Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17 percent of teen girls said Instagram makes eating disorders worse.

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post: “Every day I see the positive impact that Instagram has for young people everywhere. I’m proud that our platform is a place where teens can spend time with the people they care about, explore their interests, and explore who they are.

“I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram.”

The new features seek to implement tighter controls on what is recommended to teens, barring people from tagging or mentioning teens who don’t follow them, nudging teens towards different topics if they’ve been dwelling on one topic for a long time, and tightening controls on search, explore, hashtags and suggested accounts recommendations. Teens will also be able to bulk delete content they have posted.

The new features aim to help parents to be more involved in their teens’ Instagram experience, starting March 2022, Mosseri said. Instagram has created an educational hub for parents and guardians, which will include additional resources, such as product tutorials and tips from experts, to help them discuss social media use with their teens.

In addition, Instagram is piloting a tool that will give teens the option to notify their parents if they report someone, thereby providing their parents the opportunity to talk about it with them.

Mosseri announced the launch of “Take a Break,” a new feature for teens, in US, UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It is not being launched in the Middle East currently but will be introduced later as part of a phased rollout.

If someone has been scrolling for a certain amount of time, Instagram will ask them to “take a break” from the platform and suggest that they set reminders to take more breaks in the future. Instagram said early test results seem to be promising with 90 percent of teens keeping the reminders on once they set them.

“As always, I’m grateful to the experts and researchers who lend us their expertise in critical areas like child development, teen mental health and online safety, and I continue to welcome productive collaboration with lawmakers and policymakers on our shared goal of creating an online world that both benefits and protects many generations to come,” Mosseri said.


Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar violence

Rohingya Muslim children refugees, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait squashed against each other to receive food handouts at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh on Oct. 21, 2017. (AP)
Rohingya Muslim children refugees, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait squashed against each other to receive food handouts at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh on Oct. 21, 2017. (AP)
Updated 07 December 2021

Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar violence

Rohingya Muslim children refugees, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait squashed against each other to receive food handouts at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh on Oct. 21, 2017. (AP)
  • Facebook has said it is protected from liability over content posted by users by a US Internet law known as Section 230, which holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties

CALIFORNIA: Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing Meta Platforms Inc, formerly known as Facebook, for $150 billion over allegations that the social media company did not take action against anti-Rohingya hate speech that contributed to violence.
A US class-action complaint, filed in California on Monday by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, argues that the company’s failures to police content and its platform’s design contributed to real-world violence faced by the Rohingya community. In a coordinated action, British lawyers also submitted a letter of notice to Facebook’s London office.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment about the lawsuit. The company has said it was “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar and has said it has since taken steps to crack down on platform abuses in the region, including banning the military from Facebook and Instagram after the Feb. 1 coup.
Facebook has said it is protected from liability over content posted by users by a US Internet law known as Section 230, which holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties. The complaint says it seeks to apply Burmese law to the claims if Section 230 is raised as a defense.
Although US courts can apply foreign law to cases where the alleged harms and activity by companies took place in other countries, two legal experts interviewed by Reuters said they did not know of a successful precedent for foreign law being invoked in lawsuits against social media companies where Section 230 protections could apply.
Anupam Chander, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said that invoking Burmese law wasn’t “inappropriate.” But he predicted that “It’s unlikely to be successful,” saying that “It would be odd for Congress to have foreclosed actions under US law but permitted them to proceed under foreign law.”
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 after a military crackdown that refugees said included mass killings and rape. Rights groups documented killings of civilians and burning of villages.
Myanmar authorities say they were battling an insurgency and deny carrying out systematic atrocities.
In 2018, UN human rights investigators said the use of Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence. A Reuters investigation https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/myanmar-facebook-hate that year, cited in the US complaint, found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments and images attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims on Facebook.
The International Criminal Court has opened a case into the accusations of crimes in the region. In September, a US federal judge ordered Facebook to release records of accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media giant had shut down.
The new class-action lawsuit references claims by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who leaked a cache https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-whistleblower-says-transparency-needed-fix-social-media-ills-2021-12-03 of internal documents this year, that the company does not police abusive content in countries where such speech is likely to cause the most harm.
The complaint also cites recent media reports, including a Reuters report https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/information-combat-inside-fight-myanmars-soul-2021-11-01 last month, that Myanmar’s military was using fake social media accounts to engage in what is widely referred to in the military as “information combat.”


Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE

Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE
Updated 06 December 2021

Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE

Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE
  • Located in Al Quoz Creative Zone, the hub will support social media content creators

DUBAI: Dubai-based production and public relations company ThinkSmart has launched a creative content hub called the ThinkSmart Hub in Dubai’s Al Quoz Creative Zone.

Featuring a first-of-its-kind infrastructure, the hub aims to support and boost content creation for social media users on platforms including Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, YouTube, and podcast platforms.

The launch of the hub comes after Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum announced that residents of the zone renovating their properties would be exempt from rent for up to two years.

“We endeavor to provide a thriving space that optimizes the creative bent of content creators,” said Lina Nihad Husri, CEO, ThinkSmart Hub.

The hub provides “novel ideas and support” to anyone in the social media space — from brands to individual creators — and houses “diverse themes and decorations under one roof to suit content needs,” she explained. The decor will change every quarter based on occasions and festivals to ensure that creators have enough diversity in their shoots.

Commenting on the location of the hub, Husri said: “We chose to be at the Al Quoz Creative Zone following its announcement and launch in April 2021 by Sheikh Hamdan…because it is an incubator for everyone in the field of content and art creation, and we want to be an integral part of this ecosystem and will offer complete support to all content creators and artists.”


Shahid VIP Mobile strikes exclusive partnership with Orange Morocco and Tunisia

Shahid VIP Mobile strikes exclusive partnership with Orange Morocco and Tunisia
Updated 06 December 2021

Shahid VIP Mobile strikes exclusive partnership with Orange Morocco and Tunisia

Shahid VIP Mobile strikes exclusive partnership with Orange Morocco and Tunisia
  • Shahid VIP Mobile will offer the best of the platform’s shows and movies

DUBAI: Shahid VIP, the premium subscription-based service of Shahid, is launching via a new mobile-only package in Morocco and Tunisia.

The service will be available through telecom operator Orange for approximately $2 in both countries. Users who sign up before the end of December will also receive a free two-month introductory offer with Orange Telecom.

Shahid VIP Mobile, which can be accessed either via a single smartphone or tablet device, will offer the best of the platform’s shows and movies, including the new hit Moroccan TV series “Hayat,” as well “Salmat Abou El Banat,” “Masha’aer,” “Stalk,” and “Inside.”

“Given that we are more connected than ever on mobile, it is only natural for the way we consume content to change and evolve,” said Natasha Matos-Hemingway, group chief commercial officer, video on demand, at MBC Group.

“We have found that many individuals and households now prefer to watch their favorite shows on their smartphone instead of the television, for example, which is why we are teaming up with key partners to provide more ways of accessing Shahid VIP,” she added.

The high smartphone penetration and data usage in the region have resulted in more and more viewers streaming content on their mobile devices. Subsequently, streaming services are optimizing the mobile experience be it through app development or partnerships with telecom partners.

Matos-Hemingway said: “There’s no doubt that there are more partnerships of this kind to come.”


Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer

Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer
Updated 06 December 2021

Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer

Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer
  • New episodes on Arabic food network will go live on Dec. 20

DUBAI: Middle Eastern food and lifestyle TV channel Fatafeat is to launch its first-ever podcast series in an exclusive collaboration with global audio streaming service Deezer.

Through the partnership deal, Fatafeat — which is part of Discovery Inc. — and Deezer aim to provide a high-quality food-related podcast in the region celebrating the best of Arabic cuisine.

Mazen Abdallah, director of international brand partnerships, Deezer. (Supplied)

Mazen Abdallah, Deezer’s director of international brand partnerships, said: “Our promise to our users has always been offering the largest and most diverse library in the region. We want to make sure our listeners can find all interesting content on Deezer, from music to self-help, history, business, or cooking.”

The podcast series, which will be available for streaming across the Middle East and North Africa region, will see new episodes dropping weekly featuring recipes, talk shows, songs, and comedy news.

Layla Tamim, head of ad sales and brand partnerships MENA, Discovery Inc. (Supplied)

Layla Tamim, head of ad sales and brand partnerships for the MENA region at Discovery Inc., said: “We are driven to help spur people’s passions. With food being such an integral part of Middle East life, we are extremely excited to announce our latest partnership between Fatafeat and Deezer.”

The first episode will go live on Dec. 20.