Twitter launches crowd-sourced fact-checking project

Twitter launches crowd-sourced fact-checking project
San Francisco-based Twitter said it is trying to ensure that Birdwatch has a diverse range of perspectives and participants. (Screenshot)
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Updated 26 January 2021

Twitter launches crowd-sourced fact-checking project

Twitter launches crowd-sourced fact-checking project
  • Twitter said it wants both experts and non-experts to write Birdwatch notes
  • Birdwatch will not replace other labels and fact checks Twitter currently uses

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter is enlisting its users to help combat misinformation on its service by flagging and notating misleading and false tweets.
The pilot program unveiled Monday, called Birdwatch, allows a preselected group of users — for now, only in the US — who sign up through Twitter. Those who want to sign up must have a US-based phone carrier, verified email and phone number, and no recent Twitter rule violations.
Twitter said it wants both experts and non-experts to write Birdwatch notes. It cited Wikipedia as a site that thrives with non-expert contributions.
“In concept testing, we’ve seen non-experts write concise, helpful and easy-to-understand notes, often citing valuable expert sources,” the company wrote in a blog post.
Twitter, along with other social media companies, has been grappling how best to combat misinformation on its service. Despite tightened rules and enforcement, falsehoods about the US presidential election and the coronavirus continue to spread.
But if the effort is to work, Twitter will have to anticipate misuse and bad actors trying to game the system to their advantage.
To help weed out unhelpful or troll-created notes, for instance, Twitter plans to attach a “helpfulness score” to each one and will label helpful ones “currently rated helpful.”
The company said Birdwatch will not replace other labels and fact checks Twitter currently uses — primarily for election and COVID-19-related misinformation and misleading posts.
The program will start with 1,000 users and eventually expand beyond the US
San Francisco-based Twitter said it is trying to ensure that Birdwatch has a diverse range of perspectives and participants — an ongoing problem at Wikipedia, where many of the contributors and editors are white men.
“If we have more applicants than pilot slots, we will randomly admit accounts, prioritizing accounts that tend to follow and engage with different audiences and content than those of existing participants,” Twitter wrote.


Archbishop who taught pope to tweet says Iraq visit offers ‘consolation, hope’

Archbishop who taught pope to tweet says Iraq visit offers ‘consolation, hope’
Updated 02 March 2021

Archbishop who taught pope to tweet says Iraq visit offers ‘consolation, hope’

Archbishop who taught pope to tweet says Iraq visit offers ‘consolation, hope’
  • He ‘intends to reach the hearts of all Iraqis,’ ex-head of Vatican’s social media tells Arab News

ROME: The visit of Pope Francis to Iraq this week will send a message of “consolation and hope” to those who have suffered so much in the country, according to the archbishop who revolutionized the Vatican’s communications.

Claudio Maria Celli, who was president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from 2007 to 2016, worked closely with Pope Francis after helping convert Catholic leaders to social media to deliver their message to followers around the world.

As a result, the pope’s historic Iraq visit will be relayed through the various social media accounts, including @Pontifex, the account of Pope Francis.

“With this trip, the pope intends to reach the hearts of all Iraqis. He doesn’t want to talk just to the Christians who live in that country and who’ve suffered so much from war and persecution by Daesh,” said Celli. “He wants to bring his closeness … to the people, no matter what their faith.”

The 80-year-old Celli spoke of “hope of reconstruction for a people who have the right to rebuild peace thanks to the collaboration and respect between the religious and national identities that are present in Iraq. The pope believes very much in dialogue between religions.”

Pope Francis “will certainly bring a message of solidarity to the Christians who live in that country. He wants to be close to them as a brother and as a father, so that they feel that the universal Church shares the hardship lived by a community that has suffered too much and for too long from violence and fundamentalism,” said Celli.

BACKGROUND

• Pope Francis ‘will certainly bring a message of solidarity to the Christians who live in Iraq,’ says archbishop Claudio Maria Celli.

• In 2012, Celli helped Pope Benedict join Twitter as he transformed the Vatican’s communications into the social media era.

“He wants to help rebuild trust in a tomorrow that must be different from the past, a better tomorrow made of peace, prosperity, love and common good for all in a country that deserves to be able to look forward.” All this is part of a “great dimension of interreligious dialogue,” said Celli.

In 2012, Celli helped Pope Benedict join Twitter as he transformed the Vatican's communications to keep up with the social media era. He also established a YouTube channel for the pope.

He once stated that Catholic media “should not become instruments of a religious or cultural fundamentalism.”

Pope Francis’s memorable tweets

With 18.8 million followers the @Pontifex twitter account belonging to Pope Francis has become a powerful tool for him to communicate with both the Catholic faithful and the wider world.

Here are some occasions when his account has been used to send messages of reassurance, hope and concern to issues related to the Middl East.

Aug. 5, 2020

The pope issues condolences and a broader message to Lebanon and its politicians after the devastating blast in Beirut Port.

 

 

Nov. 20, 2020

The pope sent a joint tweet along with the Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb reaffirming their commitment to the Document on Human Fraternity signed a year earlier.

 

 

Feb. 3, 2019

Ahead of the first visit by a pope to the UAE, Pope Francis tweeted that he was visiting the Emirates “as a brother, in order to write a page of dialogue together.”

 

 

Feb. 12, 2021

The pope sent a powerful message to coincide withe the UN day against the use of child soldiers

 

 

Feb. 8, 2021

Pope Francis has long campaigned against human trafficking and slavery.

 

 


Diversity and Netflix dominate Golden Globes

Diversity and Netflix dominate Golden Globes
Updated 01 March 2021

Diversity and Netflix dominate Golden Globes

Diversity and Netflix dominate Golden Globes
  • ‘Nomadland’ wins best drama movie at mainly virtual Hollywood ceremony

LOS ANGELES: Drama “Nomadland” and satire “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” won movie honors at the Golden Globes on Sunday in a mostly virtual bicoastal ceremony that was marked by impassioned calls for more diversity and the dominance of Netflix.

“Nomadland,” a moving drama about van dwellers in recession-hit America from Searchlight Pictures, also took the best director prize for Chinese-born Chloe Zhao. It made Zhao only the second woman to win at the Globes in that category, and the first woman director of Asian descent to win.

“For everyone who has gone through this difficult and beautiful journey at some point in their lives, this is for you,” said Zhao.

“We don’t say goodbye, we say see you down the road,” she said, quoting a line from the movie.

The two wins for “Nomadland” increased the profile of the film ahead of nominations in March for the Oscars.

Sacha Baron Cohen, the creator of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” from Amazon Studios was named best comedy movie actor, while singer Andra Day was a surprise winner for her lead role in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”

“Donald Trump is contesting the result!” Baron Cohen joked about the win for the “Borat” sequel, which was a satire on the America of the former US president.

Netflix’s period drama “Mank,” about “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, had gone into Sunday’s show with a leading six nods but ended the night empty-handed.

Nevertheless, the streaming service was the biggest winner on Sunday, with four wins in the movie field and six for television, including best TV drama series “The Crown” and limited series chess saga “The Queen’s Gambit.”

The usual chummy gathering of A-listers at a gala dinner in Beverly Hills, California, was replaced by webcams in the homes of celebrities that were either dressed up or, like “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudeikis, in casual garb.

Hosted by Tina Fey in New York and Amy Poehler in Beverly Hills, the small physical audiences were made up of masked frontline workers.

Peter Morgan, creator of “The Crown” said he missed being together. “I’m just sorry I am sitting here in my tragic little office and not surrounded by the people who make this show such a pleasure,” Morgan said, appearing by video.

However, Jodie Foster, a best supporting actress winner for the Guantanamo prison legal drama “The Mauritanian,” told reporters backstage that she felt it was one of the best Golden Globe shows ever. “It didn’t feel like it was filled with so much artifice,” said Foster.

Emotional high points included a posthumous best actor award for Chadwick Boseman, who died at age 43 last August from an undisclosed battle with cancer. “He would say something beautiful,” said his widow Simone Ledward Boseman, as she fought back tears. “I don’t have his words.”

British actors Daniel Kaluuya and John Boyega were among other Black winners chosen by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which has been lambasted in recent days for having no Black people among its 87 members.

“Soul,” the first Pixar movie to have a Black character in the lead, was named best animated movie and won best score.

The HFPA was the target of jokes and comments throughout the night. “We all know awards shows are stupid,” said Fey. “Even in stupid things, inclusivity is important and there are no Black members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).”

Members of the HFPA appeared briefly on Sunday’s show and pledged to do better.

Jane Fonda, 83, used her lifetime achievement acceptance speech to make the case for elevating all voices in Hollywood, saying that stories “really can change people.”


Vatican correspondent hails pope’s ‘historic journey’ to Iraq

Vatican correspondent hails pope’s ‘historic journey’ to Iraq
Updated 01 March 2021

Vatican correspondent hails pope’s ‘historic journey’ to Iraq

Vatican correspondent hails pope’s ‘historic journey’ to Iraq
  • Visit ‘could change the history of interreligious dialogue,’ Manuela Tulli tells Arab News
  • This will be her sixth trip embedded with Pope Francis

ROME: International media are following the pope’s visit to Iraq with enormous interest. Seventy-five journalists will travel aboard the special flight that will take the leader of the Catholic Church from Rome to Baghdad — almost double the number normally allowed on a papal flight. In addition, hundreds of reporters and camera crews will follow his visit on the ground.

“This is certainly a historic journey. Francis is the first pope to go to Iraq, and he’ll be the first head of the Christian Church to enter the house of Abraham in Ur, where the history of Christianity began,” Manuela Tulli, Vatican correspondent for ANSA — Italy’s main news agency — told Arab News.

She has been covering Pope Francis since he was elected in 2013. Though this will be her first visit to Iraq, it will be her sixth trip as an embedded reporter following him.

This journey “could change the history of interreligious dialogue,” and “may represent a historic turning point for Iraq,” she said.

“The pope will go to that country in the middle of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, of course, there’s the problem of security in Iraq.”

Pope Francis has expressed an interest in visiting the country and the Christians who live there since he was elected.

“The pope wants to go. He wants to send a message of peace to a land tormented by war and divisions,” Tulli said.

“He wants to go and say ‘basta’ (‘enough’) of war and violence. He isn’t afraid of the pandemic or any security issue.”

She said of the 75 journalists embedded with him, and the nearly 50 members of his entourage: “We’re on the same plane as the pope, and the Vatican has chosen the hotels where we’ll stay. We won’t be able to go around on our own. Also because the program is so tight, there will be no time to do anything else. We’ll have to stick to him around the clock.”

The pope is due to arrive in Baghdad on March 5, and will be welcomed by Iraq’s prime minister. He will then visit the country’s president at the presidential palace, where he will meet with local authorities, representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps.

He will also meet with bishops and priests at the Syriac Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad.

On March 6, he will fly to the city of Najaf and meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani. The pope will return to Baghdad that day and celebrate Holy Mass at the Chaldean Cathedral of St. Joseph.

On March 7 he will visit Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and meet with religious and civil authorities of the autonomous region. He will also visit the city of Qaraqosh. His return to Rome is scheduled for March from Baghdad.

“I expect Christians in Iraq will be particularly impressed to see the pope pronounce the Angelus, the Sunday prayer, from the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, which Daesh used as a shooting range for its militiamen,” said Tulli.

“I’m sure that Francis will say a word of hope for those who’ve lived through terrible moments due to Daesh,” she added.

“The inter-religious prayer at Ur will be exciting. That moment will be like the closing of a circle for history.”


Facebook Launches #LoveLocal program for Lebanon

Facebook Launches #LoveLocal program for Lebanon
Updated 01 March 2021

Facebook Launches #LoveLocal program for Lebanon

Facebook Launches #LoveLocal program for Lebanon
  • A donation of $300,000 to LIFE, a Lebanese non-profit diaspora organization that connects Lebanese professionals around the world
  • The Centre will work together with Facebook to ensure that the #LoveLocal Lebanon SMB Program is accessible for SMBs in Lebanon

USA: Facebook is extending its #LoveLocal initiative, launched in September 2020, to Lebanon to help small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the country hit by the pandemic and Beirut blast.

The program was launched to help SMBs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region pivot to digital and grow by highlighting several resources made available for their economic recovery.

The #LoveLocal Lebanon SMB Program has been developed in recognition of the fact that SMBs in Lebanon have been among the hardest hit by the economic situation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the wake of the devastating explosion in Beirut last August.

“The multi-faceted effort will provide SMBs with financial support and capability building programs aimed at enabling their economic recovery as they navigate these very challenging times,” Ramez Shehadi, Managing Director of Facebook MENA, told Arab News.

Facebook partnered with Strategy&, a global strategy consulting business, to gain a better understanding of Lebanese SMBs’ needs in order to tailor the program specifically for Lebanon.

Ramez Shehadi, Managing Director for Middle East & North Africa, Facebook. (Supplied)

The program features include:

A donation of $300,000 to LIFE, a Lebanese non-profit diaspora organization that connects Lebanese professionals around the world, which will allocate the donation to SMBs in Lebanon. 3QA, a Lebanon-based third sector quality assurance organization, will offer support during the vetting and proposal stages.

A donation of $300,000 in Facebook ad credits to SMBs in the country.

The launch of “Ecommerce Start – Lebanon,” a boot camp program developed to support 100 SMBs as they look to build their e-commerce presence and become cross-border businesses. Additionally, selected SMBs will be eligible to receive an ad credit coupon. The boot camp is launched in partnership with Beirut-based e-commerce platform Ecomz and WPP’s global media agency Mindshare.

A series of free webinars to SMBs, in partnership with Seedstars, guiding them through the basics of digital marketing and skills to boost their business on Facebook and Facebook-owned platforms.

A collaboration with the International Chamber of Commerce-United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia Centre of Entrepreneurship (CoE) in Beirut to support outreach to the SMBs in Lebanon and the overall #LoveLocal Lebanon SMB Program.

The Centre will work together with Facebook to ensure that the #LoveLocal Lebanon SMB Program is accessible for SMBs in Lebanon.

“Businesses in Lebanon are particularly in need of support as they charge ahead through many layers of obstacles resulting from the Beirut blast months earlier and the many other compounding socio-economic complexities,” said Shehadi.


US accused of double standards over Khashoggi, urged to deploy same sanctions on killers of other Arab journalists

People gather to commemorate prominent Lebanese activist and intellectual Luqman Slim at place de la Sorbonne in the French capital Paris, on February 11, 2021. (AFP)
People gather to commemorate prominent Lebanese activist and intellectual Luqman Slim at place de la Sorbonne in the French capital Paris, on February 11, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 28 February 2021

US accused of double standards over Khashoggi, urged to deploy same sanctions on killers of other Arab journalists

People gather to commemorate prominent Lebanese activist and intellectual Luqman Slim at place de la Sorbonne in the French capital Paris, on February 11, 2021. (AFP)
  • Critics are asking why the US administration is not deploying the same standards to the killers of other journalists, and those involved with similar violence across the region
  • As the US continues to appease Iran in order to bring it back to the nuclear negotiation table, its proxies could get away with silencing even more journalists and critics

LONDON: After US President Joe Biden’s administration took measures to sanction Saudi officials that took part in 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, several Middle East experts have accused the US of deploying double standards.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, as well as several US State Department officials, have repeatedly said that Washington will no longer tolerate the targeting of journalists and dissidents. The case of Jamal Khashoggi has been at the center of these statements.

However, critics are asking why the US administration is not deploying the same standards to the killers of other journalists, and those involved with similar violence across the region.

“We should ask ourselves what is the purpose behind the publication of the report? It is very obvious that the revival of the issue after two years aims at putting pressure on Saudi Arabia,” US-Arab affairs expert Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib told Arab News.

Another commentator, Hussain Abdul-Hussain, tweeted: “Now that we have finished from the Khashoggi affair, can the US give any attention to the assassination of Hisham Al-Hashemi and Lokman Slim? Or is there no lobby behind them to demand the disclosure of their killers?”

Indeed, while this month’s killing of Lebanese publisher and vocal Hezbollah critic Luqman Slim was condemned by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, that was as far as it went — and his statement even shied away from naming the known culprits, Hezbollah.

Another, Iraqi researcher, Hisham al-Hashimi, was shot dead outside his Baghdad home last year in a drive-by long-suspected to have been set up by Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah.

“We also should examine the timing. It is while the US is seeking to go back to the nuclear deal. This could be a tool to pressure Saudi Arabia to accept the decisions of the US regarding Iran, and to coerce the Kingdom into making concessions,” Khatib said, adding: “They don’t want to disturb the flow of communications with Iran.”

She said: “Even though the US is committed to human rights, how adamant and forceful they are in taking a position is taken in a political context.”

While more critics of Iran, its proxies and allies in the region are shot dead by “unknown groups,” much of what the US clearly focuses on is what benefits itself politically. President Biden’s pursuit to label Saudi Arabia as a pariah, as he previously argued for, comes at the cost of allowing Iran and its armed groups in the region to literally get away with murder.

Lebanese journalists Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueini were vocal in their political criticism, and both were assassinated for their vocal critiques by perpetrators that have yet to serve justice.

Journalists killed with no consequences

 
Samir Kassir

Assassinated: 2 June 2005

 
Gebran Tueini

Assassinated: 12 December 2005
 

 
Atwar Bahjat

Assassinated: 22 February 2006
 

 
Hisham El-Hashemi

Assassinated: 6 July 2020

 
Luqman Slim

Assassinated: 4 February 2021

 

Arab countries and groups have expressed their support for Saudi Arabia’s rejection of the report, while stressing the pivotal role that the Kingdom plays in consolidating security in the region.

Political reporter and analyst Ray Hanania told Arab News: “The killing of Jamal Khashoggi is a human tragedy, but the US and the media are determined to play a hypocritical game of political exploitation to balance their foreign agenda.”

He added: “The International Federation of Journalists reports that in 2020, 66 journalists were killed, and yet it seems like only one journalist matters. This in part has also to do with media bias.

“The media, US Congress and activists showcase only one tragedy out of hundreds of journalist killings, because Khashoggi’s death is related to an acceptable foreign policy attack.”

President Biden took little time to retract the terrorist designation that the Trump administration had slapped on the Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi militia, and yet the group continues to lob ballistic missiles to Riyadh on a daily basis.

So as the US continues to appease Iran in order to bring it back to the nuclear negotiation table, its proxies could get away with silencing even more journalists and critics.