French far-right leader Le Pen on trial over Daesh tweets

Polls show Le Pen will likely face off again against Emmanuel Macron in next year’s presidential contest, after her National Rally made its strongest showing ever in the 2017 vote (AFP)
Polls show Le Pen will likely face off again against Emmanuel Macron in next year’s presidential contest, after her National Rally made its strongest showing ever in the 2017 vote (AFP)
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Updated 11 February 2021

French far-right leader Le Pen on trial over Daesh tweets

Polls show Le Pen will likely face off again against Emmanuel Macron in next year’s presidential contest, after her National Rally made its strongest showing ever in the 2017 vote (AFP)
  • A far-right leader appeared in court on charges she broke hate-speech laws by tweeting pictures of Daesh atrocities
  • The leader slammed the case as a politically motivated attempt to silence her

PARIS: French far-right leader Marine Le Pen appeared in court Wednesday on charges she broke hate speech laws by tweeting pictures of Daesh atrocities, a case she slammed as a politically motivated attempt to silence her.
The trial comes as opinion polls show Le Pen will likely face off again against Emmanuel Macron in next year’s presidential contest, after her National Rally made its strongest showing ever in the 2017 vote.
Le Pen shared the gruesome images in December 2015, a few weeks after Daesh group extremists killed 130 people in attacks in Paris, in response to a journalist who drew a comparison between Daesh and her party.
One of the pictures showed the body of James Foley, an American journalist beheaded by the extremist militants.
Another showed a man in an orange jumpsuit being run over by a tank, and the third a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.
“Daesh is this!” Le Pen wrote in a caption.
“I am obviously the victim of a political trial,” Le Pen told journalists at the courthouse in Nanterre, a Paris suburb.
“The media published them, editorialists, newspapers, TV channels, and nobody was ever prosecuted for doing so — only Marine Le Pen is being prosecuted,” she said.
In 2018 a judge charged her as well as Gilbert Collard, a National Rally colleague who also tweeted the pictures, with circulating “violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity” and that can be viewed by a minor.
The crime is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($90,000).
Le Pen, a lawyer by training, later deleted the picture of Foley after a request from his family, saying she had been unaware of his identity.
But on Wednesday she defended their publication, despite acknowledging that “I find these pictures horribly shocking.”
However, “It’s the crime that denigrates human dignity, not a picture of it.”
Le Pen also insisted she was the victim of a political witch-hunt — she was stripped of her parliamentary immunity over the pictures, and angrily rejected an order to undergo psychiatric tests as part of the inquiry.
Since taking over France’s main far-right party from her father, Le Pen has run twice for the French presidency, and recent polling shows her closer than ever to what for her would be the ultimate prize.
That has rekindled speculation about whether the anti-EU, anti-immigration populist could finally enter the Elysee Palace.
On Thursday, she is set to have a prime-time TV debate with Macron’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, which will be closely watched after critics panned her debate performance against Macron before the 2017 vote.
Le Pen has another legal challenge looming, over claims that she and other party officials improperly spent millions of euros in public funds to pay their assistants while serving in the EU Parliament.
Investigators say almost seven million euros ($7.7 million) was diverted from the European Parliament between 2009 and 2017.


US court orders Facebook to release records of anti-Rohingya content for genocide case

US court orders Facebook to release records of anti-Rohingya content for genocide case
Updated 23 September 2021

US court orders Facebook to release records of anti-Rohingya content for genocide case

US court orders Facebook to release records of anti-Rohingya content for genocide case
  • Social media giant had refused to release the data, saying it would violate a US law
  • ‘Facebook taking up the mantle of privacy rights is rich with irony’

A US federal judge has ordered Facebook to release records of accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media giant had shut down, rejecting its argument about protecting privacy as “rich with irony.”
The judge in Washington, D.C, on Wednesday criticized Facebook for failing to hand over information to investigators seeking to prosecute the country for international crimes against the Muslim minority Rohingya, according to a copy of the ruling.
Facebook had refused to release the data, saying it would violate a US law barring electronic communication services from disclosing users’ communications.
But the judge said the posts, which were deleted, would not be covered under the law and not sharing the content would “compound the tragedy that has befallen the Rohingya.”
“Facebook taking up the mantle of privacy rights is rich with irony. News sites have entire sections dedicated to Facebook’s sordid history of privacy scandals,” he wrote.
A spokesperson for Facebook said the company was reviewing the decision and that it had already made “voluntary, lawful disclosures” to another UN body, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 after a military crackdown that refugees said including 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.
The crackdown by the army, during the rule of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government, did not generate much outcry in the Buddhist-majority nation, where the Rohingya are widely derided as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Gambia wants the data for a case against Myanmar it is pursuing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, accusing Myanmar of violating the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide.
In 2018, UN human rights investigators said Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence.
A Reuters investigation that year found more than 1,000 examples of hate speech on Facebook, including calling Rohingya and other Muslims dogs, maggots and rapists, suggesting they be fed to pigs, and urging they be shot or exterminated.
Facebook said at the time it had been “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar.
In Wednesday’s ruling, US magistrate judge Zia M. Faruqui said Facebook had taken a first step by deleting “the content that fueled a genocide” but had “stumbled” by not sharing it.
“A surgeon that excises a tumor does not merely throw it in the trash. She seeks a pathology report to identify the disease,” he said.
“Locking away the requested content would be throwing away the opportunity to understand how disinformation begat genocide of the Rohingya and would foreclose a reckoning at the ICJ.”
Shannon Raj Singh, human rights counsel at Twitter, called the decision “momentous” and “one of the foremost examples of the relevance of social media to modern atrocity prevention & response.”


Netflix acquires the whole works of Roald Dahl

Netflix acquires the whole works of Roald Dahl
Updated 22 September 2021

Netflix acquires the whole works of Roald Dahl

Netflix acquires the whole works of Roald Dahl
  • The streaming giant said it had bought The Roald Dahl Story Company, the family firm that owns the late British author’s copyright
  • No financial details of the deal were given

SAN FRANCISCO: Netflix has acquired the whole works of acclaimed children’s author Roald Dahl, creator of such classics as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda,” the company  announced Wednesday.

In 2018, Netflix signed a deal to create animated series based on 16 Dahl books. But now the streaming giant said it had bought The Roald Dahl Story Company, the family firm that owns the late British author’s copyright.

“This acquisition builds on the partnership we started three years ago to create a slate of animated TV series,” Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos and Luke Kelly, RDSC managing director and Dahl's grandson, said in a joint statement.

Under the previous deal, Oscar-winning filmmaker Taika Waititi and “Zootropolis” screenwriter Phil Johnston are working on a series based on the world of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and an adaptation of “Matilda the Musical,” both of which are currently underway.

“These projects opened our eyes to a much more ambitious venture – the creation of a unique universe across animated and live action films and TV, publishing, games, immersive experiences, live theater, consumer products and more,” Netflix said.

Dahl died in 1990 aged 74. His books have been translated into 63 languages and sold more than 300 million copies worldwide.

“These stories and their messages of the power and possibility of young people have never felt more pertinent,” the statement said. “As we bring these timeless tales to more audiences in new formats, we're committed to maintaining their unique spirit and their universal themes of surprise and kindness, while also sprinkling some fresh magic into the mix.”

No financial details of the deal were given. However, in 2018, The Hollywood Reporter quoted sources as saying that the licensing deal covering the 16 Dahl books cost Netflix more than $100 million.


Facebook’s Project Amplify blatantly pushes pro-company stories: US newspaper

Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. (File/AFP)
Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 September 2021

Facebook’s Project Amplify blatantly pushes pro-company stories: US newspaper

Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. (File/AFP)
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg signed off pushing pro-platform stories to users via Facebook News Feed, reported The New York Times

LONDON: A recently launched Facebook initiative codenamed Project Amplify was set up to push pro-platform stories on users’ news feeds, The New York Times reported.

And some of the promoted articles were written by the social networking giant to help paint the company in a positive light, the newspaper claimed.

The article said Project Amplify came into being at a meeting in January with the aim of reshaping Facebook’s image by adopting a multi-faceted approach including measures such as distancing the chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, from controversies, and reducing external access to data.

Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. As a result, Facebook executives decided to go on the offensive with a new approach involving marketing, communications, policy, and integrity teams, sources revealed.

Although Zuckerberg did not drive all the decisions as part of the new initiative, he reportedly approved them.

Denying the newspaper’s claims, Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said: “People deserve to know the steps we’re taking to address the different issues facing our company — and we’re going to share those steps widely.”

Since the recent launch of the new project, Facebook has been testing the changes in three US cities through a tool called Quick Promote. The stories appear with a Facebook logo and link to websites published by the company as well as third-party websites.

Osborne told The New York Times that it was a “test for an informational unit clearly marked as coming from Facebook,” adding that the new initiative was “similar to corporate responsibility initiatives people see in other technology and consumer products.”

In a series of tweets, Osborne said The New York Times’ article had attempted to “villainize Facebook,” included “clear falsehoods,” and had left out part of his statement which included him saying, “there is zero change to News Feed ranking.”

He added that the January meeting had never taken place, although according to the newspaper report one attendee had claimed that several executives at the meeting were shocked by the proposal.

Osborne concluded his tweets by suggesting that The New York Times’ story should have written that, “Facebook ran a small test of an informational unit on Facebook in three cities – clearly labeled as from Facebook on the top of the unit,” along with an image of what the stories looked like.

Screengrab of Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne's tweet of pro-Facebook stories in the News Feed. (Twitter:@JoeOsborne) 

 


Spotify celebrates Saudi National Day with patriotic playlist

Spotify celebrates Saudi National Day with patriotic playlist
Updated 22 September 2021

Spotify celebrates Saudi National Day with patriotic playlist

Spotify celebrates Saudi National Day with patriotic playlist
  • “Ana El Saudi” playlist brings east, west, central regions together with special selection

DUBAI: Music and podcast streaming platform Spotify is celebrating Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day through music by releasing a special playlist.

Its “Ana El Saudi” playlist brings together some of the finest male and female voices to pay homage to Saudis through a rich selection of 94 patriotic songs. The tracks are considered a treasure among Saudi nationals, and Spotify expects them to be especially overplayed to mark the momentous day.

Among the songs that Saudis listen to the most on Spotify’s Saudi National Day playlist is Fahad Bin Fasla’s “Haza El Saudi Foq.” The Sheilat star’s hit song was an instant fan favorite among locals and has established itself at the top spot.

Rabeh Saqr’s “Anta Malek” comes in second place; the iconic Saudi artist has been serenading the Kingdom with his oriental style for more than 30 years, cementing his legacy in Saudi music.

Ayed, Borhan, and Naif Al-Naif’s “Ya Mohammed” is third, with the three khaleeji-style artists collaborating to tribute a song to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

Mashael secures the top spot for female artists. Her recently released song “Sawb Alriyadh” has already garnered almost 2 million streams on Spotify. Waed, Shaikha Alaslawi, and Shamma Hamdan come in second, third, and fourth, respectively, among the female artists.

Riyadh has been the city leading the way in streaming “Ana El Saudi,” followed by Jeddah and Dammam.

Tune into “Ana El Saudi” here.


Facebook spent over $13 bln on safety, security since 2016

Facebook spent over $13 bln on safety, security since 2016
Updated 21 September 2021

Facebook spent over $13 bln on safety, security since 2016

Facebook spent over $13 bln on safety, security since 2016
  • The social media giant said it now has 40,000 people working on safety and security
  • Facebook played down the negative effects on young users of its Instagram app

DUBAI: Facebook Inc. said on Tuesday it has invested more than $13 billion in safety and security measures since 2016.
This comes days after a newspaper reported the company had failed to fix “the platform’s ill effects” researchers had identified.
The social media giant said it now has 40,000 people working on safety and security, compared with 10,000 five years ago.
Facebook played down the negative effects on young users of its Instagram app and had a weak response to alarms raised by employees over how the platform is used in developing countries by human traffickers, the Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing a review of internal company documents.
“In the past, we didn’t address safety and security challenges early enough in the product development process,” the company said in a blog post
“But we have fundamentally changed that approach.”
Facebook said its artificial intelligence technology has helped it block 3 billion fake accounts in the first half of this year. The company also removed more than 20 million pieces of false COVID-19 and vaccine content.
The company said it now removes 15 times more content that violates its standards on hate speech across Facebook and its image-sharing platform Instagram than when it first began reporting it in 2017.