Online privacy fears mount as India sets tougher social media controls

Online privacy fears mount as India sets tougher social media controls
Indian digital rights advocates have warned that new social media rules will further undercut online privacy. (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 February 2021

Online privacy fears mount as India sets tougher social media controls

Online privacy fears mount as India sets tougher social media controls
  • Journalists warn new rules are attempt to regulate online news portals
  • Tech giants are obliged to assist law enforcement in cybercrime, “unlawful” cases

NEW DELHI: Indian journalists and digital rights advocates have warned that new social media rules announced on Thursday will further undercut online privacy and freedom of expression in the country.
The new controls give the government more power to police content shared on social media and digital streaming platforms.
It means that Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other services are more accountable to requests for removal of content and the identification of users who are deemed to have committed illegal acts by authorities.
Under the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code, social media platforms have to remove content within 36 hours of receiving a legal order and assist law enforcers in probing cybersecurity-related incidents within 72 hours of receiving a request.
The new rules, which Indian Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad described as a “soft-touch oversight” mechanism, come two weeks after Twitter denied a government order to remove content on the farmer protests in New Delhi from its platform.
“The way these rules have come out, they will have a negative impact on privacy, freedom of speech, on creativity and the freedom of the press in India,” Nikhil Pahwa of India’s top Internet policy website MediaNama told Arab News, adding that the new controls are “the worst series of regulations on the Internet.”
He said: “It is very regressive and to my mind it is not backed by law. The rules need to be challenged in court, and if they are, the Indian government will probably lose.”
Social media giants enjoy a large presence in India, with the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messaging platform being used by 530 million people, YouTube by 448 million, Facebook by 41 million, Instagram by 21 million and Twitter by 10.7 million, according to Indian government data.
But none of the platforms have given detailed comments on the new regulations.
“The details of rules like these matter and we will carefully study the new rules,” Facebook said in a written response to a request for comment.
“We believe that regulation is beneficial when it safeguards citizens’ fundamental rights and reinforces online freedoms,” Twitter said in a statement.
However, because the new rules have been introduced as changes to the IT Act, which also regulates online media, journalists fear that the changes are an attempt to regulate news portals.
“We do know that the government is rattled by the work the digital media space does. Whether the only intention of these rules is for the government to have an overarching control over us, we will know only in time,” said Dhanya Rajendran, editor of news portal News Minute and chairperson of Digipub Foundation of India, which represents digital media organizations.
“Yes, we do have our suspicions and we are concerned that this could be the government’s motive,” she told Arab News.
Delhi-based journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who writes for News Click, a popular news portal known for independent journalism that had its offices raided by police last week, said the new regulations are “the government’s strategy to not just curb dissenting voices, but also to clamp down or curb their activities.”
He added: “The whole purpose or agenda is to clamp down on digital news media, which has been showing greater resilience and playing the role of adversaries against the government in power.”


Arab News radio show discusses future of print media, partnership with FII institute

Arab News radio show discusses future of print media, partnership with FII institute
Updated 14 min 54 sec ago

Arab News radio show discusses future of print media, partnership with FII institute

Arab News radio show discusses future of print media, partnership with FII institute
  • ‘Only journalism can save save journalism,’ says renowned media consultant Juan Senor
  • Arab News assistant editor Noor Nugali says FII partnership will help bring stakeholders together

CHICAGO: Despite harsh restrictions and widespread health fears caused by the year-long COVID-19 Pandemic, the newspaper industry is beginning to see a brighter future, media industry experts agreed Wednesday.

Assistant Editor-in-Chief Noor Nugali and London-based INNOVATION Media Consulting Group President Juan Senor said that a new partnership they are forging will together provide more information and news in a faster and more efficient manner than previously possible.

Contrary to common beliefs, Senor suggested that the future of journalism and the news industry is much brighter today, in part because of needs caused by the COVID pandemic.

 

 

“The future is very bright for the news industry. A pandemic without journalism -- unthinkable. And that is a global reality. And this is a turning moment, a landmark moment where people have realized that indeed they have rediscovered the value of journalism,” said Senor.

“When your lives are at stake. When the health of your loved ones are at stake, who are you going to turn to? The Politicians saying this is a fluke? Somebody on Facebook saying that if you inject bleach you will be cured? Or take a steam shower? Journalism has reconnected with a global audience and the turning point is that people are willing to pay for that journalism.”

Senor called the COVID pandemic a major influence in spurring a journalism resurgence.

 

 

“What’s happened during the pandemic is that before the pandemic people said we get our news from Facebook and that was good enough,” Senior said. 

“Now people are saying well I now develop a half a retaking and rediscovered the value of visiting a local or regional news site everyday to find out what is true. What is really going on? Because my life is at stake. … We call it the Netflix moment for digital news.”

Nugali detailed how Arab News evolved through expanding its editorial and writing staff and assimilating into the expanding social media world.

 

 

“Arab News is the Middle East’s leading English Language Daily. It initiated 46 years ago in a garage by two young brothers, the Hafez Brothers,” Nugali said. 

“Now it has become an international newspaper born from Saudi with three online editions in different languages. In 2018 we had the Pakistani edition that was launched. In 2019 we launched the Japanese edition. And remarkably in the midst of the pandemic, in 2019 we launched the French edition.”

Nugali said the partnership with the Future Investment Initiative Institute and Arab News will bring all of the industry stakeholders together to provide the best platform for news information.

 

 

“What you are going to see is a co-production of a series of expert panel discussions. You’re going to see surveys, white papers and recommendations on how the industry can survive the digital disruption and create sustainable models for the future,” Nugali said.

 

 

“The first deliverable of this cooperation is going to be in May. And it is going to be a White Paper produced by the Arab News Research and Studies Unit which is based in London. The first paper is going to be under the title ‘The Myth of Digital Transformation’ and it is going to explain in detail the technical problems that face the media industry from a commercial perspective and what impacts they have.”

“The Ray Hanania Show” is broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network on WNZK AM 690 in Detroit and WDMV AM 700 in Washington DC, and live streamed on Facebook.com/ArabNewswhere you can view the entire interview.


Black Lives Matter leader to take Houthi violence against Ethiopians to UN

Black Lives Matter leader to take Houthi violence against Ethiopians to UN
Updated 22 April 2021

Black Lives Matter leader to take Houthi violence against Ethiopians to UN

Black Lives Matter leader to take Houthi violence against Ethiopians to UN
  • Hawk Newsome wants Americans to focus on the killings of Blacks inside and outside of the US
  • Arab News reporter Rua’a Al-Ameri details Houthi kidnapping of Yemeni-Ethiopian model

Hawk Newsome, the leader of the Black Lives Movement of Greater New York City, said Wednesday he might take the plight of Africans and especially Ethiopians in Yemen to the United Nations.

Newsome, whose organization confronts racism and racist actions against African Americans, said he was shocked at how little attention the mainstream American news media has placed on Blacks and Ethiopian migrants in places like Yemen.

During an interview on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show,” the BLM leader said people must “rise above” and not just focus on the politics of the conflicts. He wants people to focus on the killing of Blacks inside and outside of the US. A good example was when 44 Ethiopian migrants were massacred in a Houthi-controlled detention center in Sana’a last month.

“I do not have time to get into the personal politics but what I do know is that people were being raped and people were starving in Ethiopia,” Newsome said.

“So, when I hear about what the Houthis did to these African refugees or asylum seekers it really, truly breaks my heart and I am glad that you (Arab News) are all doing a great job in shining a light on this.”

Newsome said that concern for human life should be prioritized above the “politics” of a conflict.

“What we need to do is explain Black Lives Matter across the globe. It does not just matter here because we have phenomenal activists and we also have the first amendment which protects our speech and gives us the right to push back and fight back against this government, at the risk of our deaths,” Newsome said.

“But what folks really need to understand is that a new day has arrived. Black people refuse to be the world’s punching bag, or that they are second-class citizens. We will unify and we will unite and we will shed justice on injustice against Black people wherever it occurs in the world. To my Ethiopian brothers and sisters: My heart bleeds for you and I am terribly sorry for what you are experiencing. But I will do my absolute best to shed light on this subject and to draw attention to this.”

Newsome said that most Americans are unaware of what is happening to Africans in other countries like Yemen and fixate on the politics rather than on the toll it takes on the people, especially Blacks and he blamed the mainstream American news media.

Arab News reporter Rua’a Al-Ameri detailed the kidnapping of Entisar Al-Hammadi, a Yemeni-Ethiopian model, by the Houthi rebels. Al-Hammadi has been held since Feb. 20 as little information on her health or wellbeing has been revealed.

“Entisar is a young Yemeni and Ethiopian model who lives in Sana’a and she was abducted by the Houthis almost two months ago now,” Al-Ameri said.

“She was meant to have her case opened two weeks ago in front of her prosecution. For the second week, it has not been possible. Her lawyer has called for her immediate release. He said she is in a terrible condition and he has also said she is threatening to go on a hunger strike because of her conditions.”

Al-Ameri added the Houthis have a history of persecuting and killing minorities such as the Ethiopians.

“In terms of the Houthis targeting ethnic minority groups, that has been evident in the past,” Al-Ameri said.

“Of course there was the fire in the migrant detention center. The Houthis also have a history of targeting the Jewish community and the Baha’i community in Yemen. So, there has been a lot of issues involving the Houthis and their approach towards minorities.”

Newsome said he was learning more and more about the Ethiopians massacre from last March and is in contact with the Yemeni community in New York City. But he said he was unaware of the kidnapping of Al-Hammadi by the Houthis.

“There is a huge problem in America and in the rest of the world and that problem is called white supremacy,” Newsome said.

“A lot of people will say ‘Oh, you are just calling out racism’ but no the fact is when things happen to Black people they do not matter as much as when they happen to white people. When there is mass murder and genocide happening to Black people across the world, no one cares. But if the same thing were to happen to little blond-haired, blue-eyed white children, then everybody would care.

“So, when you start talking about my Ethiopian brothers and sisters and them being murdered, people barely lift a brow. And that is Black people, that is white people and that is everyone in between because that has been indoctrinated into them. You are taught through the media, you are taught through television, you are taught in so many different ways that our Black lives truly do not matter and that is on a global scale.”

* “The Ray Hanania Show” is broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network on WNZK AM 690 in Detroit and WDMV AM 700 in Washington DC, and live streamed on Facebook.com/ArabNews where you can see the entire interview.


Prank TV show with fake Daesh fighters sparks outrage in Iraq

Prank TV show with fake Daesh fighters sparks outrage in Iraq
Updated 22 April 2021

Prank TV show with fake Daesh fighters sparks outrage in Iraq

Prank TV show with fake Daesh fighters sparks outrage in Iraq
  • Playfully entrapping celebrities is a staple of primetime Ramadan programs, but some viewers say “Tanb Raslan” goes too far 

LONDON: A prank TV show in Iraq has sparked outrage after featuring fake Daesh fighters who kidnap celebrities, strap fake suicide bombs to their chest and threaten the celebrities with execution.

The controversial program, called “Tanb Raslan,” invited celebrities to visit displaced Iraqi families who supposedly fled the clutches of the extremist terrorist group. As participants arrive at the alleged house, they are ambushed with actors disguised as Jihadist fighters who immediately threatened to kill them.

Celebrities were then blindfolded and fake suicide bombs were strapped to their chest. Unknown to the participants that their surroundings are fictitious, they were shown on their knees and get emotional all while the cameras are rolling. 

Iraqi footballer Alaa Mhawi became tearful and pleaded for his life while Nessma, a 58-year-old Iraqi actress, lost consciousness after the fake explosive belt was strapped to her.

Playfully entrapping celebrities has become a staple of primetime Ramadan TV shows in Iraq. However, this program, in particular, attracted criticism, considering Daesh and extremist violence still remain a real threat in the country.

The show is reportedly underwritten by the state-sponsored Hashd Al-Shaabi paramilitary, whose fighters helped expel Daesh fighters from Iraqi cities. These paramilitaries, still armed, have their own role in the TV show and are portrayed as heroes saving the day.

In the show, the homes of the alleged displaced families are located in the agricultural belt outside of Baghdad where Daesh sleeper cells still roam and extort locals.

Many Iraqi viewers took to social media to criticize the TV show. 

“This is not entertainment,” Bilal Al-Mosuli, a resident of Mosul, wrote on Twitter. 

Ahmed Abderradi expressed disbelief at the show after it made a tongue-in-cheek reference to Saddam Hussein, the dictator who terrorized Iraqis from 1979 to 2003. 

“Or we can throw guests into a river like the victims of Speicher,” Abderradi wrote on Twitter, referring to the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre when Daesh executed 1,700 Shiite conscripts and dumped their bodies into the Tigris.

For others, however, the show saluted anti-Daesh fighters with a slight reservation.

“But it is possible to show the bravery of the Hashd Al-Shaabi and Iraqi troops without introducing terrorism,” Noor Ghazi, an Iraqi living in the US, wrote on Twitter. 

A writer on the show, Dargham Abu Rghif, defended the program: “The scenes are harsh but if Daesh had won, artists would have had a far harder life. And all Iraqis, too.”


Gulf News to charge for digital content

Gulf News to charge for digital content
Updated 21 April 2021

Gulf News to charge for digital content

Gulf News to charge for digital content
  • UAE newspaper launches two subscription models for readers as it sets up paywall

DUBAI: The UAE English-language daily Gulf News has announced that it will start putting its online content behind a paywall.

It is unclear when the content will stop being available for free.

Print subscribers will receive a complimentary one-year access to gulfnews.com; other readers can sign up for Standard Access for AED 5.95 ($1.6) per month or Prime Access AED 8.96 per month or AED 52 per year.

The Standard package allows access to most of the website content, while the Prime package will also allow access to the new categories the newspaper is launching, including Living in UAE, Your Money, Parenting and The Good.

The move is a first for a UAE newspaper. Print revenues have been steadily declining with print media taking less than 5 percent of the total ad revenue in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, according to a GroupM report.

In a Gulf News article, CEO, Editor-in-Chief and Executive Director of Publishing, Abdul Hamid Ahmad, said: “We were offering our high-quality content online for free for the longest time, when the print revenue gave us the freedom to do so. But that is on the decline, as can be seen the world over.”

He added that the decision to put content behind a paywall was taken “a while ago” as it is no longer possible to carry on offering content for free while revenues keep declining.

He said the digital paywall is not meant to be a deterrent for people reading the news. Instead, “it is a gateway for trusted, credible and verified news” that is aimed at protecting readers from “fake news, clickbait and low-quality advertising.”

The Gulf News website has an average of 230 million page views and 15 million unique visitors every month. Yet, said Ahmad, “the commensurate revenue has not come in,” which has an impact on the quality of advertising.

He believes that the paywall will not only encourage better journalism but also better advertising. “Once you have paid subscribers, it will mean a targeted market that advertisers can optimise and utilise more effectively.”

Over the past two years, more publishers have introduced paywalls to sustain their business, although some lowered their paywalls during the pandemic.

“The idea was that information about the outbreak of COVID-19 had life-saving potential, and so it should be available to everyone, not just to subscribers — a fraction of news readers who tend to be the wealthiest and most highly-educated,” reported the Columbia Journalism Review.

Meher Murshed, Executive Editor, Digital at Gulf News, said in an article on the paper’s website that the need of the hour is to break news instantly, which can compromise accuracy.

“There is a cost to fact-checked, responsible journalism, one that is not click bait or chases page views. We have to spend resources for in-depth reporting.”

That is why Gulf News decided to launch a digital subscription, said Murshed, “so we can continue giving our readers quality journalism.”


Kantar announces winners of Creative Effectiveness Awards 2020

Throughout last year, Kantar, a data-driven insights and consulting company, tested more than 10,000 adverts for clients around the world. (Supplied)
Throughout last year, Kantar, a data-driven insights and consulting company, tested more than 10,000 adverts for clients around the world. (Supplied)
Updated 21 April 2021

Kantar announces winners of Creative Effectiveness Awards 2020

Throughout last year, Kantar, a data-driven insights and consulting company, tested more than 10,000 adverts for clients around the world. (Supplied)
  • Awards analyzed more than 10,000 digital, TV ads

DUBAI: Throughout last year, Kantar, a data-driven insights and consulting company, tested more than 10,000 adverts for clients around the world and has now revealed the ones that performed most effectively.

Unlike other awards, Kantar relies on consumer feedback to award campaigns.

The most creative and effective ads of 2020 were:

1. Heineken / US / Cheers to all from Publicis

2. Bosch / Germany / Atino from C3 Creative Code and Content (Stuttgart)

3. Burger King / France / Consignes 2 Security – The Retour from Buzzman

4. Shea Moisture / US / It Comes Naturally from BBDO New York and JOY Collective

5. Samsung / US / Make their year, with Galaxy Buds Live from R/GA

6. Milka / France / And a lot of Milka from DAVID Madrid

7. Google / US / Find your Scene from Google Brand Studio

8. TENA / UK / TENA Silhouette Washable Underwear (I will wear what I want) from AMV BBDO, London

9. TD / Canada / Keeping your business moving forward from Leo Burnett

10 Adrenaline Rush / Russia / More from KAPIBARA

11. YouTube Kids / US / YouTube Kids Brand Anthem Film from Droga5

12 Avocados from Mexico / US / Avocados from Mexico Shopping Network from Energy BBDO Chicago

13. Gatorade / Chile / Gatorade GOAT CAMP from TBWA / Chiat de Los Angeles

14. Toyota Corolla / Canada / Vente Etiquettes Rouges from The Showroom

15. Kozel / Slovakia / Pimp my goat from Armada

16. Nissan Sentra / US / Joy Ride from Nissan United

17. Panadol Actifast / Malaysia / Delivery Rider Malaysia from Grey Group Singapore

18. eBay Australia / Australia / The Fast and the Furious from Che Proximity Australia

19. Siemens Home Appliances / Turkey / Ankastre from MullenLowe Istanbul

20. Hershey’s Kisses / US / Bells to Blossoms from mcgarrybowen

 

Based on the winners for 2020, the company identified five habits of the most effective advertisers.

Daren Poole, global head of creative at Kantar, said: “While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to creative and effective advertising, we observed five habits from our winners that ensure their advertising will deliver for their brand – in both the short and long term. These can act as guidelines for all advertisers.”

The five habits:

Be distinctive: Create the ability to be noticed and remembered in a world where there is a profusion of ads. Your ad is not just competing in its category. It is competing for attention against the world. Stand out from the category as a minimum, and ideally from any other advertising.

Brand intrinsically: Make sure that the attention won by the ad is at the service of the brand. Get your branding cues right. A surprising number of companies forget this basic rule.

Be meaningfully different: To grow market share or defend premium pricing you need to fulfil consumers’ functional, emotional, and social needs in the category and illustrate your uniqueness compared to the competition.

Trigger an emotional response: Making the viewer feel something, wins engagement for the ad, bypassing the natural tendency to screen out advertising. It also has positive effects on the brand’s emotional associations.

Talk with your consumer: Successful marketers know they can get too close to their creative journey and lose perspective, so they listen to viewer feedback during creative development.