Why won’t Twitter ban Khamenei when it permanently suspended Trump?

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is notorious for using his Twitter accounts to incite hate, violence and disinformation. Yet his many accounts in multiple languages still exist on the platform. (AN Design)
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is notorious for using his Twitter accounts to incite hate, violence and disinformation. Yet his many accounts in multiple languages still exist on the platform. (AN Design)
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Updated 22 March 2021

Why won’t Twitter ban Khamenei when it permanently suspended Trump?

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is notorious for using his Twitter accounts to incite hate, violence and disinformation. Yet his many accounts in multiple languages still exist on the platform. (AN Design)
  • Twitter took action last year against ex-president Donald Trump by adding fact-checking and violence labels to his tweets and eventually suspending his account @realDonaldTrump permanently on January 8
  • On March 18, Twitter wrote in a blog post that it is “calling for public input” on its approach to world leaders

DUBAI: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is notorious for using his Twitter accounts to incite hate, violence and disinformation. Yet his many accounts in multiple languages still exist on the platform.

These accounts, in languages including Persian, English, and Spanish, regularly post content that would – and should – violate Twitter’s policies.

In January, an account linked to Khamenei’s personal office posted a graphic threatening “revenge” while appearing to depict former President Trump under the shadow of a looming airstrike, which was retweeted by one of Khamenei’s personal accounts. Following public backlash, Twitter suspended the account that posted the tweet but not the personal account.

 

 

It said it suspended the account due to a violation of its policy against fake accounts.

“The justification that Twitter reportedly gave for why it shut down that particular account but not others was not just unpersuasive, it was preposterous,” David Weinberg, Washington director for international affairs of the US-based anti-hate organization Anti-Defamation League (ADL), told Arab News.

“For one thing, it was followed by and frequently retweeted by other central Khamenei accounts (which were not suspended). It had also been allowed to promote all kinds of problematic content for half a year until then. So, why all of a sudden did it get removed – just a day or two after posting material that was incitement to violence?” he said.

Following the incident, ADL wrote a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey calling to deplatform all accounts linked to Khamenei without delay for repeated violations of Twitter’s rules that prohibit incitement to hatred and violence.

The letter gave examples of how Khamenei’s tweets have continually violated three specific policies – Glorification of Violence, Hateful Conduct and COVID-19 Misleading Information – and urged Twitter to suspend the associated accounts.

Signed by ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt, the letter ends:

“But given that you have already suspended an American president from your platform earlier this month, and just removed one of Khamenei’s many Twitter accounts for its blatant and threatening violations of Twitter’s policies, that standard must urgently be applied to Khamenei’s panoply of other Twitter accounts, which so clearly pose a danger to public safety and routinely violate Twitter’s terms of service.”

Twitter took action last year against ex-president Donald Trump by adding fact-checking and violence labels to his tweets and eventually suspending his account @realDonaldTrump permanently on January 8.

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” it said.

However, when US Senate Commerce Chair Roger Wicker asked Dorsey in a hearing last year about tweets from Khamenei that “glorified violence,” Dorsey defended the decision to keep them unlabeled on the platform.

He said, “We did not find those to violate our terms of service because we considered them ‘saber rattling,’ which is part of the speech of world leaders in concert with other countries.”

Weinberg commented: “The lesson over and over again from modern human history, as I read it, is that when a fanatical dictator responsible for the slaughter of thousands of his own citizens, as well as horrific violence, and calls for genocide against the other, says what they’re going to do, the international community needs to take that seriously; not just dismiss it as tough talk or posturing or playing to a domestic audience.”

 

 

He went on to add that sometimes when “murderous fanatics” say they’re going to commit genocide or eliminate countries or “demonize entire religions and nations of people,” it is genuine.

“It is an expression of their genuine worldview and their genuine intent.”

It was around the same time that Twitter had put labels on Trump’s tweets about widespread fraud in voting by mail and other tweets that it said violated its policies “regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.”

Replying to the Senator about the double standards of labeling Trump’s tweets but not those of other world leaders, Dorsey said, “We saw the confusion it might encourage and we labeled it accordingly. The goal of our labeling is to provide more context, to connect the dots so people can have more information so they can make decisions for themselves.”

On March 18, Twitter wrote in a blog post that it is “calling for public input” on its approach to world leaders.

“Politicians and government officials are constantly evolving how they use our service, and we want our policies to remain relevant to the ever-changing nature of political discourse on Twitter and protect the health of the public conversation.”

It said that it is consulting with human rights experts, civil society organizations, and academics and has released a public survey in 14 languages including Arabic, English, Spanish and Farsi.

“Ultimately, our aim is to have a policy that appropriately balances fundamental human rights and considers the global context in which we operate,” the post said.

Critics are asking why Twitter does not apply the same policies to all users whether they are private citizens or world leaders.

“Twitter should enforce its terms of service for all users, whether private citizen, elected official or unelected tyrant. Propagating hate, glorifying terrorism and encouraging Holocaust denial should get you kicked off Twitter permanently,” Weinberg said in an ADL blog post titled “Twitter Must De-Platform Iran’s Supreme Leader.”

While there certainly is public interest in being able to have free access to a broad array of information, “it is not in the public interest to have companies providing a platform for incitement to hatred and violence,” he told Arab News.

 

 

Furthermore, the public interest argument ignores the fact that “heads of states have their own ways to get their message out” from their own websites and media outlets to proxy organizations.

“To suggest that Khamenei needs to have a Twitter account so people can know his hateful and murderous messages is not just not serving the public interest, but it ignores the fact that he has many other avenues for spreading his propaganda,” said Weinberg.

This argument also misses the fact there is heavy censorship on Twitter within Iran.

“The main thing in terms of information in the public interest, as relates to the Iranian people, is that they should have free access to the Internet, which their government does not permit them to.”

A hearing titled “Disinformation Nation: Social Media’s Role in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation” by the Energy and Commerce Committee, scheduled for March 25, marks the start of a new inquiry on misinformation and disinformation plaguing online platforms.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai will testify.

Soleimani’s shadow
Qassem Soleimani left a trail of death and destruction in his wake as head of Iran’s Quds Force … until his assassination on Jan. 3, 2020. Yet still, his legacy of murderous interference continues to haunt the region

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Facebook, Google, Twitter face grilling by British lawmakers

Facebook, Google, Twitter face grilling by British lawmakers
Updated 57 min 43 sec ago

Facebook, Google, Twitter face grilling by British lawmakers

Facebook, Google, Twitter face grilling by British lawmakers
  • Governments on both sides of the Atlantic want tougher rules aimed at protecting social media users

LONDON: British lawmakers are set to grill Facebook and other tech giants Thursday over how they handle online safety as European efforts to regulate social media companies gain momentum.
Representatives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and TikTok will be questioned by members of a parliamentary committee scrutinizing the British government’s draft online safety legislation.
Governments on both sides of the Atlantic want tougher rules aimed at protecting social media users, especially younger ones, but the United Kingdom’s efforts are much further along. UK lawmakers are questioning researchers, journalists, tech executives and other experts for a report to the government on how to improve the final version of the online safety bill.
The hearing comes the same week YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat were questioned by a US Senate panel. They provided little firm commitment for US legislation bolstering protection of children from online harm, which lawmakers say ranges from eating disorders, sexually explicit content and material promoting addictive drugs.
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared before the UK committee this week, telling members that the company’s systems make online hate worse and that it has little incentive to fix the problem. She said time is running out to regulate social media companies that use artificial intelligence systems to determine what content people see.
Haugen was a Facebook data scientist who copied internal research documents and turned them over to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. They also were provided to a group of media outlets, including The Associated Press, which reported numerous stories about how Facebook prioritized profits over safety and hid its own research from investors and the public.
The UK’s online safety bill calls for a regulator to ensure tech companies comply with rules requiring them to remove dangerous or harmful content or face penalties worth up to 10 percent of annual global revenue. The European Union is working on similar digital rules.
British lawmakers are still grappling with thorny issues such as ensuring privacy and free speech and defining legal but harmful content, including online bullying and advocacy of self-harm.
They’re also trying to get a handle on misinformation that flourishes on social media.
Maria Ressa, a Filipino journalist who shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for freedom of expression under grave risks, acknowledged the challenge, telling the committee on Wednesday that a law to curb disinformation is needed.
“Regulation is our last hope,” Ressa said. “The problem is that you will be a model for everyone else around the the world, so you must be a gold standard, that’s tough.” At the same time, “doing nothing pushes the world closer to fascism,” she added.


MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia

MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia
Updated 27 October 2021

MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia

MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia
  • Staff reportedly offered a choice of moving to Riyadh or resigning

LONDON: Saudi-owned broadcaster MBC Group announced on Wednesday that it plans to shut its office in Beirut “soon” and relocate to Riyadh.

The company said the reason for the move is a push by authorities in the Kingdom to relocate all state-owned media and broadcasting companies to Saudi Arabia.

While the headquarters of MBC is currently in Dubai, the Lebanon branch was a prominent production office. The company has reportedly offered staff the choice of moving to Riyadh or resigning.

The decision to move the offices of Saudi media companies to Riyadh from other cities in the region, such as Beirut and Dubai, is the result of plans by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to establish the Kingdom as a regional business hub.

News of the move comes a day after George Kordahi, the Lebanese information minister and a former MBC presenter, caused controversy with his comments about Saudi Arabia and the war in Yemen.

When asked during an appearance on Barlamanasha3b TV what he thinks about the situation in Yemen, Kordahi said: “They (the Houthis) are defending themselves.”

He added: “Are they attacking anyone? In my opinion, this Yemeni war is absurd and should stop.”


Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+

Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+
Updated 27 October 2021

Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+

Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+
  • Singapore-based data intelligence specialist acquires minority stake in a deal that values the company at more than $25 million

DUBAI: Singapore-based data intelligence company Near has acquired a minority stake in Middle Eastern SaaS provider of data-driven marketing solutions MEmob+ in a deal that values the company at $25 million.

MEmob+ is a part of Akama Holding, the Dubai-based family office with investments in media, tech and content. It was launched in 2019 by Alexandre Hawari, CEO of Akama Holding and Ihab El-Yaman, the then-head of mobile and performance director of Mediaquest, and current CEO of MEmob+.

The MarTech company has exclusive partnerships with global and regional first party data holders, giving it access to billions of device IDs globally, including more than 400 million in the MENA region. MEmob+ supports brands’ data-driven media activities, location measurement and footfall attribution, research and analysis with a roster of more than 50 major international and regional clients.

“Near, a global giant in the data intelligence market, and MEmob+, a regional leader, were destined to find a common ground and a shared ambition,” said Hawari. 

“Our technical collaboration has now evolved into a financial one. Together, we will capitalize on the attractive growth dynamics in the emerging markets in MEA to further build out MEmob’s leadership position and create the leading global location data intelligence platform,” he added.

In 2020, its second year in operation, MEmob’s turnover grew by 76 percent. Led by El-Yaman, the team behind this growth will continue to build on its track record of performance and innovation.

Near is the global leader in privacy-led data intelligence. The company provides the world’s largest source of intelligence on people, places, and products — processing data from over 1.6 billion monthly users in 44 countries. Founded in 2012, Near is headquartered in Singapore with offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Bangalore, Tokyo and Sydney.

This is Near’s first equity stake in the Middle East. It is the result of a year of research and negotiations to find the best partner to support its expansion in the Middle East and Africa. The cash-in transaction will see the funds injected into the business to accelerate its growth and development even further by increasing its customer base, backing product extension and supporting geographical expansion.

“Our investment in MEmob+ is at the intersection of our core values at Near: Innovation and scale,” said Anil Mathews, CEO of Near, who will join MEmob’s board of directors.

“We’ve watched them grow, in size and sophistication, and realized the opportunities that would come from a closer collaboration. We focus on partners with high growth and world-class management and are impressed by the leading position MEmob+ has built,” he added.


STARZPLAY signs new deal with Star TV

STARZPLAY signs new deal with Star TV
Updated 27 October 2021

STARZPLAY signs new deal with Star TV

STARZPLAY signs new deal with Star TV
  • Agreement will see STARZPLAY venturing into south Asian entertainment

DUBAI: STARZPLAY has signed a deal with the Star TV network to feature six of its popular entertainment channels on the platform.

The agreement will see STARZPLAY venturing into the south Asian entertainment market with plans for further expansion in the segment.

As part of the deal, the streaming platform has introduced a dedicated south Asian entertainment package featuring the channels Star Plus ME, Star Gold International, Jalsha Movies, Asianet Movies, Star Vijay International, and Asianet ME.

Chief executive officer of STARZPLAY, Maaz Sheikh, said: “Over the years, we have built strategic partnerships to offer rich and relevant content to our diverse audience. Our latest association with the Star TV network is an expansion of our content offering as we enter the Asian entertainment space, which is hugely popular and loved in this region.

“Star TV is a much-loved TV network in the region, and we are proud to associate with them to further expand their reach across the Middle East and North Africa region.”

Sudhir Nagpal, senior vice president and head of international business at Star India, said: “The MENA region has a large number of south Asian expatriates, and we are excited to bring our compelling and multilingual portfolio through the region’s leading streaming service STARZPLAY.”

The package for Star TV’s six entertainment channels is priced at 25 dirhams ($6.80). Three cricket channels, CricLife Max, CricLife, and CricLife 2, that STARZPLAY already has access to through a separate deal with Etisalat, will also be part of this package.


Twitter avoids revenue hit from Apple privacy changes

Twitter avoids revenue hit from Apple privacy changes
Updated 27 October 2021

Twitter avoids revenue hit from Apple privacy changes

Twitter avoids revenue hit from Apple privacy changes
  • Twitter saw a “modest” impact to ad revenue due to privacy changes Apple rolled out
  • Twitter has been working to add new features such as audio chat rooms to attract users, and also rolled out improvements to its advertising capabilities

LONDON: Twitter Inc. on Tuesday reported quarterly results that avoided the brunt of Apple Inc. privacy changes on advertising that hobbled its rivals, sending its shares up 3 percent.
The social networking site has been working to add new features such as audio chat rooms to attract users, and also rolled out improvements to its advertising capabilities to reach its goal of doubling annual revenue by 2023.
Advertising revenue was $1.14 billion during the quarter ended Sept. 30, in line with consensus estimates.
The company said it saw a “modest” impact to ad revenue due to privacy changes Apple rolled out, which prevent advertisers from tracking users on their devices without their consent.
Investors had expected Twitter would be relatively shielded from being hurt by the changes, because most of its advertisers do not rely on highly targeted ads.
Twitter’s tech peers Snap and Facebook said the Apple changes hurt their ability to target and measure digital ads, citing the updates as the reason why the companies fell short of revenue expectations.
Twitter said monetizable daily active users, its term for users who are served ads, was 211 million during the third quarter, missing analyst estimates of 212.6 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
While Twitter increased its number of users outside the United States by 5 million from the previous quarter, its US base remained flat.
Total revenue, which also includes money that Twitter earns from data licensing, was $1.28 billion, also in line with Wall Street targets.
Twitter said its costs this year from hiring and investing in a new data center will flow into next year, resulting in a mid-20 percent increase in total costs for 2022.
The company forecast fourth quarter revenue between $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion.
Twitter previously announced it would sell its advertising technology unit MoPub, and the deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022.
The company said it does not expect to be able to recoup the revenue loss next year from selling MoPub, estimated between $200 million to $250 million, though it added the sale does not affect Twitter’s goal of doubling annual revenue by 2023.