French M6 Group channels to launch on Arabic streaming service Shahid VIP

The French-language M6 International channel will offer the best programs from the group’s TV channels, with content from M6, W9, 6ter, Paris Premiere, and Teva. (Supplied)
The French-language M6 International channel will offer the best programs from the group’s TV channels, with content from M6, W9, 6ter, Paris Premiere, and Teva. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 April 2021

French M6 Group channels to launch on Arabic streaming service Shahid VIP

The French-language M6 International channel will offer the best programs from the group’s TV channels, with content from M6, W9, 6ter, Paris Premiere, and Teva. (Supplied)
  • TV broadcaster bringing M6 International, TiJi, Gulli Bil Arabi to Shahid VIP
  • The French-language M6 International channel will offer the best programs from the group’s TV channels, with content from M6, W9, 6ter, Paris Premiere, and Teva

DUBAI: Shahid VIP, the premium, subscription-based Arabic streaming service of MBC’s Shahid, will see the launch of three channels from French broadcaster M6 Group.

M6 International, TiJi, and Arabic channel Gulli Bil Arabi cover lifestyle, kids, culture, cooking, fashion, reality, and news, in addition to children’s content in French and Arabic.

The French-language M6 International channel will offer the best programs from the group’s TV channels, with content from M6, W9, 6ter, Paris Premiere, and Teva.

The channel’s diversified program selection includes finance and economy show “Capital,” fashion docu-reality series “Les Reines du Shopping,” real estate reality show “Chasseurs d’Appart,” adventure reality with “Pekin Express,” current affairs program “66 Minutes,” and science show “E=M6.”

Tiji, also a French-language channel, is entirely dedicated to kids and early learning content, and includes animated shows such as “Oum le Dauphin Blanc,” “Loup,” and “Maya l’Abeille.”

The Arabic-language channel Gulli Bil Arabi is also targeted at children featuring discovery and adventure content such as “The Adventures of Nasreddin,” “Suhail,” and “Jamillah and Aladdin.”


Google searches for new measure of skin tones to curb bias in products

Google says that it's pursuing better measures for classifying skin tones. (File/AFP)
Google says that it's pursuing better measures for classifying skin tones. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 June 2021

Google searches for new measure of skin tones to curb bias in products

Google says that it's pursuing better measures for classifying skin tones. (File/AFP)
  • Google developing new measure for classifying skin tones in attempt to combat biases against people of color.
  • Companies know their products can be faulty for groups that are under-represented in research and testing data.

Alphabet Inc’s Google told Reuters this week it is developing an alternative to the industry standard method for classifying skin tones, which a growing chorus of technology researchers and dermatologists says is inadequate for assessing whether products are biased against people of color.
At issue is a six-color scale known as Fitzpatrick Skin Type (FST), which dermatologists have used since the 1970s. Tech companies now rely on it to categorize people and measure whether products such as facial recognition systems or smartwatch heart-rate sensors perform equally well across skin tones.
Critics say FST, which includes four categories for “white” skin and one apiece for “black” and “brown,” disregards diversity among people of color. Researchers at the US Department of Homeland Security, during a federal technology standards conference last October, recommended abandoning FST for evaluating facial recognition because it poorly represents color range in diverse populations.
In response to Reuters’ questions about FST, Google, for the first time and ahead of peers, said that it has been quietly pursuing better measures.
“We are working on alternative, more inclusive, measures that could be useful in the development of our products, and will collaborate with scientific and medical experts, as well as groups working with communities of color,” the company said, declining to offer details on the effort.
The controversy is part of a larger reckoning over racism and diversity in the tech industry, where the workforce is more white than in sectors like finance. Ensuring technology works well for all skin colors, as well different ages and genders, is assuming greater importance as new products, often powered by artificial intelligence (AI), extend into sensitive and regulated areas such as health care and law enforcement.
Companies know their products can be faulty for groups that are under-represented in research and testing data. The concern over FST is that its limited scale for darker skin could lead to technology that, for instance, works for golden brown skin but fails for espresso red tones.
Numerous types of products offer palettes far richer than FST. Crayola last year launched 24 skin tone crayons, and Mattel Inc’s Barbie Fashionistas dolls this year cover nine tones.
The issue is far from academic for Google. When the company announced in February that cameras on some Android phones could measure pulse rates via a fingertip, it said readings on average would err by 1.8 percent regardless of whether users had light or dark skin.
The company later gave similar warranties that skin type would not noticeably affect results of a feature for filtering backgrounds on Meet video conferences, nor of an upcoming web tool for identifying skin conditions, informally dubbed Derm Assist.
Those conclusions derived from testing with the six-tone FST.
’STARTING POINT’
The late Harvard University dermatologist Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick invented the scale to personalize ultraviolet radiation treatment for psoriasis, an itchy skin condition. He grouped the skin of “white” people as Roman numerals I to IV by asking how much sunburn or tan they developed after certain periods in sun.
A decade later came type V for “brown” skin and VI for “black.” The scale is still part of US regulations for testing sunblock products, and it remains a popular dermatology standard for assessing patients’ cancer risk and more.
Some dermatologists say the scale is a poor and overused measure for care, and often conflated with race and ethnicity.
“Many people would assume I am skin type V, which rarely to never burns, but I burn,” said Dr. Susan Taylor, a University of Pennsylvania dermatologist who founded Skin of Color Society in 2004 to promote research on marginalized communities. “To look at my skin hue and say I am type V does me disservice.”
Technology companies, until recently, were unconcerned. Unicode, an industry association overseeing emojis, referred to FST in 2014 as its basis for adopting five skin tones beyond yellow, saying the scale was “without negative associations.”
A 2018 study titled “Gender Shades,” which found facial analysis systems more often misgendered people with darker skin, popularized using FST for evaluating AI. The research described FST as a “starting point,” but scientists of similar studies that came later told Reuters they used the scale to stay consistent.
“As a first measure for a relatively immature market, it serves its purpose to help us identify red flags,” said Inioluwa Deborah Raji, a Mozilla fellow focused on auditing AI.
In an April study testing AI for detecting deepfakes, Facebook Inc. researchers wrote FST “clearly does not encompass the diversity within brown and black skin tones.” Still, they released videos of 3,000 individuals to be used for evaluating AI systems, with FST tags attached based on the assessments of eight human raters.
The judgment of the raters is central. Facial recognition software startup AnyVision last year gave celebrity examples to raters: former baseball great Derek Jeter as a type IV, model Tyra Banks a V and rapper 50 Cent a VI.
AnyVision told Reuters it agreed with Google’s decision to revisit use of FST, and Facebook said it is open to better measures.
Microsoft Corp. and smartwatch makers Apple Inc. and Garmin Ltd. reference FST when working on health-related sensors.
But use of FST could be fueling “false assurances” about heart rate readings from smartwatches on darker skin, University of California San Diego clinicians, inspired by the Black Lives Matter social equality movement, wrote in the journal Sleep last year.
Microsoft acknowledged FST’s imperfections. Apple said it tests on humans across skin tones using various measures, FST only at times among them. Garmin said due to wide-ranging testing it believes readings are reliable.
Victor Casale, who founded makeup company Mob Beauty and helped Crayola on the new crayons, said he developed 40 shades for foundation, each different from the next by about 3 percent, or enough for most adults to distinguish.
Color accuracy on electronics suggest tech standards should have 12 to 18 tones, he said, adding, “you can’t just have six.”


Twitter’s India woes worsen as police summon chief over viral video

Prasad has said Twitter has not complied with a new set of government rules that required them to appoint new compliance officers. (File/AFP)
Prasad has said Twitter has not complied with a new set of government rules that required them to appoint new compliance officers. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 June 2021

Twitter’s India woes worsen as police summon chief over viral video

Prasad has said Twitter has not complied with a new set of government rules that required them to appoint new compliance officers. (File/AFP)
  • Indian police summon Twitter's top official in the country to answer allegation of inciting hate between communities.
  • This comes amidst India's crackdown on Twitter and other social media firms to comply with country's new IT rules.

LUCKNOW: Police in India have summoned Twitter’s top official in the country to answer allegations that the US firm failed to stop the spread of a video that allegedly incited “hate and enmity” between Hindu and Muslim communities.
An official police notice, seen by Reuters, showed a case had been registered in Ghaziabad in northern Uttar Pradesh state over a video of a few men, apparently Hindu, beating an elderly man believed to be a Muslim and cutting his beard.
The police report names Twitter Inc, its local unit and seven others for their alleged roles in disseminating a video that was deemed insulting to religious beliefs and causing public mischief in a state with a long, bloody history of communal violence.
The controversy comes just as India’s federal government is locking horns with Twitter over non-compliance with new IT rules, which have raised doubts whether the platform would continue to enjoy protection against legal liability for user-generated content. The new rules became effective in late May.
In a notice dated Thursday, Ghaziabad police wrote to Twitter India head Manish Maheshwari to appear before officials within seven days of the receipt of the summons.
“Some people used their Twitter handles to spread hatred and enmity in the society and Twitter did not take cognizance,” said the notice, which was reviewed by Reuters.
“Writings and works which promoted enmity and affected harmony between different communities in the country and the state were encouraged and such anti-society messages were allowed to go viral.”
Twitter declined to comment, and Maheshwari did not respond to a request for comment.
IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad lashed out at Twitter this week for the Ghaziabad incident, saying its failure to act was “perplexing.”

NO SAFE HARBOUR
Prasad has said Twitter has not complied with a new set of government rules that required them to appoint new compliance officers by May 26.
The rules state that in case of non-compliance, protection that companies enjoy related to any liability against user generated content “shall not be applicable” and companies “shall be liable for punishment under any law.”
“The moment Twitter was non-complaint, the safe harbor protection was automatically not available,” said Shlok Chandra, a New Delhi-based lawyer who represents the federal government in various cases. “The position is very clear.”
Some free speech activists and lawyers, however, disagree.
“The Central Government neither has the power to bestow, nor the power to “withdraw” the exemption from liability...The determination of the question whether Twitter is entitled to seek exemption from liability is solely within the domain of the Courts,” Delhi-based Ira Law firm said in a LinkedIn post this month.
Three special rapporteurs appointed by a top United Nations human rights body last week urged India to review the new IT rules, saying their broadened scope did not conform with international human rights norms and could threaten digital rights.
To comply with India’s new IT rules, companies such as Twitter needed to appoint a chief compliance officer, a nodal officer and a resident grievance officer. But LinkedIn job postings show all three positions were currently open at Twitter.
The social media giant has however retained an interim chief compliance officer, it said this week, adding that it was making all efforts to adhere to the new IT rules. 


Vietnam introduces nationwide code of conduct for social media

Last year, Vietnamese authorities had threatened to shut down Facebook if the social media giant did not bow to government pressure to censor more local political content. (File/AFP)
Last year, Vietnamese authorities had threatened to shut down Facebook if the social media giant did not bow to government pressure to censor more local political content. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 June 2021

Vietnam introduces nationwide code of conduct for social media

Last year, Vietnamese authorities had threatened to shut down Facebook if the social media giant did not bow to government pressure to censor more local political content. (File/AFP)
  • Vietnam introduce code of conduct laws for social media which prohibit posts that affect the interests of the state
  • It is not yet clear to what extent the decision is legally binding, or how it will be enforced

HANOI: Vietnam introduced national guidelines on social media behavior on Friday which encourage people to post positive content about the Southeast Asian country and require state employees to report “conflicting information” to their superiors.
The code prohibits posts which violate the law and “affect the interests of the state” and applies to state organizations, social media companies, and all their users in Vietnam.
“Social media users are encouraged to promote the beauty of Vietnam’s scenery, people and culture, and spread good stories about good people,” reads the code, which was contained in a decision from the information ministry and dated June 17.
It was not clear to what extent the decision was legally binding, or how it would be enforced.
Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party tolerates little criticism, retains tight control over media and has in recent years presided over an intensified crackdown on dissidents and activists, some of whom are serving lengthy jail terms for posts on Facebook and Google’s YouTube.
In November last year, Reuters exclusively reported that Vietnamese authorities had threatened to shut down Facebook if the social media giant did not bow to government pressure to censor more local political content on the platform.
Vietnam is a major market for Facebook, which serves about 60 million users in the country and generates revenue of nearly $1 billion, according to sources familiar with the numbers.
The new code requires social media providers in Vietnam to “deal with users in accordance with Vietnamese law” when requested by authorities to remove content from their platforms.
It encourages social media users to create accounts using their real identities, share information from official sources, and avoid posting content which violates the law, contains bad language, or advertises illegal services.
In January, Vietnamese social media users used fake weather reports and football scores as a creative means to discuss Communist Party leadership wrangling after an official ban on speculation ahead of a Party congress. 


Myanmar extends detention of US journalist Danny Fenster

The parents of detained journalist Danny Fenster, Buddy Fenster and Rose Fenster and brother Bryan Fenster gather in Huntington Woods, Michigan. (AFP)
The parents of detained journalist Danny Fenster, Buddy Fenster and Rose Fenster and brother Bryan Fenster gather in Huntington Woods, Michigan. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2021

Myanmar extends detention of US journalist Danny Fenster

The parents of detained journalist Danny Fenster, Buddy Fenster and Rose Fenster and brother Bryan Fenster gather in Huntington Woods, Michigan. (AFP)
  • Myanmar court extends detention of US journalist Danny Fenster while US Embassy officials are still being denied access to him.
  • About 90 journalists have been arrested since the military junta seized power in February and more than half of them are still detained.

BANGKOK: A court in Myanmar extended the detention of American journalist Danny Fenster for another two weeks Thursday, while the US State Department urged that it be granted consular access to him.
Online news and business magazine Frontier Myanmar, where Fenster is managing editor, said he faces a charge that carries a potential three-year prison term.
The charge, used frequently against dissidents and journalists, criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news, or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee.” The magazine said it did not know the reason for the charge.
Myanmar’s military government has tried to silence independent news media by withdrawing the licenses they must obtain to publish or broadcast and by arresting journalists.
According to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, about 90 journalists have been arrested since the army seized power in February and more than half of them are still detained.
The special court at Insein Prison in Yangon ordered Fenster’s continued detention there for two weeks, scheduling his next hearing for July 1.
Myanmar authorities have not allowed US Embassy officials access to Fenster, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington. He urged them to grant access under the Vienna Convention “without delay and to ensure proper treatment of Danny.”
Price said the State Department was “very gratified” by the release of another US journalist, Nathan Maung, who had been arrested on a similar charge in March while working for a local news online news agency in Myanmar.
Maung was deported Tuesday after the charge against him was dropped and his case dismissed, though a colleague at Kamayut Media who was arrested with him, Myanmar citizen Hanthar Nyein, remains imprisoned. Price said Maung has met and spoken with senior State Department officials since his return.
Frontier said Fenster was represented by a lawyer in court Thursday but the magazine’s representatives were not permitted to attend. “We are still seeking information on the reason for Danny’s arrest and continued detention,” Frontier said in its statement.
Fenster, 37, was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was trying to board a flight to go to the Detroit area to see his family.
Two Myanmar journalists who were arrested more than a month ago were released Thursday, the wife of one of them said.
Voice of Myanmar Editor-in-Chief Nay Myo Lin and reporter Shine Aung were arrested on April 27 when they obeyed an order to report themselves for questioning about articles judged to be anti-military.
Both returned to their homes after they were released when the cases against them were dropped, said Zarni Mann, who is Nay Myo Lin’s wife. Voice of Myanmar, an online news service suspended operations following their arrests.
“We have said that journalism is not a crime. But not only Nay Myo Lin but also many other journalists have been prosecuted and detained in the prisons. I want all other detained journalists to be released, just like Nay Myo Lin,” said Zarni Mann.


Hong Kong newspaper increases print fivefold after arrests

The paper’s average daily circulation increase from approximately 86,000 copies to 500,000 overnight. (AFP)
The paper’s average daily circulation increase from approximately 86,000 copies to 500,000 overnight. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2021

Hong Kong newspaper increases print fivefold after arrests

The paper’s average daily circulation increase from approximately 86,000 copies to 500,000 overnight. (AFP)
  • Hong Kong's Apple Daily prints increased fivefold after the police arrested five top editors and executives.
  • On Thursday, police raided the offices of the pro-democracy newspaper, arrested five people and froze $2.3 million worth of assets.

HONG KONG: Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily increased its print run more than fivefold to 500,000 copies as residents lined up Friday to buy the paper in a show of support for beleaguered press freedoms, a day after police arrested five top editors and executives.
The raid on the paper’s offices by hundreds of police and security agents — along with the freezing of $2.3 million worth of its assets — marked the first time a sweeping national security law has been used against the media. It was the latest sign of a widening crackdown on civil liberties in the semi-autonomous city, which has long cherished freedoms that don’t exist elsewhere in China.
Police said the editors were arrested on suspicion of foreign collusion to endanger national security, based on over 30 articles that authorities said had called for international sanctions against China and Hong Kong.
On Friday, the National Security Department charged two men with collusion with a foreign country to endanger national security, according to a government statement. The two will appear in court on Saturday.
It did not name them, but the South China Morning Post newspaper cited an unnamed source saying they are Apply Daily’s chief editor Ryan Law and Cheung Kim-hung, the CEO of Apple Daily’s publisher Next Digital. The other three were being detained for investigation.
With anti-government protests silenced, most of the city’s prominent pro-democracy activists in jail and many others fleeing abroad, people snapped up copies at newsstands and in convenience stores.
“There are lots of injustices in Hong Kong already. I think there are a lot of things we cannot do anymore,” said resident Lisa Cheung. “Buying a copy is all what we can do. When the law cannot protect Hong Kong people anymore, we are only left to do what we can.”
The front page of Friday’s edition splashed images of the five editors and executives led away in handcuffs. Police also confiscated 44 hard drives worth of news material. A quote from Cheung, the arrested CEO of Next Digital, said “Hang in there, everyone.”
Another resident, William Chan, said he bought a copy of the paper as a show of support.
“It was such a groundless arrest and suppressed freedom of the press,” he said.
The national security law was imposed after massive protests in 2019 challenged Beijing’s rule by calling for broader democratic freedoms. It outlaws subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign countries. The maximum penalty for serious offenders is life imprisonment.
Security Minister John Lee had on Thursday warned other journalists to distance themselves from those under investigation at Apple Daily. He said those arrested had used journalistic work to endanger national security and that anyone who was “in cahoots” with them would pay a hefty price.
The United States, which has imposed sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials over the crackdown, strongly condemned the arrests and called for the immediate release of the five arrested.
“We are deeply concerned by Hong Kong authorities’ selective use of the national security law to arbitrarily target independent media organizations,” State Department spokesman Price said, adding that the suspected foreign collusion charges appear to be politically motivated.
“As we all know, exchanging views with foreigners in journalism should never be a crime,” he said.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a tweet that freedom of the press is one of the rights China had promised to protect for 50 years when Britain handed over Hong Kong in 1997.
“Today’s raids & arrests at Apple Daily in Hong Kong demonstrate Beijing is using the National Security Law to target dissenting voices, not tackle public security,” Raab said.
European Union spokesperson Nabila Massrali said that the arrests “further demonstrate how the National Security Law is being used to stifle media freedom and freedom of expression in Hong Kong.” Media freedom and pluralism are fundamental to Hong Kong’s success under the “one country, two systems” framework, she said.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian rejected the foreign criticism and defended the government’s action, repeating China’s insistence that the national security targets only a “small group of anti-China elements who disrupted Hong Kong and endangered the national security of the country.”
“No right or freedom, including freedom of the press, can break through the bottom line of national security,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.
“Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong, Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs, and no country, organization or individual has the right to intervene,” he said.
Apple Daily has pledged to readers that it will continue its reporting, and on Thursday night invited members of the media to its printing presses to watch its Friday edition roll off the press in a show of commitment.
Its founder Jimmy Lai is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence on charges of playing a part in unauthorized protests in 2019, and faces further charges under the national security law that could potentially put him away for life.
The paper’s average daily circulation has been around 86,000 copies.