Pakistan blocks major social media outlets to ‘maintain public order’

Pakistan blocks major social media outlets to ‘maintain public order’
The social media ban affected many Pakistanis already suffering from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 April 2021

Pakistan blocks major social media outlets to ‘maintain public order’

Pakistan blocks major social media outlets to ‘maintain public order’
  • The Interior Ministry requested a “complete blocking” of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Telegram
  • Political parties frequently use social media to rally supporters

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government on Friday ordered an hours-long shutdown of social media and instant messaging platforms after days of violent anti-France protests.
It comes a day after French nationals and companies in Pakistan were advised by their embassy to temporarily leave in the wake of rallies led by an extremist party that paralyzed large parts of the country and left two police officers dead.
In a notice to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the Interior Ministry requested a “complete blocking” of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Telegram until the middle of the afternoon.
The PTA said it was to “maintain public order and safety.”
Political parties frequently use social media to rally supporters, and the announcement came just before Friday prayers, which usually draw huge crowds to mosques where firebrand sermons have in the past catalyzed protests.
Pakistan authorities have used strategic social media bans and cuts to mobile service in the past in an attempt to head off major protests.
Thousands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) supporters spilled onto the streets in cities across the country on Monday after their leader was detained following his calls for the expulsion of the French ambassador.
More than 200 were arrested during days of clashes that followed, police sources told AFP.
“These past few days have been chaotic,” said Mariam Jamal, who works at a digital marketing company in Lahore.
“First we couldn’t get to work on time because of the traffic jams and road blocks, and now we can’t really do much because social media is blocked.”
The social media ban affected many Pakistanis already suffering from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the northwestern city of Peshawar, Eqtedar Ahmad told AFP his work as a doctor at a private hospital had been disrupted.
“We use WhatsApp for routine business — including sending lab reports to patients — and this current suspension has affected us severely,” he said.
Wamiq Haris, a 30-year-old who depends on social media to run his food delivery service in Karachi, the country’s largest city and economic hub, said orders had plummeted.
“Every day we face a new challenge for our business,” he told AFP.

Protests had been cleared from most cities by Friday, but in Lahore hundreds of TLP supporters continued a sit-in at a religious school — and party headquarters — despite the circulation of a handwritten plea from leader Saad Rizvi to leave the streets.
Anti-French sentiment has been festering for months in Pakistan since President Emmanuel Macron threw his support behind a satirical magazine’s right to republish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad — an act deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has struggled to bring TLP to heel over the years, but this week announced an outright ban against the group, effectively labelling it an extremist outfit.
The TLP is notorious for holding days-long, violent road protests over blasphemy issues, causing major disruption to the country.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in conservative Pakistan, where laws allow for the death penalty to be used on anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures.
Francophobia erupted in autumn last year when the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo republished cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Macron’s subsequent defense of free speech triggered anger across the Muslim world, with tens of thousands in Pakistan, neighboring Iran and other Muslim countries flooding the streets and organizing anti-French boycotts.
At the time, TLP supporters brought the capital Islamabad to a standstill.
Extra security personnel have been deployed to the French embassy — inside a guarded diplomatic enclave closed to the public — and shipping containers were placed as fortifications around its outer wall.

Visit the Pakistan edition of Arab News for more details.


TikTok joins coalition to protect children from online abuse

TikTok reiterated its commitment to minors’ safety on the platform, and emphasized its zero tolerance for any content that perpetuates the abuse, harm, endangerment or exploitation of children. (Reuters/File Photo)
TikTok reiterated its commitment to minors’ safety on the platform, and emphasized its zero tolerance for any content that perpetuates the abuse, harm, endangerment or exploitation of children. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 06 May 2021

TikTok joins coalition to protect children from online abuse

TikTok reiterated its commitment to minors’ safety on the platform, and emphasized its zero tolerance for any content that perpetuates the abuse, harm, endangerment or exploitation of children. (Reuters/File Photo)

LONDON: Networking platform TikTok announced on Wednesday that it has joined the Technology Coalition, an organization that works to protect children from online sexual exploitation and abuse. 

Through this membership, TikTok aims to advance protections for children online and offline. 

TikTok reiterated its commitment to minors’ safety on the platform, and emphasized its zero tolerance for any content that perpetuates the abuse, harm, endangerment or exploitation of children, as outlined in the Community Guidelines. 

The announcement also features TikTok’s endorsement of the International Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, in an effort to ensure a consistent and strong response to exploitation across services.


AudioSwim on song to help achieve fair pay for UAE artists

Label services and music distribution company, AudioSwim, is looking to bring the hype to the UAE and help artists jump on the NFT bandwagon. (Supplied)
Label services and music distribution company, AudioSwim, is looking to bring the hype to the UAE and help artists jump on the NFT bandwagon. (Supplied)
Updated 06 May 2021

AudioSwim on song to help achieve fair pay for UAE artists

Label services and music distribution company, AudioSwim, is looking to bring the hype to the UAE and help artists jump on the NFT bandwagon. (Supplied)
  • Company aims to revolutionize music industry in next 5 years using latest digital technology

DUBAI: Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – a type of digital asset created to track ownership of a virtual item – have become all the rage with their market capitalization shooting up by 1,785 percent this year alone.

Although much of the conversation has been around art, NFTs are now gaining popularity in the music industry too. In March, the American rock band Kings of Leon released their first NFT album, “When You See Yourself,” generating more than $2 million in NFT sales.

Now, label services and music distribution company, AudioSwim, is looking to bring the hype to the UAE and help artists jump on the NFT bandwagon.

The company is headed by Albert Carter, a label owner, manager, and distributor who has worked in the music industry for the last 15 years.

He told Arab News: “You, as an individual, are non-fungible. Let’s pretend you are an NFT and, yes, you are one of 7 billion people, but there is only one of you. So, if you are a token, the rest of the 7 billion people are the other people on the blockchain (a digital record of transactions made with cryptocurrencies).

“You, as an individual, cannot be replaced in this world. If you place yourself on the blockchain, people will have to purchase you. They won’t be able to purchase another person even if that person has the same name, body type, and more; that person has to be you.”

Applying this rationale to music, Carter said artists could release their songs and give ownership to their fans.

AudioSwim’s role in the equation was to sell a portion of the royalties based on how much of their music artists decided to sell. The company’s distribution platform will allow artists to buy, sell, or trade music royalties with fans on a blockchain-secured platform.

“This allows them (artists) to earn crypto, which can be converted to cash, directly from the royalties paid on the songs from the artist catalog,” Carter added.

NFTs offer several benefits for musicians, including more transparency and a better relationship with fans.

“NFTs also provide a proof of authenticity and copyright protection since all information is verified on the blockchain. The original artists always get paid from any appreciating value on their music,” he said.

The transition to a digital world would not be entirely plain sailing and the mix of cultures in the UAE made it harder for outsiders to understand the local music scene, but Carter noted that the country was already leading the way in blockchain technology.

“With Dubai holding the Future Blockchain Summit, and expected growth of up to $20 billion, it’s an exciting time for any artist looking to take control of their music,” he added.

AudioSwim currently operates in the US, the UK, Nigeria, South Africa, and the UAE, and has plans for further expansion.

“We are looking to take the full-scale label service model global. However, we see the Middle East and North Africa region as our primary focus to empower regional artists first,” Carter said.


Dubai Chamber of Commerce, TikTok to launch platform to support SMEs

Participants will get access to a dedicated online educational portal that will offer training in digital marketing and advise businesses on how to get started on TikTok. (Shutterstock)
Participants will get access to a dedicated online educational portal that will offer training in digital marketing and advise businesses on how to get started on TikTok. (Shutterstock)
Updated 05 May 2021

Dubai Chamber of Commerce, TikTok to launch platform to support SMEs

Participants will get access to a dedicated online educational portal that will offer training in digital marketing and advise businesses on how to get started on TikTok. (Shutterstock)
  • ‘We look forward to upskilling this thriving community,’ TikTok official tells Arab News
  • A 4-week educational program will help 1,000 startups and SMEs

LONDON: The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with TikTok to create and launch the Dubai Chamber — TikTok Academy.

A four-week educational program will help 1,000 startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region to grow their businesses using the content-creation platform.

Participants will get access to a dedicated online educational portal that will offer training in digital marketing and advise businesses on how to get started on TikTok, creative content, marketing campaign creation and optimization. 

“We’re excited to join forces with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in supporting the digitization of startups and SMEs in the region,” Shant Oknayan, general manager of global business solutions at TikTok, told Arab News.

“We look forward to upskilling this thriving community, who will not only become experts in content creation and digital marketing, but in turn expedite their growth by leveraging the TikTok platform in this challenging year.” 

Participants will benefit from various sessions on dedicated business canvassing for startup ideas, and knowledge-sharing sessions with industry experts.

Upon completion of the program, participants will receive a digital participation badge and a chance to win prizes for best TikTok video and best campaign. 


Anti-Islam pundit leads ‘France’s Fox News’ channel

Anti-Islam pundit leads ‘France’s Fox News’ channel
Updated 05 May 2021

Anti-Islam pundit leads ‘France’s Fox News’ channel

Anti-Islam pundit leads ‘France’s Fox News’ channel
  • Éric Zemmour, an essayist with three convictions for hate speech, was hired by CNews in 2019
  • Zemmour has been accused in recent weeks by several women of sexual assault

LONDON: CNews, a free channel that has been dubbed “France’s Fox News,” pulled ahead as the most-watched 24-hour news broadcast in France for the first time on Monday, led by anti-Islam pundit Éric Zemmour.

Zemmour, an essayist with three convictions for hate speech, was hired by CNews in 2019, when the news channel switched its format to feature evenings dominated by conservative opinion and verbal clashes.  

On his show, Zemmour blamed Islam for “driving France toward disaster” and accused thousands of unaccompanied minors who have migrated to France in recent years as being “thieves, murderers and rapists” who should be expelled.

The 62-year-old’s anti-Islam and anti-immigration rhetoric was condemned by the state broadcasting authority but was conversely met with cheers from millions watching his evening show. 

As a result, he emerged as a possible leader for the “patriotic” right as an alternative to Marine Le Pen, the right-wing candidate. Thirteen percent of voters would reportedly back a Zemmour candidacy in the 2022 presidential election.

Zemmour has been accused in recent weeks by several women, including journalists and a town councilor, of sexually assaulting them over the past 15 years. CNews said that it is standing behind its star broadcaster and that he would remain on the air.


Iranian state TV shows video of missile blowing up US Capitol building

The country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) reportedly broadcast the video on Sunday. (Screenshot)
The country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) reportedly broadcast the video on Sunday. (Screenshot)
Updated 06 May 2021

Iranian state TV shows video of missile blowing up US Capitol building

The country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) reportedly broadcast the video on Sunday. (Screenshot)
  • The country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) reportedly broadcast the video on Sunday
  • The 11-second clip featured armed IRGC forces marching in formation, a missile being launched at an undisclosed location, followed by scenes of the US Capitol imploding in flames

LONDON: Iranian state TV has aired a propaganda video showing a missile blowing up the US Capitol building.

The country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) reportedly broadcast the video on Sunday just before Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was due to give a televised speech.

The 11-second clip featured armed IRGC forces marching in formation, a missile being launched at an undisclosed location, followed by scenes of the US Capitol imploding in flames. The video then showed Iranian clerics walking toward Jerusalem.

According to Kasra Aarabi, an analyst at the Tony Blair Institute, the music playing in the background of the video is a Shia Islamist song, with lyrics describing the US Capitol as a “palace of oppression” that was “destroyed by the Alavi (Imam Ali’s) IRGC, and the good news of the liberation of Quds (Jerusalem) arrives from Iran.”

The screening coincided with nuclear talks currently taking place between Iran and the US in Vienna. Reports suggested that at the time of the video broadcast, the political foes were edging closer to an agreement on resuming the abandoned 2015 nuclear deal.