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)
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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.


Anti-Arab speech surges on social media during Gaza clashes, survey shows

Anti-Arab speech surges on social media during Gaza clashes, survey shows
Updated 15 June 2021

Anti-Arab speech surges on social media during Gaza clashes, survey shows

Anti-Arab speech surges on social media during Gaza clashes, survey shows
  • Between May 6 and May 21, when clashes with Israel were most severe, hate speech against Palestinians rose dramatically in comparison with the same period in 2020
  • The same period also witnessed widespread censorship of Palestinian posts on social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

LONDON: Violent speech directed against Arabs and Palestinians on social media increased 15-fold during the recent hostilities in Gaza, a report has found. 

Between May 6 and May 21 when clashes with Israel were most severe, hate speech against Palestinians rose dramatically in comparison with the same period in 2020, according to the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement, or 7amleh.

The center recorded 1.09 million posts on social media platforms, with 16.8 percent containing racism, slurs or incitement against Arabs. 

Among tweets shared widely, one reads: “A good Arab is a dead Arab,” while another reads: “Death to all Arabs.”

Most violent speech (58 percent) took place on Twitter, compared with only 8 percent on Facebook and 1 percent on Instagram.

The same period also witnessed widespread censorship of Palestinian posts on social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

7amleh documented 500 cases of digital rights violations of Palestinians, which included content being taken down and accounts being removed.

Tech giants have been the targets of strong criticism from users for censoring Palestinian content.

Facebook was the target of a coordinated social media campaign launched by pro-Palestine activists in an attempt to push down the app’s ranking on Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play.

While Instagram changed the way it displays content after claims of blocking Palestine-related content, other social media giants have been reluctant to take similar steps. 

Instagram said that the “stories” feature was built according to an algorithm that favors original content as opposed to existing and reshared posts. As a result, any Palestine-related content that was reshared from other accounts was pushed lower in the Instagram feed. 

Social media has been crucial for people in the Middle East to document and spread information on destruction of homes, forced displacement and violence. 


UK backlash prompts WhatsApp privacy campaign

The campaign comes as the messaging platform faces pressure from other encrypted messaging services. (File/AFP)
The campaign comes as the messaging platform faces pressure from other encrypted messaging services. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 June 2021

UK backlash prompts WhatsApp privacy campaign

The campaign comes as the messaging platform faces pressure from other encrypted messaging services. (File/AFP)
  • WhatsApp announced on Monday the launch of a privacy-centered advertisement campaign in the UK aimed at combatting pressure from governments.
  • The campaign is intended to promote benefits of its end-to-end encryption feature.

LONDON: WhatsApp announced on Monday the launch of a privacy-centered advertisement campaign in the UK aimed at combatting pressure from governments to change the way the platform encrypts messages.

The campaign follows customer criticism against changes to its terms and conditions, announced in early 2021, and is intended to promote benefits of its end-to-end encryption feature.

WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption, meaning that messages can only be read on the device which sends one and the device which receives it. The platform itself, and its parent company Facebook, cannot view or intercept them. 

In January, WhatsApp announced changes to its terms and conditions which sparked concern from thousands of users who wrongly thought the messaging app would start sharing encrypted messages with Facebook.

The changes, however, were mainly related to enabling companies to accept payments via WhatsApp. 

At the time, WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart took personal responsibility for the confusion the announcement had created.

Since then, however, the end-to-end encryption feature received criticism from the UK government, with Home Secretary Priti Patel describing the use of end-to-end encryption as “not acceptable.”

Patel argued that this feature puts children at risk and offers a hiding place for child-abusers and other criminals.

The campaign comes as the messaging platform faces pressure from other encrypted messaging services, with many users switching away from WhatsApp in the wake of the policy update confusion.


First NFT digital Islamic art agency to launch in Middle East

First NFT digital Islamic art agency to launch in Middle East
Updated 15 June 2021

First NFT digital Islamic art agency to launch in Middle East

First NFT digital Islamic art agency to launch in Middle East
  • A NFT is essentially a unique digital unit that cannot be replicated

DUBAI: NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are all the rage in the art world.

A NFT is essentially a unique digital unit that cannot be replicated. While the high prices that NFT art has commanded have perplexed some, others take pride in owning a unique digital asset that gives them exclusive and permanent rights.

The NFT art market has grown more than 800 percent in just the first four months of 2021, from $52 million in January to a whopping $490 million by the end of April, according to a Business Insider report.

As a result, more artists are looking to create NFT artworks with several agencies and galleries launching specialized divisions to manage digital art.

Dubai-based Behnoode Foundation is due to launch the first-ever NFT digital Islamic art agency in the Middle East, Behnoode Art.

In 2016, Behnood Javaherpour, founder and creative director at Behnoode, launched the foundation, which supports charities in Nepal and Iran. Behnoode Art will partner with the foundation to donate a portion of all auctioned digital artwork to help out-of-school children.

The new agency aims to modernize the artworks of talented Middle Eastern artists and sell its unique digital footprints through live auctions to fine art collectors around the world, Javaherpour told Arab News.

“Art is universal, and my agency allows Middle Eastern, European, and Asian artists to showcase their work all around the world and to shine a spotlight on their incredible talent,” he said.

Behnoode Art is currently working with more than 100 artists who are creating NFT artwork. Its ambition is to make NFT art easy to understand and promote for artists.

“Most of the artists under my current project are not into digital technology, but they have the best talents in the world,” Javaherpour added.

Behnoode Art will serve as a platform for artists who want to make their art available digitally and participate in the agency’s activities throughout the year such as private auctions, collaboration projects, gala events, and other gatherings to sell and promote artwork.

Javaherpour said the agency was working to set up links with Islamic banks and other financial institutions in the region to “create a community that values fine art while integrating modern technology.”

Behnoode Art was expected to officially launch in July.


EU court backs national data watchdog powers in blow to Facebook, big tech

EU court backs national data watchdog powers in blow to Facebook, big tech
Updated 15 June 2021

EU court backs national data watchdog powers in blow to Facebook, big tech

EU court backs national data watchdog powers in blow to Facebook, big tech
  • EU court supports national data watchdogs to pursue big tech firms.
  • The ruling could encourage national agencies to act against US tech companies such as Google, Twitter and Apple.

BRUSSELS: Europe’s top court on Tuesday endorsed the power of national data watchdogs to pursue big tech firms even if they are not their lead regulators, in a setback for Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook.

The EU Court of Justice (CJEU) ruling could encourage national agencies to act against US tech companies such as Google, Twitter and Apple, which all have their European Union headquarters in Ireland.

Many national watchdogs in the 27-member European Union have long complained about their Irish counterpart, saying that it takes too long to decide on cases.

Ireland has dismissed this, saying it has to be extra meticulous in dealing with powerful and well-funded tech giants.

The CJEU got involved after a Belgian court sought guidance on Facebook’s challenge against the territorial competence of the Belgian data watchdog’s bid to stop it from tracking users in Belgium through cookies stored in the company’s social plug-ins, regardless of whether they have an account or not.

“Under certain conditions, a national supervisory authority may exercise its power to bring any alleged infringement of the GDPR before a court of a member state, even though that authority is not the lead supervisory authority with regard to that processing,” the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) said.

Under landmark EU privacy rules known as GDPR, Facebook faces oversight by the Irish privacy authority because it has its European head office in Ireland.

The case is C-645/19 Facebook Ireland & Others.


YouTube bans masthead ads for politics, alcohol and bets

YouTube said the change built on its move last year to retire all full-day masthead ads. (File/AFP)
YouTube said the change built on its move last year to retire all full-day masthead ads. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 June 2021

YouTube bans masthead ads for politics, alcohol and bets

YouTube said the change built on its move last year to retire all full-day masthead ads. (File/AFP)
  • Youtube will no longer allow political, election, alcohol, gambling and prescription drugs ads at the top of the site's homepage.
  • The change to its most prominent ad unit was effective immediately, said Google.

Alphabet Inc’s YouTube will no longer allow political or election ads in its coveted masthead spot at the top of the site’s homepage nor ads for alcohol, gambling and prescription drugs, it said on Monday.

In an email to advertisers, seen by Reuters, YouTube said the change built on its move last year to retire all full-day masthead ads. It said it has retired these full-day reservations, like the one then-President Donald Trump reserved to dominate its homepage on Election Day 2020, and replaced them with more targeted formats.

“We regularly review our advertising requirements to ensure they balance the needs of both advertisers and users,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We believe this update will build on changes we made last year to the masthead reservation process and will lead to a better experience for users,” they added.

Google said that the change to its most prominent ad unit, which was first reported by Axios, was effective immediately.

Google paused political ads altogether around the US presidential election and again ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January this year, citing its policy over sensitive events.