Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant

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Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant

Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant
  • There is a general trend of inclusion of women in all sectors of employment in Saudi Arabia

Not only does she report on the growing empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia, journalist Deema Al-Khudair said that every day she gets to experience the advances and greater freedoms women in the Kingdom now enjoy as a result of the ongoing reforms under her nation’s Vision 2030 development plan.

During an interview on “The Ray Hanania Show” on the US Arab Radio Network on Wednesday, Al-Khudair, a reporter with Arab News, talked about her experiences and some of the stories she has worked on that reveal the changing role of women in Saudi society.

Recently, for example, she wrote a story about women who work as security guards in the women’s prayer section at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. It was exciting, she said, to see them proudly working on an equal footing with male security guards.

There is a general trend of inclusion of women in all sectors of employment in Saudi Arabia, said Al-Khudair, including the military.

“Women have been enrolling in the military for about three years now,” she said. “But for them to be noticed (working) in the Two Holy Mosques is still relatively new.

“The female security guards in Makkah (started working there around the time of the) last Hajj season. Most of these women I interviewed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah told me they have been working there for six months.”

Previously, the women’s prayer section was monitored by women who received only the most basic training and support. Thanks to the reforms, all that has changed.

“They receive firearms training, self-defense (instruction), learned about fitness, and they took courses in Islamic studies, computer education and English to (help them) speak with foreigners visiting the mosque,” said Al-Khudair “Anything men went through, they received the same training.”

The female guards are very proud of their new roles and the advances they have made.

“All of the women feel very empowered,” she said. “One of the women I interviewed told me her whole family has a military background — all of her brothers are in the military — and this job made her feel included. She felt right at home.”

Al-Khudair said she began her journalism career in 2017, soon after Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman unveiled his Vision 2030 project. The success of the initiative, an ambitious program of development and diversification in preparation for the post-oil age, depends in part on the expansion of the rights and freedoms of Saudi women.

In June 2018, for example, women in the Kingdom were granted the right to drive. Their child-custody rights were also reformed, and they were given the right to attend sporting events, among many other new freedoms.

Al-Khudair, who works on the local-news desk at Arab News, covering Saudi issues, said the past few years have been an exciting time for Saudi women.

“Honestly, I am so proud of them, myself, as a Saudi woman,” she said. “Throughout my job as a journalist I have witnessed all the changes the Kingdom went through.”

For example, she added, she has interviewed female athletes, successful businesswomen and other high-ranking Saudi women.”

Al-Khudair has written stories on many topics but said she has a special fondness for stories about children.

“Some of my favorite stories are children’s stories,” she said. For example, she interviewed a 7-year-old gymnast who said her ambition is to represent Saudi Arabia at the Olympics.

The nation’s youngsters can even make her smile when writing about serious issues such as the coronavirus crisis.

“During the pandemic last year, we were all upset about the lockdown and I wanted to find a way to make the situation lighter. So, I interviewed children,” Al-Khudair said.

“I wanted to find out what they knew about the coronavirus. I laughed through the whole article — they thought it was some green monster that was going to turn people into zombies. I loved that article.”

* The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday on the US Arab Radio Network in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 radio, and in Washington DC on WDMV AM 700 Radio. The show is streamed live on Facebook.com/ArabNews and the podcast is available on iTunes, Spotify and many other podcasting providers. For more information on this and other interviews, visit ArabNews.com/RayRadioShow.


ABG leads first global diversity, inclusion census in GCC

ABG leads first global diversity, inclusion census in GCC
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Updated 56 min 10 sec ago

ABG leads first global diversity, inclusion census in GCC

ABG leads first global diversity, inclusion census in GCC
  • Census represents biggest global cross-industry collaboration across 27 markets

DUBAI: In a move to assess the scale of the diversity challenge facing the marketing and advertising industry, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has launched the first-ever global diversity, equity and inclusion census.

The census is a collaboration between the WFA, VoxComm, the European Association of Communication Agencies (EACA), Campaign, Kantar, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and The Effies, with the goal of generating the largest and most representative sample possible.

“This is an unprecedented act of unity by the global marketing industry. With over a hundred participating organisations, this is the biggest industry collaboration ever,” WFA CEO Stephan Loerke said in a statement.

In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the effort is being led by the Advertising Business Group (ABG), a non-profit organization advocating for responsible advertising and communication​.

People from across the marketing industry — including brands, agencies, media, tech, consultancies and marketing services providers in 27 countries — can fill in the survey until July 2 by providing socio-demographic data about themselves and perceptions of their workplace.

“The data from so many markets will be incredibly powerful in helping the industry focus its efforts on where they are most needed, helping us become a better, more diverse and more inclusive industry,” said Tamara Daltroff, director general of EACA and president of VoxComm.

The survey will assess where the global advertising and marketing industry stands in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion by investigating workforce composition across the industry as well as people’s perception of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

The findings will be presented at leading global industry events in October this year, and published publicly for the benefit of global, regional and local groups.

The results will also be used to inform an action plan devised and led by the WFA’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which is a global platform of the world’s top marketers.

A follow-up survey will be conducted after 18 months to track progress.


Facebook expands Shops to WhatsApp, Marketplace in commerce push

Facebook said it would introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior. (File/AFP)
Facebook said it would introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

Facebook expands Shops to WhatsApp, Marketplace in commerce push

Facebook said it would introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior. (File/AFP)
  • Facebook Inc (FB.O) is expanding its "Shops" feature to its messaging app WhatsApp in several countries.
  • Users will be able to use this search from content on the app or on photos on their own camera rolls.

Facebook Inc (FB.O) is expanding its "Shops" feature to its messaging app WhatsApp in several countries and to Facebook Marketplace in the United States, the company said on Tuesday as it announced changes to its commerce tools.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said it would also introduce personalized ads in its Shops service based on users' shopping behavior.

The social media giant, which launched Shops last year as a way for people to find and buy products on Facebook and Instagram as part of its push into ecommerce, said it has more than 300 million monthly Shops visitors and about 1.2 million monthly active Shops.

Zuckerberg said during Facebook's last earnings release that e-commerce is one of the company's three key areas of focus, along with working on augmented and virtual reality and helping content creators earn money on Facebook's platforms.

The company said it would in the coming months test an artificial intelligence tool called 'visual search' so users shopping on its photo-sharing site Instagram can click on items and find similar products in Shops.

Users will be able to use this search from content on the app or on photos on their own camera rolls, Zuckerberg said.

Facebook is also working on ways using augmented reality that shoppers can try on items, including from ads, Zuckerberg said, speaking in a live audio room on Facebook.


Twitter opens applications to test new content subscription features

Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations. (File/AFP)
Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

Twitter opens applications to test new content subscription features

Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter users can apply to get first access to "Super Follows," which will let them sell exclusive content to paying subscribers.

Twitter Inc said Tuesday it will seek applications from users who want to be the first to test new content subscription and ticketing features, as the social platform works to build more ways for users to earn money. 

Twitter users can apply to get first access to "Super Follows," which will let them sell exclusive content to paying subscribers, and "Ticketed Spaces," to charge for entry into audio chat rooms they host on the platform.

Both features are part of Twitter's plan to compete with other social media companies to attract more influential content creators by letting them earn money from fan followings.

Users must have at least 10,000 followers on Twitter to be eligible to apply for Super Follows, and at least 1,000 followers to apply for first access to Ticketed Spaces.

The company aims to select "a diverse set of voices," from the applications, said Esther Crawford, senior product manager at Twitter.

The company will take a 3% cut of a creator's revenue until the user hits $50,000 in earnings, after which Twitter will keep 20%, in order to help up-and-coming creators earn more money at the start, Twitter said.

Crawford added that Twitter will focus on individuals who apply for the features, but will also consider brands, publishers and nonprofit organizations which have built an audience on Twitter.


British minister urges same rules for streaming services, broadcasters -Times

British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

British minister urges same rules for streaming services, broadcasters -Times

British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
  • British government draw plans to make streaming services follow the code of British regulator Ofcom, says Culture Secretary.
  • The government will consult on whether it is time to set the same basic rules for video-on-demand services as is done for traditional broadcasters

June 23 : Britain’s streaming services and broadcasters should be on a level playing field, as traditional broadcasters now compete with “one hand tied behind their backs,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Wednesday.
Dowden is to unveil plans for a white paper on broadcasting that aims to make streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ follow the code of British regulator Ofcom, he said in the Times newspaper “Every “linear” broadcaster — BBC, Sky and so on — has to comply with stringent content and audience protection standards,” Dowden said in an article published on Wednesday.
“You might assume the same is true of video-on-demand services such as Amazon Prime and Disney+. You’d be wrong.”
The government will consult this summer on whether it is time to set the same basic rules for video-on-demand services as is done for traditional broadcasters, he added.
“The white paper will also set out proposals on how we ensure public service broadcasters are given sufficient visibility...online, and ensure viewers can continue to find and watch original and high-quality British programs.”
Separately, Britain’s Conservative government said it plans to sell Channel 4, launched 39 years ago as an alternative to the BBC and ITV, to help secure its future as a public service broadcaster.
“In summer I will consult on the sale of Channel 4,” Dowden wrote, adding that he would proceed on the lines that an alternative ownership model retaining the broadcaster’s public service remit would better serve both it and Britain.


Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda

Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda
Updated 23 June 2021

Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda

Rights group: Facebook amplified Myanmar military propaganda
  • Facebook's algorithm amplified military propaganda in Myanmar following the military takeover, revealed report.
  • After the coup, the military junta temporarily blocked access to Facebook because it was being used to share anti-coup comments and organize protests.
Facebook’s recommendation algorithm amplifies military propaganda and other material that breaches the company’s own policies in Myanmar following a military takeover in February, a new report by the rights group Global Witness says.
A month after the military seized power in Myanmar and imprisoned elected leaders, Facebook’s algorithms were still prompting users to view and “like” pro-military pages with posts that incited and threatened violence, pushed misinformation that could lead to physical harm, praised the military and glorified its abuses, Global Witness said in the report, published late Tuesday.
That’s even though the social media giant vowed to remove such content following the coup, announcing it would remove Myanmar military and military-controlled pages from its site and from Instagram, which it also owns. It has since enacted other measures intended to reduce offline harm in the country.
Facebook said Tuesday its teams “continue to closely monitor the situation in Myanmar in real-time and take action on any posts, Pages or Groups that break our rules.”
Days after the Feb. 1 coup, the military temporarily blocked access to Facebook because it was being used to share anti-coup comments and organize protests. Access was later restored. In the following weeks, Facebook continued to tighten its policies against the military, banning all military entities from its platforms and saying it would remove praise or support for violence against citizens and their arrest.
“Once again, Facebook shows that it’s good at making broad sweeping announcements and bad at actually enforcing them. They’ve had years to improve their work in Myanmar but once again they are still failing,” said Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist and whistleblower who found evidence of political manipulation in countries such as Honduras and Azerbaijan while she worked there.
The struggle between the military regime that deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government and those opposing it has sharpened in recent months.
Soldiers and police have killed hundreds of protesters. Last week, the United Nations’ office in Myanmar expressed concern about escalating human rights abuses after reports that a group opposed to the junta may have executed 25 civilians it captured and allegations that troops had burned down a village.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, had over 22.3 million Facebook users in January 2020, more than 40 percent of its population, according to social media management platform NapoleonCat.
“What happens on Facebook matters everywhere, but in Myanmar that is doubly true,” the report says. As in many countries outside the Western Hemisphere, mobile phones in Myanmar often come pre-loaded with Facebook and many businesses do not have a website, only a Facebook page. For many people in the country, Facebook effectively is the Internet.
On March 23, just before the peak of military violence against civilians, Global Witness said it set up a new, clean Facebook account with no history of liking or following specific topics and searched for “Tatmadaw”, the Burmese name for the armed forces. It filtered the search results to show pages, and selected the top result — a military fan page whose name translates as “a gathering of military lovers.”
Older posts on this page showed sympathy for Myanmar’s soldiers and at least two advertised for young people to join the military — but none of the newer posts since the coup violated Facebook’s policies. However, when Global Witness’s account “liked” the page, Facebook began recommending related pages with material inciting violence, false claims of interference in last year’s election and support of violence against civilians.
A March 1 post, for instance, includes a death threat against protesters who vandalize surveillance cameras.
“Those who threaten female police officers from the traffic control office and violently destroy the glass and destroy CCTV, those who cut the cables, those who vandalize with color sprays, (we) have been given an order to shoot to kill them on the spot,” reads part of the post in translation, according to the report. “Saying this before Tatmadaw starts doing this. If you don’t believe and continue to do this, go ahead. If you are not afraid to die, keep going.”
Facebook said its ban of the Tatmadaw and other measures have “made it harder for people to misuse our services to spread harm. This is a highly adversarial issue and we continue to take action on content that violates our policies to help keep people safe.”
Global Witness said its findings show that Facebook fails to uphold the “very basics” of its own guidelines.
“The platform operates too much like a walled garden, its algorithms are designed, trained, and tweaked without adequate oversight or regulation,” said Naomi Hirst, head of the digital threats campaign at Global Witness. “This secrecy has to end, Facebook must be made accountable.”