Facebook, Instagram accused of bias by censoring Palestinian content 

Facebook, Instagram accused of bias by censoring Palestinian content 
Hundreds of social media users have accused Instagram and Facebook of removing content and accounts reporting on the Sheikh Jarrah violence.
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Updated 11 May 2021

Facebook, Instagram accused of bias by censoring Palestinian content 

Facebook, Instagram accused of bias by censoring Palestinian content 
  • Director of 7amleh said the censorship of Palestinians happened through two channels
  • The organization was able to restore some content and pages of users who reported removals to them

DUBAI: Imagine the pain of being kicked out of your own home. Then imagine being unable to let the world know what is happening to you.

This is the reality for Palestinians living in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, which houses 28 families from the 1948 Nakba. Under international law, East Jerusalem is considered part of the Palestinian Territories.

Earlier this year, the Israeli Central Court in East Jerusalem approved a decision to evict four Palestinian families from their homes in the neighborhood. 

The court was scheduled to issue a ruling on the evictions on May 6 amid heated demonstrations and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, but the decision was delayed until May 10.

Hundreds of social media users have accused Instagram and Facebook of removing content and accounts reporting on the Sheikh Jarrah violence.

One of the videos that was deleted from the story archives of Palestinian journalist Maha Rezeq was about Israeli settler Jacob, who took over the house of Muna El-Kurd in 2009. He told her that if he did not steal her house then someone else would.

“What I’ve been sharing is raw footage, videos, testimonies of people on the ground, some are actually coming from the mouth of an Israeli, the mouth of a settler, why is that controversial? Everything was self-explanatory, there is no blood or graphic footage that violates the community standard,” Rezeq said.

Rezeq told Arab News that only her content on Sheikh Jarrah was removed.

“The only thing that was removed from my archive were stories and posts related to exposing Israeli crimes against Palestinians.”

Mohammed El-Kurd, a Palestinian writer from Jerusalem, was posting videos and stories on violence in Sheikh Jarrah when he received a warning that his account might be deleted.

“Some of your previous posts didn’t follow our Community Guidelines,” the message read. “If you post something that goes against our guidelines again, your account may be deleted, including your posts, archive, messages and followers.”

Facebook also removed “57 pieces of content” from his page because they went against the guidelines.

Yasmin Dabat said her stories with the hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah, dated to May 3, were “removed by Instagram without any warnings or updates.”

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, tweeted it was facing technical issues on May 6, after hundreds of people began reporting the censorship.

“We know that some people are experiencing issues uploading and viewing stories. This is a widespread global technical issue not related to any particular topic and we’re fixing it right now. We’ll provide an update as soon as we can.”

Nadim Nashif, the director of a nonprofit organization called 7amleh that advocates for Palestinian digital rights, said the explanation did not make sense to them.

“(It) is very weird, like you know, to compare what happened in a certain neighborhood in Jerusalem, with huge countries like Canada, the US and Colombia, doesn’t sound logical to us, doesn’t sound like it’s really explaining, because in Canada and the US they were taking down stories that are about various topics, (but) here (it was) about (a) certain hashtag, specifically about Sheikh Jarrah,” he said.

Nashif said the censorship of Palestinians happened through two channels.

“One factor is what the Israelis are doing, they are basically trying to push the social media platforms to adopt their own standards of what should be there and what shouldn’t be there. There’s strong cooperation between them and Facebook mainly.”

According to Nashif, this leads to what’s called “voluntary takedowns,” where Israeli cyber units send requests to social media platforms to take down specific content without a court order.

Another way that Palestinian content was pushed out of social media was through “armies of trolls and applications called Act.IL organizing people to report in a massive way,” he added.

Act.IL is an app that describes itself as “the place where all pro-Israeli advocates, communities and organizations meet to work together to fight back against the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state.”

According to the app, users “will be able to remove inciting content from social media, fight antisemitism and anti-Zionism, influence the online narrative regarding Israel, and take part in special pro-Israel campaigns and efforts.”

Palestinians are also being silenced on social media through the use of Artificial Intelligence by those platforms to identify what content violates their user guidelines.

“Social media platforms are (using) artificial intelligence for takedowns and there is lots of use of keywords, mainly around what the US government consider(s) as terrorist organizations,” Nashif explained.

Some of those who reported content takedowns and account removals to 7amleh were able to restore their content after the organization reached out to Facebook.

“We managed to restore tens or hundreds of them in this struggle, because we are (a) trusted partner of Facebook,” Nashif added.

Dabat was able to recover her stories around 12 hours later after getting in touch with Instagram.

“I emailed Instagram directly mentioning this and applied pressure on them to put them back. They then put them back without replying to me,” she said.

Nashif said the system was still biased despite the restoration of content and accounts.

“We (haven’t) managed to get a transparent, clear system of content moderation. The keyword here is transparency and equality, because this is not happening in the Israeli side.”

Instagram hid the hashtag #الأقصى (Al-Aqsa in Arabic) two days ago, when Israeli police in riot gear were deployed in large numbers as thousands of Muslims held Tarawih prayers. Medics said over 200 Palestinians were wounded that night.

“Part of the escalation that happened is that they were even taking down hashtags, I mean they were hiding hashtags like Al-Aqsa, which is something new,” Nashif said.

He advised social media users to continue reporting instances of censorship through their platforms and contact organizations that handled these issues to raise awareness and correct such behavior.

Instagram sent a clarification on May 11 to Arab News about the removals of accounts and posts related to Sheikh Jarrah.
“Earlier this week, many of our Instagram users faced significant issues accessing certain hashtags and content - including our Palestinian community. We sincerely apologize for the frustration this has caused and assure you that we were in no way trying to limit anyone’s ability to freely express themselves,” the statement read.

On Thursday, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland urged Israel to cease demolitions and evictions in Sheikh Jarrah in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law.

On Sunday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel rejected pressure not to build in Jerusalem, after days of unrest and growing international condemnation of planned evictions of Palestinians from homes in the city claimed by Jewish settlers.

“We firmly reject the pressure not to build in Jerusalem. To my regret, this pressure has been increasing of late.”

Last week, the Red Cross reported that 22 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli police in annexed East Jerusalem.


UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down

UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down. (Shutterstock)
UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 January 2022

UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down

UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down. (Shutterstock)
  • Mondelez said the ad was aimed at parents, and had been shown only on programming for adults

LONDON: Britain’s advertising regulator has banned a TV ad that showed a girl eating cheese while hanging upside down, saying it could promote behavior that could lead to choking.
The ad for Dairylea cheese, a brand of US snacks giant Mondelez, had been shown on British video-on-demand services in August last year.
It featured two girls, aged six and eight, hanging upside down from a soccer goalpost, discussing where food went when you hang upside down. One of the girls then ate a piece of Dairylea cheese.
The Advertising Standards Authority said children could try to emulate the girls, and one person had complained that a three-year-old relative had eaten food while hanging upside down after seeing the ad.
Mondelez said the ad was aimed at parents, and had been shown only on programming for adults. The girls were close enough to the ground to be safe from falling, and adults supervising them could be seen in the background. However, the ASA concluded these were not sufficient factors to reduce the risk of harm.


Former New York Post editor alleges harassment, retaliation

The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they’re a victim of sexual harassment, unless they speak publicly, as Gotthelf has done. (Shutterstock)
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they’re a victim of sexual harassment, unless they speak publicly, as Gotthelf has done. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 January 2022

Former New York Post editor alleges harassment, retaliation

The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they’re a victim of sexual harassment, unless they speak publicly, as Gotthelf has done. (Shutterstock)
  • Gotthelf said Allan’s harassment of her “peaked” in fall 2015 when she was the newspaper’s metro editor

NEW YORK: A New York Post editor whose departure was announced Tuesday alleged she was fired two months after revealing to an executive that former editor Col Allan had sexually harassed her.
The Post said any suggestion of wrongdoing related to Editor-in-Chief Keith Poole’s announcement of Michelle Gotthelf’s exit was meritless.
Poole, who Gotthelf said fired her in November after more than two decades at the Post, is a defendant in a lawsuit she filed Tuesday, along with Allan, the newspaper’s publishing company and corporate owner News Corp.
Gotthelf said Allan’s harassment of her “peaked” in fall 2015 when she was the newspaper’s metro editor. The two were having drinks after an editors’ dinner meeting when Allan said that “we should sleep together,” she said in the lawsuit.
She said Allan became hostile when she rejected his advances. She complained to her superiors and human resources, and alleged that Allan was forced to retire shortly thereafter.
He returned as a consultant in 2019, however. Gotthelf said their relationship remained tense, and she saw her influence and status in the newsroom erode. She said that in 2019, Allan ordered her to remove from the Post’s website a story about journalist E. Jean Carroll’s accusations that she had been raped by then-President Donald Trump. Trump denied the charges and the lawsuit said Allan claimed Carroll’s charges were baseless.
During a lunch meeting in November 2021 to discuss a soon-to-expire contract, Gotthelf said Poole asked her “what happened between you and Col?” She told him Allan had propositioned her.
She said Poole fired her “without cause” on Jan. 12.
“Any suggestion of wrongdoing related to the management changes announced today is meritless,” the Post and News Corp. said in a statement.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they’re a victim of sexual harassment, unless they speak publicly, as Gotthelf has done.


Filming of Hollywood movie ‘Kandahar’ in AlUla is a sign of things to come

The magical landscape of the ancient city and surrounding area in northwestern Saudi Arabia is increasingly attracting the attention of local and international filmmakers, thanks to its rich history and scenic splendor. (Supplied)
The magical landscape of the ancient city and surrounding area in northwestern Saudi Arabia is increasingly attracting the attention of local and international filmmakers, thanks to its rich history and scenic splendor. (Supplied)
Updated 19 January 2022

Filming of Hollywood movie ‘Kandahar’ in AlUla is a sign of things to come

The magical landscape of the ancient city and surrounding area in northwestern Saudi Arabia is increasingly attracting the attention of local and international filmmakers, thanks to its rich history and scenic splendor. (Supplied)
  • ‘If I get to show the world AlUla for the first time on this scale, I’m all in. It’s a dream come true; I love it,’ said ‘Kandahar’ director Ric Roman Waugh
  • ‘Saudi Arabia is coming together as a film community to show the wider world’ the country can host major productions, according to the head of Film AlUla

RIYADH: The director and executive producer of “Kandahar,” the first big-budget Hollywood movie to film extensively in AlUla in Saudi Arabia, are full of praise for the natural beauty of the area, and the efforts of Saudi authorities to establish it as a global filming location.
The magical landscape of the ancient city and surrounding area in northwestern Saudi Arabia is increasingly attracting the attention of local and international filmmakers, thanks to its rich history and scenic splendor.
To support this process, the Royal Commission for AlUla in 2020 established Film AlUla to attract and assist film and television productions from around the world. It is led by film commissioner Stephen Strachan, a veteran of the UK industry and a respected film producer in the Middle East and North Africa.
Strachan said he believes the Kingdom is setting the bar high for the region as it takes its first steps in film and TV production, and confirmed that there are plans to establish a studio in AlUla.
“Kandahar” stars Scottish actor Gerard Butler as a CIA operative stuck in hostile territory in Afghanistan. Filming in AlUla and 14 locations in Jeddah began in late November.
“Saudi Arabia is coming together as a film community to show the wider world that there are people on the ground who can look after a large film like ‘Kandahar,’” Stachan told Arab News. About 10 percent of the crew and extras working on the film were hired locally, he added.
The Saudi Film Commission and the Ministry of Culture offered the producers of “Kandahar” exceptional incentives to film in AlUla, Strachan said.
“We also scouted in Tabuk, Hail, Jeddah and Taif with the Ministry of Culture for three weeks to find the best locations, as Ric Roman Waugh, the director of Kandahar, was really keen to shoot in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Waugh, whose previous films include 2019’s “Angel Has Fallen,” which also starred Butler, said that he knew he wanted to film in AlUla as soon as he saw photos of the area for the first time.
“When I came here I realized that the photos do no justice to this place and it is a breathtakingly beautiful place,” he told Arab News. “As a selfish filmmaker, if I get to show the world AlUla for the first time on this scale, I’m all in. It’s a dream come true; I love it.
“Coming here, in a place that doesn’t have the infrastructure, can have some challenges but it would never have happened without the partnership with the Saudis themselves, and how much they wanted to embrace what we are about.”
Waugh thanked the Royal Commission for AlUla and the Ministry of Culture for their help, dedication and patience while making this film.
“We brought over 25 nationalities to do this film,” he said. “We have Christians, Muslims, Hindus and agnostics who came here to be part of a melting pot, as we wanted to do it together and we would overcome any challenge thrown our way.”
Indian actor Ali Fazal, who plays a character called Kahil Nazir in “Kandahar,” said he and his wife were impressed by the sheer beauty of AlUla.
“I was fascinated by AlUla and when my wife came here she was baffled by the rocks and the landscapes,” he said. “We went to Hegra and other places and it was very cool. We will also go to Jeddah and Makkah to do Umrah.”
Scott LaStaiti, the executive producer of “Kandahar,” congratulated the Saudi authorities for the rapid development of AlUla.
“The Royal Commission for AlUla has a master plan for developing AlUla, and in some specific locations we shot in, like the Sultan Valley, … you think about the history of AlUla and who was standing here 3,000 years ago,” he said. “The beauty here has a lot to offer in terms of looks.”
“The incentives that Saudi Arabia and The Royal Commission of AlUla are offering are very attractive. I think that the commission, and Saudis in general, are very smart in the way they are rolling it out and I think it’s a way that’s going to attract a lot of films to be produced here.”
Prior to “Kandahar,” two other movies spent time filming on location in AlUla. “Cello,” is a horror movie written by Turki Al Sheikh, the chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, and based on one of his novels. The English and Arabic language film, which stars veteran British actor Jeremy Irons, is about an aspiring musician who learns that the cost of his cello might be higher than he thought. It is due for release this year.
“Cherry,” directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and starring Spider-Man actor Tom Holland, tells the story of a disenfranchised young man from Ohio who goes from being a college dropout to an army medic in Iraq. He meets the love of his life, only to risk losing her through a series of bad decisions and challenging circumstances. It was released early last year.


CNN Arabic celebrates 20th anniversary

CNN Arabic celebrates 20th anniversary
Updated 18 January 2022

CNN Arabic celebrates 20th anniversary

CNN Arabic celebrates 20th anniversary
  • Network announces 3 multi-year partnerships to celebrate the milestone

CNN Arabic is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The Arabic edition of the international news network first went live in 2002 as a digital news service based out of Dubai Media City in the UAE, with the aim of telling stories for Arab audiences around the world.

The channel had its biggest year ever in 2021 in terms of daily audience numbers. The figure has grown by more than 150 percent in the last six years, according to Adobe Analytics. The network attributes this success to a healthy mix of mobile-first video, interactive and written news, delivered to Arabic-speaking digital audiences worldwide.

 

 

“When we launched CNN Arabic 20 years ago, I don’t think anyone envisaged the changes the world would go through over the following two decades,” said Rani Raad, president of CNN Worldwide Commercial.

“In that time, the role that the Arabic speaking world plays on the global geopolitical landscape has changed significantly, and the UAE, where CNN Arabic is based, has developed as a major strategic player in the global economy.”

The Arabic network also ranked as the number one news provider against competitors including Sky News, Al Arabiya and BBC Arabic, among others, according to an independent study of news consumers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and the US.

The same study found that the CNN Arabic was highly trusted, scoring more than three times the average trust rating. This is an achievement for the network at a time when overall trust in news remains low, with more than 50 percent of young Arabs not having much trust in any channel — be it TV and newspapers, or online portals and social media — as a source of news, according to the Arab Youth Survey 2021.

“The role of responsible and accurate news brands has become even more important in a world awash with misinformation, and we will continue to serve Arabic speaking audiences around the world with the news they need to inform the most important decisions in their lives,” said Raad.

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, CNN Arabic has formed three multi-year partnerships focusing on specific topics in the Arab world.

It has partnered with UN Women in the Arab States to develop and implement a strategy across editorial output, events and other projects, to support the acceleration of gender equality, financial inclusion and female employment throughout the Arab world.

It has also partnered with the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, which will see CNN Arabic upskill Arab youth over three years to enable them to succeed in the future of work, promote sustainability in the UAE and more.

Lastly, it has partnered with Sharjah Press Club to train young journalists over the next three years in various areas covering multimedia news and content production. The training will also include teaching teenagers about using social media and identifying misinformation.

“We are incredibly proud to have provided independent news with a global perspective to Arab audiences for 20 years now,” said Caroline Faraj, vice-president of Arabic services at CNN.

Faraj, who has led CNN Arabic since its inception and was named winner of the media category in the Arab Women of the Year Awards 2021, added: “However, we never want to stand still. As a digital news service from the very outset, it’s in our DNA to always evolve and experiment in order to remain relevant as people’s news habits continue to change.”


STARZPLAY live streams ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2022

STARZPLAY live streams ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2022
Updated 18 January 2022

STARZPLAY live streams ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2022

STARZPLAY live streams ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2022
  • Firm’s coverage of tournament builds on partnership with Etisalat

DUBAI: Regional streaming platform STARZPLAY has secured the rights for the International Cricket Council Under-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2022.

The deal follows the company’s recent strengthening of its partnership with Discovery, Inc. to offer GolfTV as an add-on channel.

Danny Bates, chief commercial officer at STARZPLAY, told Arab News: “Strengthening the live sports category is one of our top priorities and we have seen the popularity for the genre grow exponentially in the Middle East and North Africa region.”

Continuing its long-standing partnership with Etisalat, STARZPLAY will be streaming the U19 World Cup along with the UAE telecoms firm and will provide cricket fans access to all the live action taking place until Feb. 5.

Last year, STARZPLAY partnered with Etisalat, which won the rights from Star TV Network to broadcast the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 across the MENA region.

Bates said: “We witnessed record-breaking growth in subscribers on our platform when we brought the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021, which shows how our audience responds to content that is relevant for them.

“We want to further build on our live sports portfolio to offer the very best in live sports entertainment and look forward to bringing more such exciting games for our existing as well as potential subscribers,” he added.

The 14th edition of the U19 World Cup is being held for the first time in the West Indies, with 48 one-day international matches planned between the 16 participating teams.

Subscribers can access all cricket content via STARZPLAY’s CricLife and CricLife 2 channels. They can also subscribe to the PowerPlay package, available for 24.99 Emirati dirhams ($6.80).