Israel under fire for ‘sickening’ rocket emoji tweets

Israel under fire for ‘sickening’ rocket emoji tweets
A fireball rises from Gaza city following an Israeli air strike. (AFP)
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Updated 18 May 2021

Israel under fire for ‘sickening’ rocket emoji tweets

Israel under fire for ‘sickening’ rocket emoji tweets
  • The social media account, reportedly managed by the foreign minister, claimed that the posts refer to the number of rockets fired at Israeli citizens by Hamas
  • Critics argued, however, that the posts, which came amid fresh Israeli strikes on Gaza, were insensitive

LONDON: Israel has come under fire for posting hundreds of rocket emojis on the state’s Twitter account on Monday amid its heavy bombardment of Gaza.

The social media account, reportedly managed by the foreign minister, claimed that the posts refer to the number of rockets fired at Israeli citizens by Hamas. 

Israel clarified that the tweets were merely an attempt to give viewers a perspective on the recent airstrikes. 

The tweets were accompanied by a message that read: “Just to give you all some perspective, these (rocket emojis) are the total amount of rockets shot at Israeli civilians. Each one of these rockets is meant to kill. Make no mistake. Every rocket has an address. What would you do if that address was yours?”

Critics argued, however, that the posts, which came amid fresh Israeli strikes on Gaza, were insensitive. 

The Israeli bombing campaign has killed at least 213 Palestinians so far, including 61 children, with more than 1,400 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The tweets were met with heavy criticism online. Louis Fishman, an associate professor at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, tweeted that “Israel has lost the diplomatic front in this war. It is now left to emojis. Really, this is pathetic.”

Others online called the tweet “sickeningly cruel and vindictive”, “deranged” and “beyond vile.” 

Israel has escalated its violent campaign on Palestine, with more than 52,000 Palestinians displaced and hundreds of buildings destroyed in the Gaza Strip.


EU investigates Google’s conduct in digital ad tech sector

Google is restricting access by third parties to user data for ad purposes on websites and apps. (File/AFP)
Google is restricting access by third parties to user data for ad purposes on websites and apps. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 min 22 sec ago

EU investigates Google’s conduct in digital ad tech sector

Google is restricting access by third parties to user data for ad purposes on websites and apps. (File/AFP)
  • EU launches a new antitrust investigation against Google to determine whether the company is stifling competition in digital advertising technology.

LONDON: European Union regulators have launched a fresh antitrust investigation of Google, this time over whether the US tech giant is stifling competition in digital advertising technology.
The European Commission said Tuesday that it has opened a formal investigation into whether Google violated the bloc’s competition rules by favoring its own online display advertising technology services at the expense of rival publishers, advertisers and advertising technology services.
The commission, the EU’s executive arm and the bloc’s top antitrust enforcer, is looking in particular at whether Google is restricting access by third parties to user data for ad purposes on websites and apps.
“Online advertising services are at the heart of how Google and publishers monetize their online services,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU commission’s competition chief and executive vice president for digital. Google collects data to be used for targeted advertising while it also sells advertising space and acts as a middleman between online advertisers and publishers, she said.
“We are concerned that Google has made it harder for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad tech stack,” Vestager said.
An email seeking comment was sent to Google’s press office.


Kantar reveals 2021’s most valuable brands

Kantar reveals 2021’s most valuable brands
Updated 41 min 20 sec ago

Kantar reveals 2021’s most valuable brands

Kantar reveals 2021’s most valuable brands
  • New ranking demonstrates pandemic’s role in driving brand growth

DUBAI: Global data analytics and consulting company Kantar has released its ranking of the top 100 most valuable brands of the year.

The total value of the top 100 brands has grown by 42 percent, to reach a new record of over $7 trillion, demonstrating a significant rebound from the pandemic. The increase — more than four times the study’s annual average percentage increase over the past 15 years — has been driven by confidence derived from vaccine availability, economic stimulus packages and improving GDP outlooks, according to the report.

“2020-1 has been a record year for brand growth, and despite many facing a difficult year, our research has again proven that strong brands deliver superior shareholder returns, are more resilient and recover more quickly,” said Nathalie Burdet, chief marketing officer of Kantar.

American brands account for more than half of the top 100 brands, with Amazon and Apple leading the way.

Amazon maintained its position as the world’s most valuable brand, growing by 64 percent to $684 billion. It became the first half-a-trillion-dollar brand, alongside Apple, at No. 2, which is valued at $612 billion.

The high rankings of Amazon and Apple are reflective of the growth of big tech companies with seven out of the top 10 brands coming from the technology sector. These include Google at No. 3, Microsoft at No. 4, Tencent at No. 5, Facebook at No. 6 and Alibaba at No. 7

Technology has also enabled non-tech brands to grow during the last year with several of them having to expand their digital presence and pivot to online sales. That explains why this year Zoom and Spotify made it on the top 100 list for the first time. Zoom came in at No. 52 with a valuation of $36.9 billion, while Spotify came in at No. 54 following a 454 percent growth in subscribers between 2015 and 2020.

“With global e-commerce growing from 12 to 15 percent of all sales in 2020, it has been a positive year for brands involved in that value chain — from the retailers through to the couriers like FedEx and UPS,” added Burdet.

This year, five brands doubled their value. At No. 47 is Tesla, the fastest-growing brand, which grew its value by 275 percent to $43 billion. The other four are all Chinese brands: Moutai, Meituan, TikTok and Pinduoduo.

The predominance of Chinese brands on the list marks China’s lead over Europe with Chinese brands having grown from 11 percent of the top 100 value in 2011 to 14 percent today. On the other hand, European brands represent 8 percent of the ranking’s value versus 20 percent in 2011.

The pandemic played a crucial role in driving brands’ value this year. As consumers spent more time at home, the top 10 media and entertainment brands experienced a growth of over 50 percent with gaming chip providers NVIDIA and AMD entering the ranking for the first time.

The time spent working from home also blurred the lines between loungewear and formal wear resulting in a rise in athleisure clothing, which was driven by Adidas, Nike, Puma and Lululemon all securing over 50 percent value growth.

Even the luxury category saw a 34 percent brand growth. Kantar attributes this growth to brands investing in reputation, especially for sustainable and ethical purposes, which has increasingly become a driver for brand growth. For example, LVMH invested in its corporate reputation through pandemic-related initiatives, sustainable transformation and support for social movements such as Black Lives Matter, while L’Oréal Paris secured brand growth across its beauty brands by driving female empowerment.

“This year’s results show that brand building remains critical to securing growth,” said Burdet.

Kantar tracks the stock market performance of the strongest brands and has seen that these brands recover twice as fast as other key indices, she added. The firm’s analytics show that 70 percent of the success of a brand depends on four fundamentals: providing superior experience across consistently branded touchpoints; a range of well-designed and functional products and services; convenience; and exposure through great advertising.

“However, [the pandemic] has emphasized consumer values such as trust and reliability. Those brands that are evolving their values, projecting leadership on these issues, are demonstrating differentiation and standing out,” said Burdet.


A deeper look into “The Journey” the first Saudi-Japanese anime

Saudis flew to Tokyo to work closely with Japanese experts to learn the skills and techniques needed to bring “The Journey” to life. (Supplied)
Saudis flew to Tokyo to work closely with Japanese experts to learn the skills and techniques needed to bring “The Journey” to life. (Supplied)
Updated 22 June 2021

A deeper look into “The Journey” the first Saudi-Japanese anime

Saudis flew to Tokyo to work closely with Japanese experts to learn the skills and techniques needed to bring “The Journey” to life. (Supplied)
  • The film, the first Saudi-Japanese anime, is a collaboration between Manga Productions Company in the Kingdom and Toei Animation Studios in Japan.
  • “The Journey” is in cinemas across the Kingdom now. It can be viewed in Japanese or Arabic, with English and Arabic subtitles.

RIYADH: The history of the Arabian peninsula, and the conquest of Makkah in particular, is at the heart of new movie “The Journey,” the first Saudi-Japanese anime.

The film is a cultural collaboration between Saudi Manga Productions Company and Japan’s Toei Animation Studios. Set 1,500 years ago, it tells the story of a warrior, called Aws, who rises above his troubled past to redeem himself and his faith by leading a team into battle to defend the holy city of Makkah.

Anime, and Japanese culture in general, have long been popular in Saudi Arabia. It is hoped that “The Journey” will pave the way for more co-productions that combine the rich heritage and culture of the Kingdom with the distinctive Japanese style of animation.

During production of the film, Saudis flew to Tokyo to work closely with Japanese experts to learn the skills and techniques needed to bring “The Journey” to life.

“This was our first movie ever, and for Toei Animation, they are veterans, they are experts in the field,” Abdullah Al-Hussainy, the assistant art director and background designer on the film, told Arab News. “However we are experts in Arab culture; it is our playground and they are beginners in that, meaning we were teaching each other and it was a mutual educational journey.”

He said that the very different backgrounds and experience of the Saudi and Japanese members of the production team created a “clash of cultures” at times during the making of the film.

“The Japanese have a very high culture and they are very attached to it, so now we are coming with our culture also and we are very attached to it, so that was an interesting clash between us,” said Al-Hussainy.

Ultimately, he explained, this cross-cultural collaboration between the two studios enriched the creative process and helped to bring to life in Japanese style a story steeped in Arab heritage and tradition.

The Saudi team was determined to get as much hands-on learning experience in Tokyo as possible, working with and learning from industry experts to ensure the quality of the groundbreaking film. Great attention was paid to every aspect of the animation process, including the vibrant color palette, the art style, character development and design, and the intricate storyline.

At all stages, care was taken to ensure that Arab traditions and heritage were authentically portrayed on screen. During battle scenes, for example, the way that the characters draw and use their swords is distinctively Middle Eastern.

“Body language is different from country to country,” Noor Aljijakli, the film’s associate producer, told Arab News. “For example, how they fight with swords. The Japanese have Samurai and they can’t help but to draw (sword fights that way) but these movie characters are Arabs — we act differently, we fight differently, the shapes of our swords are different.”

The production team chose four different art styles to tell the stories in the movie that highlight the main character’s development, including flashbacks.

“These stories are very important for the main character Aws,” Aljijakli said. “They mean a lot for him and his wife and his family and beloved ones, because Aws has struggled. His faith was tested many times and those stories helped him to stand on his feet one more time.”

The music in the film also reflects the cooperation between the two studios and the melding of cultures. The carefully crafted score blends traditional anime-style music with Arabian instruments, including strings and drums. Japanese composer Kaoru Wada spent time in various parts of Saudi Arabia, including Jeddah, Taif and Riyadh, listening to local musicians playing Arab instruments such as the oud, goblet drum and mijwiz.

“The Journey” is in cinemas across the Kingdom now. It can be viewed in Japanese or Arabic, with English and Arabic subtitles.


Germany opens antitrust probe against Apple

Tech giants including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple face antitrust investigations in Germany, France and the US. (File/AFP)
Tech giants including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple face antitrust investigations in Germany, France and the US. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 June 2021

Germany opens antitrust probe against Apple

Tech giants including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple face antitrust investigations in Germany, France and the US. (File/AFP)
  • Germany launches investigation against Apple over anti-competition practices, shortly after similar probes against Amazon, Google and Facebook.
  • Germany and France have joined calls from the US to impose a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15 percent on companies like Amazon and Facebook.

BERLIN: Germany on Monday opened an investigation against Apple over anti-competition practices, making the iPhone maker the fourth US tech giant to be hit by such probes.
The antitrust authority had in recent weeks opened similar investigations against Amazon, Google and Facebook under a new law that took effect in January giving regulators more powers to rein in big tech companies.
The watchdog said it has initiated the first stage of the probe to determine if Apple has “cross-market significance.”
“An ecosystem extending across different markets can be one indication of such a position held by a company,” said the authority. “Such positions of power can make it very hard for other companies to counter it.”
Andreas Mundt, who heads the Federal Cartel Office, said his service will look at whether Apple has established such a digital ecosystem across several markets around the iPhone with its proprietary operating system iOS.
“A key focus of the investigation will be the operation of the App Store, because in many cases, it empowers Apple to have an influence on the business activities of third parties,” he added.
An Apple spokesperson underlined the company’s contribution to the employment market in Germany, saying its iOS app economy supported 250,000 jobs.
“We look forward to discussing our approach with the FCO and having an open dialogue about any of their concerns,” said the spokesperson in a statement.


Following the first stage of the probe, the cartel office said it might then look at other specific issues after it received complaints from “several companies against potential anticompetitive practices.”
This included a complaint against the company’s alleged tracking restrictions of users in connection with the introduction of the iOS 14.5 operating system.
It added that complaints had also been filed by app developers disputing the usage of Apple’s system for in-app purchases.
Germany’s tougher stance against the digital giants came after new EU draft legislation unveiled in December aimed at curbing the power of the Internet behemoths that could shake up the way Silicon Valley can operate in the 27-nation bloc.
The push to tighten legislation comes as big tech companies are facing increasing pressure around the globe, including in the United States, where Google and Facebook are facing antitrust suits.
Besides looking at the reach of the companies, scrutiny often extends to privacy issues.
In its investigation targeting Google, for instance, the German cartel office said it was examining if consumers who wish to use the search engine giant’s services “have sufficient choice as to how Google will use their data.”
The multinationals are also facing a crackdown from Western governments seeking to claw back taxes which they fear had been channeled unfairly into tax havens.
Germany and France have joined calls from the United States to impose a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15 percent, a move which targets multinationals like Amazon and Google.
Critics have repeatedly warned that many of the world’s biggest companies use tax havens or exploit loopholes to pay far less in taxes than some individuals.


Facebook launches Clubhouse-like live audio rooms and podcasts

Facebook is also working on a project with Spotify to share and listen to music on the platform. (Facebook)
Facebook is also working on a project with Spotify to share and listen to music on the platform. (Facebook)
Updated 21 June 2021

Facebook launches Clubhouse-like live audio rooms and podcasts

Facebook is also working on a project with Spotify to share and listen to music on the platform. (Facebook)
  • Facebook launches live audio rooms, similar to Clubhouse, pushing the giant tech platform towards social audio.
  • Facebook is partnering with public figures including musicians, journalists and athletes in the live audio rooms rollout.

June 21 : Facebook Inc. on Monday launched its own Clubhouse-style live audio rooms and a way to find and play podcasts on its platform, marking a push into social audio by the world’s largest social network.
Facebook’s rollout of a potential Clubhouse rival follows the explosive early success of the invite-only live audio app, which became a hit as people stayed at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was one of the Silicon Valley celebrities who have made appearances on the app, which recently expanded to Android users.
Facebook, which has said it wants to make audio a “first-class medium” on its platforms, joins Twitter Inc. and messaging platform Discord which have already launched their own live audio offerings. Spotify debuted its own version, “Greenroom,” last Wednesday. Slack, Microsoft Corp-owned LinkedIn and Reddit are also working on similar products.
Public figures and certain Facebook Groups in the United States using iOS will be able to create live audio rooms, with up to 50 speakers and unlimited listeners. These users can also invite people without a “verified badge” to speak, Facebook said in a blog post. Users on iOS and Android can listen to the rooms.
The company, which has been vocal about its push to attract content creators, said it is partnering with public figures including musicians, journalists and athletes in the live audio rooms rollout.
Listeners will be able to send Facebook’s virtual currency “stars” to creators in live audio rooms. Zuckerberg has said the company will not take a cut of creator revenue until 2023.
A number of select podcasts will also be available on Facebook to US listeners and the company said it would soon add to this initial slate.
Facebook, which has been criticized for its handling of problematic content across its products, will face the challenges of moderating live and recorded audio content, including in private Facebook Groups.
Facebook is also working on a project with Spotify to share and listen to music on the platform.