Saudis denounce social media influencers’ illicit practices

Saudis denounce social media influencers’ illicit practices
People should be be careful when using social media websites and to respect other people so that they can avoid punishments. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 27 May 2021

Saudis denounce social media influencers’ illicit practices

Saudis denounce social media influencers’ illicit practices
  • Cyberbullying, posting photos without a person’s permission and posting indecent comments are against Saudi law

JEDDAH: Saudis have expressed their disapproval of the practices of some social media influencers who have exploited their accounts to collect more followers and win more advertisements while flouting social ethics and governing regulations.

These violations go against the Saudi Anti-Cyber Crime Law and have also gained the attention of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) for publishing misleading food, drug and cosmetic ads in a clear violation of the country’s online publishing regulations.

According to an SFDA report released last September, drug enforcement officers seized more than 40 million packages of illegal cosmetic products during inspections carried out throughout the Kingdom in the first half of 2020.

The large quantities of illegal cosmetics would not be available if it were not for influencers who dishonestly promote them on social media, Salah Al-Zahrani, a schoolteacher, told Arab News.

“Nearly all women are interested in cosmetics and the illegal cosmetics dealers know this,” she said. “So they pay influencers, especially female ones, large amounts to convince their followers to order and purchase unhealthy products.”

The report added that SFDA inspectors closed 95 facilities, identified another 83 that had been operating without a permit, shut down three production lines and withdrew 1,600 samples.

Bullying is another online violation that has been on the rise. Some influencers will unlawfully film or photograph ordinary people, especially those who are less fortunate and then mock them with indecent comments.

HIGHLIGHTS

• According to an SFDA report released last September, drug enforcement officers seized more than 40 million packages of illegal cosmetic products during inspections carried out throughout the Kingdom in the first half of 2020.

• The report added that SFDA inspectors closed 95 facilities, identified another 83 that had been operating without a permit, shut down three production lines and withdrew 1,600 samples.

• Bullying is another online violation that has been on the rise. Some influencers will unlawfully film or photograph ordinary people, especially those who are less fortunate and then mock them with indecent comments.

One recent example that has been circulating on social media platforms was when a man photographed a young woman while she worked at a cafe. Without her permission, the influencer then published the photo with a sarcastic comment: “She looks like our housemaid. It seems that she has been tasked to work overtime after Ramadan came to an end.”

Nawaf Ibrahim, a university senior student, said: “A respectful person would never comment on people in such a disrespectful and vulgar way. That is why many Saudis rushed to denounce his intrusive comments.”

Dr. Abdullah Ghazi, a marital and family psychological counseling specialist, commented through his Twitter account that such behaviors reflect “a mucky mixture of racism and misogyny, stemming from a personality that is unable to accept the recent change in society. People with these qualities tend to show negative reactions when a positive change is put into practice.”

Speaking to Arab News, Waleed Darraj, a lawyer, said the offender committed a number of crimes in one single online post.

“Taking photos of people without their permission is an infringement of their private life and this is a crime,” he said.

“Another crime he committed was defaming the cafe worker and publishing that on a social media platform. According to Article 3 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law, violators will be penalized with imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding SR500,000 ($133,32400).”

The country’s Anti-Cybercrime Law was established to deter activities such as accessing websites blocked by authorities (sites containing pornography or sensitive material, for example), hacking into people’s private accounts, or posting politically sensitive messages on social media.

Saudi Arabia’s full Anti-Cybercrime Law can be viewed online, along with the fines and punishments attached to the various crimes.

Darraj said the offender, in this case, should also be held accountable for his rude comments against the woman.

“As for the insulting comments, this is a private right for the woman and it is normally left to the court to decide the appropriate punishment,” he added. “In fact, the offender deserves to be punished for the series of crimes he committed with that irresponsible behavior, which the whole Saudi society rejects.”

The lawyer reminded all citizens in the Kingdom to be careful when using social media websites and to respect other people so that they can avoid such punishments.


Study: Social media platforms ‘fail to remove 80% of antisemitic content’

More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a report has found. (AFP/File Photo)
More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a report has found. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 02 August 2021

Study: Social media platforms ‘fail to remove 80% of antisemitic content’

More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a report has found. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Results show Facebook, Twitter and more are ‘safe spaces for racists,’ official says

LONDON: More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a large-scale study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has found.

The social media posts reported included holocaust denial content, incitement of violence against Jews and other conspiracy theories. Despite being flagged to content moderators, the large majority of posts remained online.

The study, published on Aug. 1, took place over a period between May 28 and June 29 this year.

It identified 714 antisemitic posts across major platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, and subsequently reported the content to the respective sites. These 714 posts were viewed at least 7.3 million times.

Six weeks later, the study found that more than 80 percent of the reported posts remained on the platforms. On Facebook and Twitter, 90 percent of antisemitic posts were not taken down.

The most significant finding of the study was that platforms failed to remove 89 percent of antisemitic conspiracies, with just 5 percent of posts blaming Jewish people for the coronavirus pandemic being removed by moderators.

Twitter hashtags that remained online ranged from “#holohoax” to “#killthejews,” while TikTok continued to allow hashtags that organized and promoted conspiracies, such as “#synagogueofsatan,” “#rothschildfamily” and “#soros.” These posts gained a total of 25.1 million views on the platform.

CEO of CCDH Imran Ahmed said that the findings of the study prove that social media is a “safe space for racists to normalize their conspiracies and hateful rhetoric without fear of consequences.”

The findings come in light of the UK government’s Online Safety Bill, which aims to regulate social media. The legislation will make it a legal requirement for social media companies to protect users from harm, including misinformation, abuse and hatred.

The bill will also force tech giants to impose age checks to prevent underage children from accessing their services.

“These reports do not account for the fact that we have taken action on 15 times the amount of hate speech since 2017,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “The prevalence of hate speech is decreasing on our platform and, of the hate speech we remove, 97 percent was found before someone reported it.”

Meanwhile, Twitter was more forthcoming about taking responsibility and recognized that there was more work to be done. “We strongly condemn antisemitism,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “We’re working to make Twitter a safer place, and improving the speed and scale of our rule enforcement is a top priority.”

TikTok released a similar statement and condemned antisemitism.


Pro-Trump social media platform hosting terrorist propaganda

Launched on July 1, Gettr is a Twitter-style platform set up by Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller. (Shutterstock)
Launched on July 1, Gettr is a Twitter-style platform set up by Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller. (Shutterstock)
Updated 02 August 2021

Pro-Trump social media platform hosting terrorist propaganda

Launched on July 1, Gettr is a Twitter-style platform set up by Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller. (Shutterstock)
  • Politico reported that at least 250 accounts on the Gettr platform were regularly posting extremist material

LONDON: A pro-Trump social media platform has been inundated with terrorist propaganda spread by Daesh supporters, a political news website reported on Monday.

According to Politico, Gettr features extremist-related content, including graphic videos of Daesh beheadings, mainstream images that incite violence against the West, and even memes of an extremist executing former US President Donald Trump in an orange jumpsuit.

Launched on July 1, Gettr is a Twitter-style platform set up by Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller.

Politico reported that at least 250 accounts on the platform were regularly posting extremist material since it was launched, many of which followed each other.

It also said that Gettr did not respond when asked to comment about the abundance of Daesh-related material on the site.

After Gettr’s launch, Daesh supporters urged their followers on other social networks to switch to it. One account, bearing a profile photo of the Daesh flag, asked: “Is Daesh here?” and was met with confirmation from others on the platform.

While Gettr has taken steps to remove harmful content, as of Aug. 2 most of it was still live.

Companies like Facebook and Twitter have signed up to the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, although Gettr is yet to join.

The forum is a nonprofit organization that brings together the technology industry, governments, and civil society to counter terrorist and violent extremist activity online.


Zoom to settle US privacy lawsuit for $85 mn

Use of video platforms including Zoom, Slack, Microsoft, and Google increased significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. (File/AFP)
Use of video platforms including Zoom, Slack, Microsoft, and Google increased significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. (File/AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Zoom to settle US privacy lawsuit for $85 mn

Use of video platforms including Zoom, Slack, Microsoft, and Google increased significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. (File/AFP)
  • Zoom agrees to settle a US privacy lawsuit for $85 million whereby Zoom was charged with breaching privacy of users
  • Zoom will also improve its security practices despite denying wrongdoing

SAN FRANCISCO: Zoom, the videoconferencing firm, has agreed to settle a class-action US privacy lawsuit for $85 million, it said Sunday.
The suit charged that Zoom’s sharing of users’ personal data with Facebook, Google and LinkedIn was a breach of privacy for millions.
While Zoom denied wrongdoing, it did agree to improve its security practices.
The settlement needs to be approved by US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California.
A Zoom spokesman told AFP: “The privacy and security of our users are top priorities for Zoom, and we take seriously the trust our users place in us.
“We are proud of the advancements we have made to our platform, and look forward to continuing to innovate with privacy and security at the forefront.”
The settlement will set up a “non-reversionary cash fund of $85 million to pay valid claims, notice and administration costs, Service Payments to Class Representatives, and any attorneys’ fees and costs awarded by the Court,” according to the preliminary settlement.
All class members are eligible for payment, it said.
Those who paid for an account can receive 15 percent of the money they paid to Zoom for their core subscription during that time or $25, whichever is greater; while those who did not pay for a subscription can make a claim for $15.
As the coronavirus pandemic closed offices due to health risks and companies shifted to working online, use of video and collaboration platforms hosted by companies including Zoom, Slack, Microsoft, and Google rocketed.
But Zoom’s rapid growth came with pressure to deal with security and privacy as the platform faced scrutiny from rising usage.


Twitter launches competition to find biases in its image-cropping algorithm

The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop. (File/AFP)
The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop. (File/AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Twitter launches competition to find biases in its image-cropping algorithm

The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter launches competition for computer researchers and hackers to identify biases in its image-cropping algorithm
  • The competition is part of a wider effort across the tech industry to ensure artificial intelligence technologies act ethically

LONDON: Twitter Inc. said on Friday it will launch a competition for computer researchers and hackers to identify biases in its image-cropping algorithm, after a group of researchers previously found the algorithm tended to exclude Black people and men.
The competition is part of a wider effort across the tech industry to ensure artificial intelligence technologies act ethically.
The social networking company said in a blog post that the bounty competition was aimed at identifying “potential harms of this algorithm beyond what we identified ourselves.”
Following criticism last year about image previews in posts excluding Black people’s faces, the company said in May a study by three of its machine learning researchers found an 8 percent difference from demographic parity in favor of women, and a 4 percent favor toward white individuals.
Twitter released publicly the computer code that decides how images are cropped in the Twitter feed, and said on Friday participants are asked to find how the algorithm could cause harm, such as stereotyping or denigrating any group of people.
The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop hosted by Twitter at DEF CON in August, one of largest hacker conferences held annually in Las Vegas.


Russia opens case against WhatsApp for violating personal data law

A day earlier, a Russian court fined Google 3 million roubles for violating personal data legislation. (File/AFP)
A day earlier, a Russian court fined Google 3 million roubles for violating personal data legislation. (File/AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Russia opens case against WhatsApp for violating personal data law

A day earlier, a Russian court fined Google 3 million roubles for violating personal data legislation. (File/AFP)
  • Russia launches lawsuit against Whatsapp for violating personal data law and failing to localize data of Russian users

MOSCOW: Russia on Friday launched administrative proceedings against Facebook’s WhatsApp for what it said was a failure to localize data of Russian users on Russian territory, the Interfax news agency reported.
There was no immediate comment from Facebook.
A day earlier, a Russian court fined Alphabet Inc.’s Google 3 million roubles for violating personal data legislation and registered administrative proceedings against Facebook and Twitter for the same offense.
The cases are part of a wider spat between Russia and Big Tech, with Moscow routinely fining social media giants for failing to remove banned content and seeking to compel foreign tech firms to open offices in Russia.
WhatsApp could be fined between 1 million and 6 million roubles ($13,700 to $82,250), Interfax reported, citing court documents. A court date has not yet been set.