Instagram makes changes to algorithm after accusations of censoring Palestine content

A report issued in May revealed that Instagram had violated the digital rights of Palestinians in more than 250 instances. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
A report issued in May revealed that Instagram had violated the digital rights of Palestinians in more than 250 instances. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
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Updated 31 May 2021

Instagram makes changes to algorithm after accusations of censoring Palestine content

A report issued in May revealed that Instagram had violated the digital rights of Palestinians in more than 250 instances. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • The company said according to the old algorithm, posts about certain viewpoints appeared to be suppressed

LONDON: Instagram announced on Monday that the platform would be making changes to the way it displays content after receiving accusations of censoring Palestine-related content during the latest wave of violence in Gaza.

The “stories” feature on Instagram was built according to an algorithm that favors original content as opposed to existing and re-shared posts. Therefore, any Palestine-related content that was shared from other accounts was pushed lower in the Instagram feed. 

Instagram said that according to the old algorithm, posts about certain viewpoints appeared to be suppressed but that this was an unintended side-effect of the way the algorithm was established rather than an intentional attempt to censor this particular content. 

This comes after thousands of Palestine-related posts were deleted from the platform and much pro-Palestinian content on social media was found to carry warnings.

Under the new scheme, which Instagram said it would introduce gradually, all posts and stories will be treated equally. This means that the app will not favor original content over re-shared posts. 

A report in mid-May from 7amleh, the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, revealed that Instagram had violated the digital rights of Palestinians in more than 250 instances, whether by deleting posts, censoring information or taking down accounts. 


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 2 min 27 sec ago

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.


VOX Cinemas launches Middle East’s first interactive experience

VOX Cinemas launches Middle East’s first interactive experience
Updated 02 August 2021

VOX Cinemas launches Middle East’s first interactive experience

VOX Cinemas launches Middle East’s first interactive experience
  • The new approach to watching films will launch in UAE and KSA on Aug. 5

DUBAI: Majid Al-Futtaim’s VOX Cinemas is introducing CTRL, the region’s first interactive movie experience, which lets the audience decide how the plot of the movie unfolds.

The new interactive experience will launch in the UAE and Saudi Arabia on Aug. 5.

The innovation from VOX Cinemas is in partnership with entertainment and tech company, Kino Industries, a global leader in interactive cinema and consumer content. Its proprietary technology, CtrlMovie, enables filmmakers to create interactive films and provides the platform to distribute them to movie theaters as well as home entertainment and mobile devices.

“We are incredibly excited to partner with Kino Industries and launch the Middle East’s first interactive movie, which puts the audience in control of countless adaptable storylines,” said Toni El Massih, chief content officer, VOX Cinemas.

The first interactive movie to be screened through CTRL is the action thriller “Late Shift,” the world’s first interactive feature-length film, which enables the audience to decide the fate of the lead character and the course of the movie using an app-based voting system.

The movie has multiple storylines consisting of 180 decision points and seven alternative endings. The audience typically makes 40 to 50 choices throughout the movie. The technology aggregates the votes from the audience and chooses the most popular option.

“Late Shift” was directed and co-written by Tobias Weber, award-winning filmmaker and co-founder of Kino Industries, and Michael Robert Johnson, who wrote Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes.” The critically acclaimed movie has won several awards including the 2018 BAFTA Cymru Award.

“Using pioneering technology, CTRL seamlessly combines the realism and production values of film with the interactivity of a videogame to create a new dimension of engagement,” El Massih said.

“Having sold out at the Beijing International Film Festival in less than five minutes, I have no doubt that this unique and exhilarating participatory experience will prove hugely popular with cinemagoers in the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Daily screenings of “Late Shift” will take place at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (Sunday to Thursday) and 5 pm, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. (Friday and Saturday) at VOX Cinemas at Mall of the Emirates, Yas Mall, City Center Mirdif, City Center Al Zahia, The Galleria Al Maryah Island and Wafi City in the UAE.

The experience will also be rolled out across select VOX Cinemas in Saudi Arabia.