China blocks several cryptocurrency-related social media accounts amid crackdown

Access to several of widely followed crypto-related Weibo accounts was denied, with a message saying each account “violates laws and rules.” (File/AFP)
Access to several of widely followed crypto-related Weibo accounts was denied, with a message saying each account “violates laws and rules.” (File/AFP)
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Updated 07 June 2021

China blocks several cryptocurrency-related social media accounts amid crackdown

Access to several of widely followed crypto-related Weibo accounts was denied, with a message saying each account “violates laws and rules.” (File/AFP)
  • China steps up crackdown on bitcoin, blocks several crypto-related accounts on China's Twitter-like social media platform.
  • The stepped-up crackdown also comes as China’s central bank is accelerating testing of its own digital currency.

SHANGHAI: A slew of crypto-related accounts in China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform were blocked over the weekend, as Beijing stepped up a crackdown on bitcoin trading and mining.

More actions are expected, including linking illegal crypto activities in China more directly with the country’s criminal law, according to analysts and a financial regulator.

Last month, China’s State Council, or cabinet, vowed to crack down on bitcoin mining and trading, escalating a campaign against cryptocurrencies days after three industry bodies banned crypto-related financial and payment services.

Over the weekend, access to several of widely followed crypto-related Weibo accounts was denied, with a message saying each account “violates laws and rules.”

“It’s a Judgment Day for crypto KOL,” wrote a Weibo bitcoin commentator, or key opinion leader (KOL), who calls herself “Woman Dr. bitcoin mini.” Her main account was also blocked on Saturday.

“The government makes it clear that no Chinese version of Elon Musk can exist in the Chinese crypto market,” said NYU Law School adjunct professor Winston Ma, referring to the Tesla founder and cryptocurrency enthusiast.

Ma, author of the book “The Digital War,” also expects China’s supreme court to publish a judicial interpretation soon that may link crypto mining and trading businesses with China’s body of criminal law.

The view was echoed by a financial regulator, who said that such an interpretation would address the legal ambiguity that has failed to clearly identify bitcoin trading businesses as “illegal operations.” All the rules against cryptocurrencies so far in China have been published by administrative bodies.
The Weibo freeze comes as Chinese media have stepped up reporting against crypto trading.

The official Xinhua News Agency has published articles that exposed a series of crypto-related scams. State broadcaster CCTV has said cryptocurrency is a lightly regulated asset often used in black market trade, money laundering, arms smuggling, gambling and drug dealings.

The stepped-up crackdown also comes as China’s central bank is accelerating testing of its own digital currency.


McDonald’s creates new unit to focus on global digital app

McDonald’s has more than 40 million active app users in its biggest six markets and now offers delivery in more than 30,000 restaurants. (File/Reuters)
McDonald’s has more than 40 million active app users in its biggest six markets and now offers delivery in more than 30,000 restaurants. (File/Reuters)
Updated 6 min 8 sec ago

McDonald’s creates new unit to focus on global digital app

McDonald’s has more than 40 million active app users in its biggest six markets and now offers delivery in more than 30,000 restaurants. (File/Reuters)
  • McDonald's creates new unit that brings together digital, data analytics, marketing, restaurant development and operations segments
  • Loyalty programs bring in valuable data about customers’ food orders and habits, which restaurants use to push specialized deals

NEW YORK: McDonald’s Corp. is bringing its digital, data analytics, marketing, restaurant development and operations segments into one unit as it focuses on driving growth through its global app and new MyMcDonald’s Rewards program, the company said on Monday.
The company rolled out MyMcDonald’s Rewards on July 8 as fast-food chains have raced to launch loyalty programs to spur sales, reach younger consumers and give customers more ways to order.
To lead the new unit, McDonald’s promoted Manu Steijaert to a new global chief customer officer position, effective Aug. 1 and reporting to Chief Executive Officer Chris Kempczinski. Steijaert previously ran international operated markets including European countries, Russia and Australia.
Nearly half of all restaurant customers use at least one loyalty program, particularly when ordering fast-food, according to a consumer survey from loyalty program provider Paytronix Systems Inc. and PYMNTS.com.
The programs rake in valuable data about customers’ food orders and habits, which restaurants use to push specialized deals in the hope of getting people to eat there more often and spend more money on extra items.
McDonald’s has more than 40 million active app users in its biggest six markets and now offers delivery in more than 30,000 restaurants, Kempczinski said in an internal message seen by Reuters. The company created the team “to remove some internal barriers and silos that ultimately lead to a fragmented customer experience,” Kempczinski said in the memo.
The company reports second-quarter earnings results on Wednesday.


EU gives Google 2 months to improve hotel, flight search results

The final prices for Google Hotel and Google Flight should include fees or taxes that can be calculated in advance. (File/AFP)
The final prices for Google Hotel and Google Flight should include fees or taxes that can be calculated in advance. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 min 54 sec ago

EU gives Google 2 months to improve hotel, flight search results

The final prices for Google Hotel and Google Flight should include fees or taxes that can be calculated in advance. (File/AFP)
  • EU provides Google with two months to improve the way the platform shows internet search results in relation to hotels and flights
  • Google has long faced scrutiny from antitrust enforcers and consumer groups around the world over its business practices

BRUSSELS: Alphabet unit Google has two months to improve the way it presents Internet search results for flights and hotels and explain how it ranks these or face possible sanctions, the European Commission and EU consumer authorities said on Monday.
The world’s most popular Internet search engine has long faced scrutiny from antitrust enforcers and consumer groups around the world over its business practices, which in some cases have landed it with hefty fines.
The latest grievance centers on the prices on its services Google Flights and Google Hotels.
The final prices for these should include fees or taxes that can be calculated in advance, while reference prices used to calculate promoted discounts should be clearly identifiable, the EU executive and national consumer watchdogs, led by the Dutch agency and the Belgian Directorate General for Economic Inspection, said in a joint statement.
“EU consumers cannot be misled when using search engines to plan their holidays. We need to empower consumers to make their choices based on transparent and unbiased information,” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said.
The agencies also told Google to revise the standard terms of its Google Store because some cases showed that traders have more rights than consumers.
If Google’s proposals are not sufficient, the agencies will discuss the issue further with the company and may impose sanctions.
Google said in a statement: “We welcome this dialogue and are working closely with consumer protection agencies and the European Commission to see how we can make improvements that will be good for our users and provide even more transparency.”


Tunisian journalist union calls for protection of journalists after Ennahda threats

Yousfi announced via his personal Facebook page on Saturday that he had been confined to his house over the weekend “because of serious … and dangerous threats.” (Facebook)
Yousfi announced via his personal Facebook page on Saturday that he had been confined to his house over the weekend “because of serious … and dangerous threats.” (Facebook)
Updated 26 July 2021

Tunisian journalist union calls for protection of journalists after Ennahda threats

Yousfi announced via his personal Facebook page on Saturday that he had been confined to his house over the weekend “because of serious … and dangerous threats.” (Facebook)
  • The National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists demanded that Tunisian authorities provide protection for journalists in the country
  • Tensions in the North African country rose on Sunday after President Kais Saied suspended Parliament, fired PM Mechichi and dissolved the government

LONDON: The National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) demanded that Tunisian authorities provide protection for journalists in the country on Monday, after reporter Mohamed Yousfi announced he had received threats from members of the Muslim Brotherhood-associated Ennahda party.

Yousfi reportedly received threats from Ennahda supporters over claims he made during an appearance on Al-Mayadeen television channel earlier this week that members of the movement blackmailed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and prevented his resignation. 

 

 

Tensions in the North African country rose on Sunday after President Kais Saied suspended Parliament, fired Mechichi and dissolved the government. 

Parliament’s speaker, Rached Ghannouchi, the head of Ennahda party, called the president’s move a coup and an “assault on democracy.”

Yousfi announced via his personal Facebook page on Saturday that he had been confined to his house over the weekend “because of serious … and dangerous threats.” 

In the post he said he held the president, prime minister, head of the military and the acting minister of the interior responsible for his safety. 

In a statement published on its Facebook page, the SNJT said that Yousfi had received “death threats regarding his media statements in which he portrayed the general situation of the country, including the political, health and social crisis,” which had “caused a systematic campaign of incitement, insult and assault against him by electronic accounts and militias working on behalf and for the benefit of political parties supporting the government.”

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have designated the Ennahda party as a terrorist organization.

The SNJT also condemned campaigns of incitement and violence aimed at silencing and intimidating other journalists in Tunisia. 

It highlighted in a monthly report that attacks against journalists and photographers in June had increased, with the 18 attacks reported up from 13 incidents in May. 

According to Reporters Without Borders, Tunisia ranks 73rd in the world on the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Saied’s move to dissolve Parliament comes in response to nationwide protests over the past few days, prompted by Tunisia’s economic, political and health crises. 

Over the weekend, hundreds of Tunisians rallied in Tunis and other cities demanding the government step down after a surge in cases of the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

The protests turned violent when police used pepper spray against demonstrators, who threw stones and shouted slogans demanding Mechichi’s resignation.


Police shut Al Jazeera TV’s Tunis office

Al Jazeera television said on Monday that Tunisian police had stormed its bureau in the capital Tunis. (File/AFP)
Al Jazeera television said on Monday that Tunisian police had stormed its bureau in the capital Tunis. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 July 2021

Police shut Al Jazeera TV’s Tunis office

Al Jazeera television said on Monday that Tunisian police had stormed its bureau in the capital Tunis. (File/AFP)
  • “Around 15 policemen, some in uniform others in civilian clothes, entered our offices and asked us to leave,” Al Jazeera director in Tunis Lotfi Hajji said
  • The move came a day after President Kais Saied ousted the prime minister and suspended parliament

TUNIS: Tunisian police on Monday closed the office of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera television in the capital Tunis, its bureau chief said, amid political turmoil in the North African country.
“Around 15 policemen, some in uniform others in civilian clothes, entered our offices and asked us to leave,” Al Jazeera director in Tunis Lotfi Hajji told AFP.
He said the law enforcement officers gave no reason for the actions, but confiscated the keys to the premises and forced all staff to leave.
The move came a day after President Kais Saied ousted the prime minister and suspended parliament, following a day of street protests against the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic.
Hajji said the police told Al Jazeera staff “we are following orders.”
“What is happening is very dangerous, it is proof that freedom of the press is threatened. Today it is Al Jazeera, another day another media,” Hajji said.
AFP contacted the interior minister for further details but no immediate explanations were given for the closure of the outlet’s office.


Asharq News partners with Newsbridge for AI archiving technology

Asharq News partners with Newsbridge for AI archiving technology
Updated 26 July 2021

Asharq News partners with Newsbridge for AI archiving technology

Asharq News partners with Newsbridge for AI archiving technology
  • News service to revolutionize user and work experience in broadcasting industry

RIYADH: Asharq News, the 24/7 Arabic-language multiplatform news service owned by Arab News’ parent company Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG), has partnered with the cloud-based platform Newsbridge.

The company will offer its signature multimodal indexing AI technology that leverages time-stamped metadata.

“Our partnership with Newsbridge provides our production teams with a fast and efficient means of searching and finding the shots they need, in English or Arabic. We look forward to leveraging AI-powered archiving technology to maximize multilingual search, accuracy, efficiency, and convenience,” said Kathey Battrick, senior manager, library and media management, at Asharq News.

The next-gen solution enables Asharq News to auto-index its archive via multimodal AI and scalable processing in the cloud. The technology will organize and merchandise media assets into collections, or smart folders, that automatically update when new media matches predefined criteria, future-proofing the news service’s archive collections in a structured manner.

“Asharq News’ track record as innovation leaders in the media sector makes our partnership all the more meaningful. By leveraging Newsbridge’s multimodal indexing AI technology, Asharq is setting a new standard to future-proof media asset management in the industry while also transforming end-user experience, offering next-gen search exploration and retrieval,” said Philippe Petitpont, CEO of Newsbridge.

Newsbridge’s AI-powered next-gen cloud platform is aimed at revolutionizing the user experience of managing and working with critical amounts of media assets, providing unprecedented access to content. The complete solution consists of media asset collections, multimodal indexing AI, cloud video tools, and the recently launched content monetization showcase and resale portal.

By taking into account facial, object and scene recognition with audio transcription and semantic context, the solution enables smart media asset management, be it media logging, archiving, or investigative research.

Asharq News is integrating Newsbridge’s AI archiving technology into its advanced digital infrastructure, which is unparalleled in the region in terms of studio equipment, broadcast technology, asset management and Internet connectivity.

Asharq’s cutting-edge features include a chroma key green screen, a Barco 2 LED screen, a fully virtual studio, as well as cameras that can be steered remotely from the control room, robotic cameras, a four-screen mobile video wall, an LDL screen that can run augmented reality, Pebble playout technology, LiveU file-sharing system and Megaphone TV viewer engagement platform.