Google to change global advertising practices in landmark antitrust deal

Google is the first US tech giant to agree to make changes to its huge advertising business. (File/AFP)
Google is the first US tech giant to agree to make changes to its huge advertising business. (File/AFP)
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Updated 07 June 2021

Google to change global advertising practices in landmark antitrust deal

Google is the first US tech giant to agree to make changes to its huge advertising business. (File/AFP)
  • After 220 million euros fine imposed by France, Google said it would make changes to its global advertising business.
  • Google made commitments to improve the way Ad Manager services worked with rival ad servers.

PARIS: Google said it would make changes to its global advertising business to ensure it did not abuse its dominance, bowing to antitrust pressure for the first time in a landmark settlement with French authorities.

The deal with the French competition watchdog could help rebalance the power over advertising in favor of publishers, which held sway over the business in the pre-Internet era but lost control with the rapid rise of Google and Facebook.

The settlement, which was announced on Monday and also saw Google fined 220 million euros ($268 million), is the first time the US tech giant has agreed to make changes to its huge advertising business, which brings in the bulk of its revenue.

“The decision to sanction Google is of particular significance because it’s the first decision in the world focusing on the complex algorithmic auction processes on which the online ad business relies,” said France’s antitrust chief Isabelle de Silva.

The watchdog found that Google’s ad management platform for large publishers — Google Ad Manager — favored the company’s own online ad marketplace — Google AdX — where publishers sell space to advertisers in real-time.

Ad Manager provided AdX with strategic data such as the winning bidding prices, while AdX also enjoyed privileged access to requests made by advertisers via Google’s ad services, the authority said.

AdX, in turn, exchanged data more smoothly with Ad Manager than it did with other advertising management platforms, the watchdog added. Such platforms are crucial for publishers to manage and sell advertising space.

Under the terms of the settlement, Google made commitments to improve the way Ad Manager services worked with rival ad servers and ad space sales platforms, the French watchdog said. Some changes would be implemented by the first quarter of 2022, it said, adding that Google would not appeal the decision.

Google also said it had agreed to make it easier for publishers to use its data and tools.

“We will be testing and developing these changes over the coming months before rolling them out more broadly, including some globally,” the company added.

’RIGHTLY SANCTIONED’

Many publishers globally have been infuriated over the ad practices employed by the tech giants, whose success relies on the trove of data they have amassed over the years. The French antitrust authority said its decision opened the way for publishers who felt disadvantaged to seek damages from Google.

Most of Google’s sales come from search and YouTube ads. But last year about $23 billion was tied to helping publishers sell ads, drawing antitrust scrutiny to the connections between Google’s businesses, plus calls from some critics to break up the company.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire welcomed the watchdog’s decision.

“The practices put in place by Google to favor its own advertising technologies have affected press groups, whose business model is heavily dependent on ad revenues,” he said.

“These are serious practices and they have been rightly sanctioned.”

It launched its investigation in 2019 following a complaint from News Corp., French news publishing group Le Figaro and Belgian press group Rossel.

News Corp. has since struck a global news deal with Google in February in one of the most extensive deals of its kind with big tech.

“We haven’t been involved in the case in France since we concluded our deal with Google in February, but we remain pleased by the progress of our global partnership, and are hopeful for a long and fruitful relationship in the years ahead,” a spokesman for News Corp. said.

Groupe Le Figaro declined to comment while Rossel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Well-known Lebanese journalist Rajeh Khoury succumbs to illness

Well-known Lebanese journalist Rajeh Khoury succumbs to illness
Updated 28 May 2022

Well-known Lebanese journalist Rajeh Khoury succumbs to illness

Well-known Lebanese journalist Rajeh Khoury succumbs to illness

Well-known Lebanese journalist and writer Rajeh Khoury died Friday after struggling to battle with illness, Lebanese and regional media reported.

The late journalist was “one of the distinguished, authentic writers from a generation of great men… who dedicated life and sacrifices for the sake of free speech, truth, and courage that knows no retreat or fear,” An-Nahar announced, one of the press institutions that the late journalist worked for.

An-Nahar lost one of its “pillars and senior writers in the dark nights of Lebanon,” it added.

Khoury, originally from South Lebanon, wrote and contributed wide-ranging content from articles to political analyses for outfits including Al-Aamal, Al-Hawadeth magazine, Al-Hayat, Nidaa Al-Watan, An-Nahar and Asharq Al-Awsat.


Indian writers celebrate first International Booker Prize for Hindi novel

Indian writers celebrate first International Booker Prize for Hindi novel
Updated 28 May 2022

Indian writers celebrate first International Booker Prize for Hindi novel

Indian writers celebrate first International Booker Prize for Hindi novel
  • Geetanjali Shree’s ‘Tomb of Sand,’ translated by Daisy Rockwell, won this year’s prize on Thursday

NEW DELHI: India’s literary world celebrated on Friday as Geetanjali Shree’s “Tomb of Sand” became the first book written in an Indian language to win the prestigious International Booker Prize.

The prize is awarded annually to a book that has been translated into English and published in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  

Shree wrote “Tomb of Sand” (Hindi title “Ret Samadhi”) in 2018. It is a family saga set in the shadow of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, when British India was split into two independent states — India and Pakistan — triggering one of the largest migrations in history, with around 15 million people forced to swap countries in a political upheaval that cost more than a million lives.

The novel follows an 80-year-old Indian woman who travels to Pakistan following the death of her husband to confront the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of partition and, while doing so, reevaluates what it means to be a mother, daughter, and woman.

The book was translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, who shares the prize with Shree. It was the first Hindi-language novel to secure a nomination for the prize.

In her acceptance speech in London on Thursday night, Shree said that behind her was a “rich and flourishing literary tradition in Hindi, and in other South Asian languages.”

“World literature will be the richer for knowing some of the finest writers in these languages. The vocabulary of life will increase from such an interaction,” she said.

Writers in India welcomed Shree’s recognition with the same hope.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful achievement,” Arundhati Roy, one of India’s most renowned writers, told Arab News.

Namita Gokhale, director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, India’s largest literary event, said the award will bring a “much-needed understanding of Hindi literature, one of the great world literatures.”

She continued: “It will lead to more and more translation (of Hindi works). There are so many wonderful translations out there, but certainly many, many more need to be done, because there is wonderful writing happening at all levels of contemporary Hindi literature.”

For Hindi novelist Bhagwandass Morwal, Shree’s win was a “matter of great pride.”

“After the Nobel Prize, the Booker is the most recognized award for literature,” he said. “This is one Booker prize. It is the beginning. In the future we will see more.”

“Tomb of Sand” beat out five other shortlisted titles for the prize, including “The Books of Jacob” by Nobel Prize-winning Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk and “Heaven” by Mieko Kawakami, the Japanese author best known for “Breasts and Eggs.”


‘Sending Aya Back’ — a heart-wrenching documentary about a Syrian refugee in Denmark 

‘Sending Aya Back’ — a heart-wrenching documentary about a Syrian refugee in Denmark 
Updated 28 May 2022

‘Sending Aya Back’ — a heart-wrenching documentary about a Syrian refugee in Denmark 

‘Sending Aya Back’ — a heart-wrenching documentary about a Syrian refugee in Denmark 

LONDON: UK newspaper The Guardian released a documentary film on Friday that tells the story of Aya Abu-Daher, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee in Denmark whose residence permit was revoked, leaving her facing deportation. 

“Sending Aya Back,” directed by Michael Graversen, follows Abu-Daher’s journey to Denmark and the events that unfolded after she received her deportation notice from the Danish government. 

 

 

The film is divided into nine chapters detailing some of the most notable moments in Abu-Daher’s life, including her high-school graduation, some of her TV interviews, and her appeal against the decision to revoke her residence permit. 

Abu-Daher arrived in Denmark in 2015 with her family after fleeing Syria’s Civil War. She enrolled in school and became fluent in Danish. She worked in restaurants every summer to earn enough money to support herself financially. 

 

 

Abu-Daher’s appeal process was, eventually, successful and her residency was extended for an additional two years on the grounds that her public profile would put her at risk of reprisal from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

However, Abu-Daher believes that her asylum was granted mainly as a result of the widespread media coverage her case received. 

 

 

In Denmark’s last election, in 2019, the victorious Social Democrats, headed by Mette Frederiksen, adopted a restrictive line on immigration. Since then, 189 Syrians have had their residence permits revoked after Copenhagen decided to re-examine the cases of around 500 people from Damascus.

Following the decision to revoke residence permits for Syrian refugees, Denmark faced heavy criticism from the international community for its tough stance. The country now has one of the most restrictive immigration policies in Europe.

 

 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine three months ago exposed Europe’s double standards when it comes to refugees. The vast majority of European countries welcomed Ukrainian refugees with open arms — or, at least, open borders — in stark contrast to the prevailing attitudes of European governments towards migrants from outside of Europe.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Poland has taken in more than 3.3 million refugees from Ukraine since late February, with more than 900,000 refugees going to Romania, around 600,000 to Hungary, 460,000 to Moldova and 420,000 to Slovakia. 

Migrants and refugees from elsewhere trying to enter Europe, however, are still struggling to access essential services, often face discrimination and abuse, and, for many, attempts to seek sanctuary in Europe prove fatal. More than 23,000 migrants have died or disappeared since 2014 trying to reach Europe by sea, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Media outlets in the West have also faced criticism for double standards in their coverage of Ukrainian refugees. 

During an interview on the BBC, the former Ukrainian deputy chief prosecutor David Sakvarelidze said the war was “very emotional for me, because I see European people with blue eyes and blond hair being killed.”

On Al-Jazeera English, presenter Peter Dobbie made various inappropriate comments describing Ukrainians fleeing the war as “prosperous, middle-class people” who “are not obviously refugees trying to get away from areas in the Middle East that are still in a big state of war.”


Al Arabiya doubles down on Hezbollah drug trafficking report after Lebanese terror group threatens network

Al Arabiya doubles down on Hezbollah drug trafficking report after Lebanese terror group threatens network
Updated 27 May 2022

Al Arabiya doubles down on Hezbollah drug trafficking report after Lebanese terror group threatens network

Al Arabiya doubles down on Hezbollah drug trafficking report after Lebanese terror group threatens network
  • Al Arabiya stressed that all accusations cited in the Hezbollah statement are false

LONDON: Al Arabiya network denied accusations and threats made by Lebanese terror group Hezbollah in a statement issued on Thursday, which claimed that the network is peddling false information on the militia’s captagon and drug smuggling operations.

Al Arabiya stressed that all accusations cited in the Hezbollah statement are false.

It also confirmed that all reports and investigations published by its various platforms are documented and supported by trusted sources, and confirmed by audio and video files.

They were also confirmed, Al Arabiya said, by arrest warrants issued against Hezbollah members and financiers by several governments in Latin America, the US and Europe.

Al Arabiya said it would carry on with its approach by adhering to the highest professional standards, relying on documented information in its investigations and news material.

The network pointed out that Hezbollah and its members are already blacklisted for drug trafficking, money laundering, smuggling, and illegal trade in many countries around the world.


Iranian officials bribing Instagram moderators to remove accounts hostile to regime: BBC

Iranian officials bribing Instagram moderators to remove accounts hostile to regime: BBC
Updated 27 May 2022

Iranian officials bribing Instagram moderators to remove accounts hostile to regime: BBC

Iranian officials bribing Instagram moderators to remove accounts hostile to regime: BBC
  • Among those targeted was Iranian American author and activist Masih Alinejad
  • Little coverage on state media was given to the protests, but social media was awash with reports of what was happening on the ground

LONDON: Iranian intelligence officials are offering Instagram content moderators more than $10,000 to remove the accounts of journalists and activists hostile to the regime, the BBC reported on Friday.
Among those targeted was Iranian American author and activist Masih Alinejad, with one former reviewer telling BBC Persia they were offered $10,700 to delete her account.
The content moderators were speaking after an outcry among Iranian Instagram users that posts about the recent wave of anti-government protests had been deleted.
Demonstrations were held in several provinces of Iran at the start of May after a government decision to cut subsidies to basic food items caused prices to soar, with the unrest quickly leading to protesters chanting slogans against Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the country’s President Ebrahim Raisi.
Little coverage on state media was given to the protests, but social media was awash with reports of what was happening on the ground.
However, users noticed that as the unrest continued, videos started being removed, with one opposition activist, @1500tasvir, claiming in a tweet to have been informed by Instagram that their account was being limited to “protect our community.”
The former content moderator said: “I know reviewers who supported the Iranian regime and received instructions from Iran, they can independently delete a post that has been reported without facing any serious consequences.
“If an auditor realizes, at most your accuracy rate may drop by a percentage point or two.”
German-based technology company and Instagram’s moderator, Telus International, told the BBC that although it took the allegations very seriously and had launched an investigation, it also believed them to be false.
In a statement, the firm said: “Telus does not have, nor has it ever had, any ties to the Iranian government.
“Processes are in place to eliminate the ability of reviewers to insert personal or political opinions into their job. Our team members review a randomized set of content to determine if it violates our client’s policies, standards, and guidelines, removing any room for subjectivity.
“These decisions are frequently audited for accuracy and to uncover any potential biases. Additional reviews have been undertaken and have found no validity to these claims.”
Two further moderators interviewed by the BBC supported the assertion that “it was likely” some videos had been removed as they included chants of “death to Khamenei,” although one of the reviewers said the Iranians working for Telus were “decent people” who followed company guidelines.