US drops Trump order targeting TikTok, plans its own review

US drops Trump order targeting TikTok, plans its own review. (File/AFP)
US drops Trump order targeting TikTok, plans its own review. (File/AFP)
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Updated 09 June 2021

US drops Trump order targeting TikTok, plans its own review

US drops Trump order targeting TikTok, plans its own review. (File/AFP)
  • The Biden administration drops the Trump-era ban on TikTok and WeChat, says will conduct its own review.
  • However, the US has not actually weighed in yet on whether TikTok and other apps pose a danger to Americans.

WASHINGTON: The White House dropped Trump-era executive orders that attempted to ban the popular apps TikTok and WeChat and will conduct its own review aimed at identifying national security risks with software applications tied to China, officials said Wednesday.

A new executive order directs the Commerce Department to undertake what officials describe as an “evidence-based” analysis of transactions involving apps that are manufactured or supplied or controlled by China. Officials are particularly concerned about apps that collect users’ personal data or have connections to Chinese military or intelligence activities.

In revoking some of President Donald Trump’s blanket-style orders against Chinese tech companies and replacing them with a narrower approach, the Biden administration has not actually weighed in yet on whether TikTok and other apps pose a danger to Americans.

But a senior administration official said Wednesday that the Trump actions weren’t “always implemented in the soundest fashion” and the aim of the review is to set up clear criteria to evaluate specific data security and privacy risks for each app. He said that could lead to a range of potential future actions on an app-by-app basis.

“We want to take a tailored, tough approach here,” he said.

The department will also make recommendations on how to further protect Americans’ genetic and personal health information, and will address the risks of certain software apps connected to China or other adversaries, according to senior administration officials.

TikTok on Wednesday declined to comment. WeChat did not respond to a request for comment.

The Biden administration’s move reflects ongoing concern that Americans’ personal data could be exposed by popular apps tied to China, a chief US economic and political rival. The White House and Congress have both taken action to address Beijing’s technological advancement.

The Biden administration last week expanded a Trump-era list of Chinese companies that Americans can’t invest in because of purported links to the Chinese military and surveillance. Companies on the list include China’s state-owned telecommunications companies, telecom equipment maker Huawei and Chinese oil company China National Offshore Oil Corp.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that aims to boost US semiconductor production and the development of artificial intelligence and other technology in the face of growing international competition.

Courts had blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to ban TikTok and WeChat, but a national-security review of TikTok by a government group called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, is ongoing. CFIUS had set deadlines for TikTok to divest its US operations, but such a sale never happened.

Last year, the Trump administration brokered a deal that would have had US corporations Oracle and Walmart take a large stake in the Chinese-owned app on national security grounds. Neither Oracle or Walmart returned requests for comment on Wednesday.

But courts blocked the Trump White House’s attempted bans of TikTok and WeChat, which had begun in summer 2020, and the presidential election soon overshadowed the fight.

The Biden administration earlier this year had backed off President Donald Trump’s attempts to ban TikTok and WeChat as it reviewed national security threats posed by Chinese technology companies. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has put on hold a case challenging Trump’s TikTok divestment order.

A cybersecurity and privacy analysis of TikTok published in March by the Internet watchdog group Citizen Lab found no evidence of malicious behavior and said TikTok’s data collection practices were no worse than other major social platforms such as Facebook.

“Our research shows that there is no overt data transmission to the Chinese government by TikTok,” the report said. It added that TikTok’s service did not contact any servers within China, but it was still theoretically possible that servers outside China could later transfer user data to China-based servers.


Rights watchdog condemns assault of Afghan journalist

Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
Updated 26 November 2021

Rights watchdog condemns assault of Afghan journalist

Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
  • Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, a presenter at privately owned broadcaster Ayna TV, was walking to his house when two unidentified men assaulted him
  • In October, unidentified gunmen injured journalists Abdul Khaliq Hussaini and Alireza Sharifi in separate attacks in Kabul

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the violent attack on Afghani journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, who was assaulted in Kabul while on his way home. 

Ahmadi, a presenter at the privately owned broadcaster Ayna TV, was walking to his house when two unidentified men assaulted him and attempted to shoot him. 

The men, whose faces were covered by black handkerchiefs, reportedly shouted, “Reporter! Stop,” demanded to see his identification card and asked him where he worked. 

“The Taliban has repeatedly failed to uphold its stated commitment to press freedom, as violent attacks against journalists continue and proper investigations or accountability are nowhere to be found,” said CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, Steven Butler.

“The Taliban should reverse this trend by thoroughly investigating the attack on Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, and holding the perpetrators accountable.”

Ahmadi’s assailants reportedly demanded he unlock his phone and open his WhatsApp and Facebook accounts. When Ahmadi refused, the men beat him with pistols and proceeded to shoot at him when he asked for help. 

The shots missed Ahmadi, but the men continued kicking him while he was on the ground, breaking his jaw. 

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last August, the CPJ has voiced concerns about the safety of Afghan journalists, reporters and media workers. 

In October, unidentified gunmen injured journalists Abdul Khaliq Hussaini and Alireza Sharifi in separate attacks in Kabul, and Taliban members beat and detained Zahidullah Husainkhil.


Advocacy group calls on EU states to provide safe passage for Afghan journalists

News photographers light candles to pay tribute to Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui, after he was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters. (Reuters/File Photo)
News photographers light candles to pay tribute to Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui, after he was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 26 November 2021

Advocacy group calls on EU states to provide safe passage for Afghan journalists

News photographers light candles to pay tribute to Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui, after he was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, the CPJ has voiced concerns about the safety of Afghan journalists, reporters and media workers

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday called on EU states to provide safe passage for fleeing Afghan journalists and commit to helping them resettle in the EU.

Tom Gibson, CPJ’s EU representative, said: “Journalists fleeing Afghanistan have received far too little support from governments around the world and their safe passage must now become a political priority.

“EU member states must make clear commitments to Afghan journalists fleeing persecution, including concrete and collaborative strategies for their evacuation and resettlement. The EU has a duty not to turn the other way,” he added.

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, the CPJ has voiced concerns about the safety of Afghan journalists, reporters and media workers.

Recently, Afghan journalist Mohammad Ali Ahmadi was shot and injured in the capital Kabul for his work as a media professional. Similarly, a week earlier, Taliban fighters raided the homes of two journalists and seized cars, desktop computers and a licensed weapon from one of the houses.

The Taliban also raided the homes of three Deutsche Welle journalists in Afghanistan the week before, shot dead a relative of a DW reporter and severely injured another while attempting to track him down.

While EU member states, the UK and the US vowed to provide a safe passage for Afghan journalists, they are yet to voice clear commitments to aid in the resettling of high-risk Afghans in their own countries.


Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony
Updated 26 November 2021

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony
  • 88 entries shortlisted in 56 categories for 2021 Middle East Public Relations Association awards

DUBAI: This year’s winners of a prestigious Middle Eastern public relations awards scheme were revealed at a recent presentation ceremony in the UAE.

More than 88 entries were shortlisted across 56 categories in the 2021 edition of the Middle East Public Relations Association awards.

The communications industry has been seriously impacted by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic with many companies and organizations cutting their advertising and marketing budgets.

And the latest MEPRA awards took into account the damage caused to the sector by the global health crisis through categories such as best creative approach and best internal communications response during COVID-19, and best social impact campaign in response to the virus outbreak.

The classes saw gold trophies awarded to APCO Worldwide for its campaign “Adapting UOWD’s Education Model in the Age of the Pandemic,” Mastercard MEA for its “Priceless Together” project, and Action Global Communications for “ADEK Back to School,” respectively.

During the awards ceremony held in Dubai on Wednesday, Red Havas bagged gold for best campaign in the Middle East with Adidas’ “Beyond the Surface,” and Hill+Knowlton Strategies took silver and bronze for its PUBG Mobile “Game on Henedy,” and Facebook Inc. “#MonthofGood” campaigns, respectively.

To mark MEPRA’s 20th anniversary this year, the awards featured a new category of people’s choice for the best Middle East campaign over the last two decades, won by Weber Shandwick MENAT and Environment Agency Abu Dhabi for the “Vote Bu Tinah!” campaign.

Special gongs on the night included the chairman’s lifetime achievement award that went to Jack Pearce of Matrix Public Relations, the small in-house team of the year accolade handed to Mastercard MENA, and the large in-house team of the year prize given to the UAE government’s media office.

Agency titles were awarded to Gambit Communications for best home-grown operation as well as small agency of the year, with Acorn Strategy being crowned large agency of the year.


New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 November 2021

New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
  • New Zealand PM said tech giants and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online

LONDON: Tech giants like Meta’s Facebook and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019 after a white supremacist killed 51 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch while live-streaming his rampage on Facebook.
This Christchurch Call initiative has been supported by more than 50 countries, international organizations and tech firms, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft.
Ardern said on Friday the initiative had been successful in its first aim of establishing a crisis protocol, including a 24/7 network between platforms to quickly remove content, in response to events like those in Christchurch.
“We have had real world stress-testing of those systems and they have worked very effectively,” Ardern said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.
“I am confident that we are operating more effectively than we have before,” she added. “The next challenge though, is to go further again.”
Asked what tech companies should be doing, Ardern replied: “much more.”
Ardern said the next step was to focus on prevention, looking at how people are finding or coming across hateful or terror-motivating content online and perhaps becoming radicalized.
“That’s where we are really interested in the ongoing work around algorithms and the role that we can all play to ensure that online platforms don’t become a place of radicalization,” she said.
A Christchurch Call conference earlier this year was attended by the United States and Britain.


MENA Effie Awards announces 2021 winners

This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards. (Supplied)
This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards. (Supplied)
Updated 25 November 2021

MENA Effie Awards announces 2021 winners

This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards. (Supplied)
  • The 13th edition of the awards program celebrates marketing effectiveness

DUBAI: The MENA Effie Awards, the regional edition of the globally renowned marketing industry honours, announced its 2021 winners at an awards ceremony in Dubai on Nov. 24.

After a brief hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic, the awards made a comeback this year, recording a 40 percent increase in entries from 2019.

This year’s grand prix went to FP7 McCann Dubai for the “The Bread Exam” campaign for the Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation. The Most Effective Advertising Agency Office of the Year title was awarded to FP7 McCann Dubai, while Omnicom Group’s PHD Dubai was named Most Effective Media Agency Office of the Year.

This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards by far across its network of agencies, including McCann Health and Momentum.

“Firstly, it was so good to see the industry come together for the first time since the pandemic started. Secondly, this being the pandemic Effies, every piece of work deserved double the applause as it was made amidst terrific stresses and restrictions,” Tahaab Rais, president of SLC and regional head of strategy and truth central at FP7 McCann MENAT, told Arab News.

He added that the record number of awards at this year’s event, as well as securing Most Effective Advertising Agency and Network of the Year for the 8th consecutive year, is “a testament to how if we, collectively and consistently, outthink, outwork and outcare as brands, agencies, and people, you do end up coming out on top all things being equal.”

Luca Allam, CEO of PHD MENA, said: “Delivering marketing effectiveness for our clients is PHD’s priority. For the last few years, PHD has held a proud track record at the Effies. We are courageous enough to make leaps, we are not afraid to creatively push the boundaries, and this award validates this effort. We are thrilled to be consistently delivering growth for our clients through great and innovative work.”

Other winners on the night included Wunderman Thompson, which bagged 13 awards, TBWA\RAAD shone after picking up 11 trophies, and Havas Middle East and the BBDO network both won five awards each.

The full list of winners can be viewed here.