Myanmar court frees one of two detained US journalists

About 90 journalists have been arrested since the army’s takeover, according to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. (AFP)
About 90 journalists have been arrested since the army’s takeover, according to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. (AFP)
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Updated 15 June 2021

Myanmar court frees one of two detained US journalists

About 90 journalists have been arrested since the army’s takeover, according to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. (AFP)
  • US journalist Nathan Maung was freed from Myanmar prison after charges against him were dropped.
  • The other American journalist, Danny Fenster, remains incarcerated.

BANGKOK: A court in Myanmar has released US journalist Nathan Maung, who was arrested three months ago while working for a local online news agency, his lawyer said Monday.

Maung was released after charges against him were dropped and his case dismissed, and he will be deported on Tuesday, lawyer Tin Zar Oo said. However, a colleague at Kamayut Media who was arrested with him, Myanmar national Hanthar Nyein, remains in prison, she said.

Another American journalist working for a news magazine in Myanmar, Danny Fenster, also remains incarcerated. Fenster is managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, which publishes in both English and Burmese and also online. He was detained at Yangon’s airport on June 24 as he was preparing to board a flight to Malaysia en route to the Detroit area to see his family.

Myanmar’s military junta, which seized power in February after ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, has faced broad opposition to its rule and seeks to quell all dissent. Critical media voices have been forced underground or into exile.

According to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, about 90 journalists have been arrested since the army’s takeover, with more than half still in detention, and 33 in hiding.

The US government and rights groups have urged the junta to respect freedom of expression and stop harassment and arrests of journalists. It pressed repeatedly for the release of Maung and Fenster.

Two other foreign journalists have been arrested by the junta. Freelancers Robert Bociaga of Poland and Yuki Kitazumi of Japan have since been deported.

Maung, the Kamayut website’s editor-in-chief, and Hanthar Nyein, a news producer, were arrested on March 9. They were held at a military interrogation center in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, before being transferred to Insein Prison, the country’s main detention facility for political prisoners.

The two men, who co-founded the news outlet, were charged under a section of the penal code that punishes “dissemination of information or ‘fake news’ that could agitate or cause security forces or officials to mutiny” with a maximum three-year prison term, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Tin Zar Oo said Nathan Maung is being held an extra day for a COVID-19 test before taking a flight out of the country on Tuesday. She said he is able to reclaim most of his belongings, but that $1,600 and about $4,250 in Myanmar’s currency are missing.


MENA music platform to launch entertainment destinations in region

MENA music platform to launch entertainment destinations in region
Updated 3 min 37 sec ago

MENA music platform to launch entertainment destinations in region

MENA music platform to launch entertainment destinations in region
  • First Anghami Lab to open in Dubai followed by Riyadh, Jeddah, other cities

DUBAI: A leading music streaming platform in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has unveiled plans to launch an innovative entertainment venue in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The first Anghami Lab will open in Dubai, followed by Riyadh, and then other major cities.

Anghami, the digital distribution company behind the initiative, has partnered with hospitality group Addmind, which operates venues such as White, Iris, and Clap throughout Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Qatar, and London.

Tony Habre, chief executive officer of Addmind, said: “Anghami is more than just a streaming platform, they have elevated the value of the music industry in the Middle East as a whole – Anghami Lab is an amazing and unique concept that embodies our rich Arab culture with an international twist, which we are thrilled to bring to fruition and scale.”

Anghami Lab will combine the online and offline worlds, bridging digital and traditional entertainment. The venue will feature a lounge, stage, and studio where creators can experiment and work together making music, which will be played and performed there.

The resulting music will also be made available exclusively on Anghami and the app will provide special features complementing both experiences.

The fusion cuisine served at Anghami Lab will be aimed at embodying the essence of Anghami by providing an international taste with an Arabic flavor.

Eddy Maroun, co-founder and CEO of Anghami, said: “We are excited to partner with Addmind to create this unique, transformational experience for our users.

“Addmind is a leading expert in conceptualizing and operating hospitality spaces, and this is a great opportunity to further reinforce the value we provide digitally to be converged offline in a unique user-to-guest experience.”

The first venue is due to be opened in Dubai in early 2022, to be followed by similar centers in Riyadh, Jeddah, Cairo, Beirut, and other cities such as London, New York, and Los Angeles.


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.