Will Arab countries follow Norway’s step and force influencers use disclaimers about filters?

Social media companies have been increasingly trying to introduce features that encourage users to post authentic content. (File/Twitter)
Social media companies have been increasingly trying to introduce features that encourage users to post authentic content. (File/Twitter)
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Updated 15 July 2021

Will Arab countries follow Norway’s step and force influencers use disclaimers about filters?

Social media companies have been increasingly trying to introduce features that encourage users to post authentic content. (File/Twitter)
  • Norway last week introduced new legislation requiring influencers and advertisers to declare when images they shared had been edited or retouched
  • Filters on Instagram can allow users to conceal faces, soften skin, hide blemishes, give bigger and brighter eyes, puff up lips and shrink noses

LONDON: European countries have, in recent years, been increasingly enacting social media laws that fight unrealistic beauty standards and promote body positivity at a time when influencers are dominating the beauty scene.

Whether such laws on unrealistic body images could be translated to the Arab world remains unclear, however.

Norway last week introduced new legislation requiring influencers and advertisers to declare when images they shared had been edited or retouched.

When asked if this law could be enacted in the Arab world, influencer Danae Mercer replied that the law was “interesting but complex.”

Mercer, who is based in Dubai, is an advocate for natural beauty. While she believed that such a law was a step in the right direction in the region, she said that Norway’s approach was not as straightforward as the UK’s.

“With the UK’s decision to ban filters in advertising, the approach felt more clean cut,” she said. “It’s basically saying you can’t falsely market, which isn’t allowed anywhere.”

Social media influencer, Ameni Esseibi, felt extremely positive about the law. “I personally think that this law is great news for our industry, I can’t wait for it to be applied in the UAE also. It’s time for people to see reality and to accept real life and stop living in a bubble” she said.

Esseibi, who is based in the UAE, describes herself as the first curvy model in the MENA region and is a strong advocate of body positivity. 

“People need to wake up and save the younger generation it’s already damaged by the harsh world we live in, let’s try to make easier for them at least on this and not make it harder and impossible,” she added. 

Dr. Jad Melki, an associate professor of journalism and media studies at the Lebanese American University and director of the Institute of Media Research and Training, said that disclosing whether a photo had been edited had long been an ethical standard for most professional news institutions, particularly in the US.

“Extending this to social media influencers is certainly good for improving transparency but making it law is going to be hard to enforce, especially in the Arab region,” he told Arab News.

Government agencies across the region did not respond to queries about whether their countries would enact such a law.

In early 2021, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority issued a decision that effectively banned influencers from using unrealistic beauty filters in advertisements.

Instagram introduced augmented reality (AR) filters, or face filters, in 2017 to compete with Snapchat. Filters were initially limited to fun touches such as animal ears, nerd glasses or a butterfly crown.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by BREE LENEHAN (@breeelenehan)

But, as the app developed, Instagram began allowing users to create their own filters. However, they have to adhere to both Instagram’s community guidelines and Spark AR policies. The new filters then go through an approval process before going live in the Spark AR Effects Gallery on Instagram.

But what started with flower crowns and puppy filters has become much more complex. Filters can now allow users to conceal faces, soften skin, hide blemishes, give bigger and brighter eyes, puff up lips and shrink noses.

“Studies have shown just how much seeing online perfection is warping our sense of self,” Mercer said. “And with apps like TikTok, where filters are pretty much built in, it can become more and more difficult to be comfortable with a regular unfiltered photo.”

Research has found that Instagram use in the US, specifically exposure to filtered and idealized Instagram images, has been linked to body dissatisfaction and body negativity among women aged between 18-29.

A 2020 study on Instagram’s role in propagating unrealistic beauty standards highlighted that prominent beauty influencers had increasingly played a part in propagating unrealistic beauty standards online.

While the name of a certain filter can be displayed clearly at the top of a story, it does not necessarily mean that people have not resorted to other ways to hide the use of filters such as posting screenshots of the original filtered photo.

Norway’s newly introduced law will require influencers to put a disclaimer on any image where edits have been made to areas including body size, shape and skin, either through a retouching app like FaceTune or ‘beautifying’ face filters.

However, as Mercer noted, a potentially similar law in the Arab region would be difficult to implement.

“It opens up the question of when does it stop. Will people have to disclose if they’ve had plastic surgery that creates the same effects as filters? What about in films, where they edit and use body adjusting all the time? Or TV? What about traditional media?” 

Social media companies have been increasingly trying to introduce features that encourage users to post authentic content that reflects their real selves and to promote positive body images.

Last month Instagram and its parent company Facebook introduced a new feature that allowed users to hide the like counts on posts they shared. This feature is intended to reduce the social pressure that comes with likes.

For their part, social media influencers have started a campaign as a response to the growing unrealistic beauty standards on Instagram. The ‘Instagram vs Reality’ movement features influencers who post two images of themselves side-by-side. One is an ideal Instagram version that is perfectly lit and posed showcasing the best attributes, and the other is the realistic version that features a natural pose.

Many Instagram accounts have popped up with the sole aim of celebrating natural poses and unfiltered images.


‘Building bridges’: Annahar opens Dubai bureau

Annahr Al-Arabi opened offices in Dubai. (Supplied)
Annahr Al-Arabi opened offices in Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 4 sec ago

‘Building bridges’: Annahar opens Dubai bureau

Annahr Al-Arabi opened offices in Dubai. (Supplied)

LONDON: Lebanon’s Annahar Media Group announced on Wednesday the opening of its Dubai bureau, aimed at consolidating its longstanding presence in the Arab world.

“We’re building the bridges that we dream about between Lebanon and the Arab world and the Gulf,” Annahar CEO Nayla Tueni told Arab News. “I salute all the journalists who are fighting for survival in Lebanon.”

Lebanon’s ties with Arab Gulf states deteriorated over the course of 2021. Diplomats from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other countries were recalled following comments by Lebanon’s then-information minister in which he praised the Iran-backed Houthi militia and criticized the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen. Before that, Lebanon’s then-foreign minister blamed Saudi Arabia for the rise of Daesh.

Deciding on launching a physical presence in Dubai after such a turbulent political year between Lebanon and the Gulf is a way to showcase how the country’s political squabbles do not represent its citizens, Tueni said.

During the opening ceremony at the Dubai Press Club, Mona Al-Marri, director general of the Government of Dubai Media Office, described the opening as a “historic moment” that “will take digital media to a whole new level in the Arab region” and “consolidates relations with the UAE.”

The announcement comes as newspapers in Lebanon struggle to keep their doors open in light of the country’s economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ramifications of the 2020 Beirut Port blast.

Annahar Al-Arabi, the newspaper’s latest edition that focuses on pan-Arab coverage, launched on August 4, 2020, the same day of the port explosion that left hundreds dead and thousands injured and homeless.


New podcast ‘Decision Points’ to highlight world-changing moments in time

New podcast ‘Decision Points’ to highlight world-changing moments in time
Updated 19 January 2022

New podcast ‘Decision Points’ to highlight world-changing moments in time

New podcast ‘Decision Points’ to highlight world-changing moments in time
  • Rising Giants Network’s original podcast will focus on historic political, financial, technological decisions

DUBAI; Middle East story-telling company Rising Giants Network has launched its first paid subscription-based podcast, “Decision Points.”

Hosted by commentator and voice artist, Abdullah Mansour, the show, recorded in Saudi dialect, will discuss moments in political, financial, and technological history that changed the world.

Basel Anabtawi, chief executive officer and co-founder of RGN, told Arab News: “Our goal is to highlight how one decision can alter the course of history.

“These decisions include moments such as when Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) decided not to return to university resulting in the social media revolution; or when (former US President) Harry Truman decided to drop the atomic bomb, which ended World War II and started the arms race; or even when the (investment banking firm) Lehman Brothers decided to file for bankruptcy, which began a domino effect that resulted in the global recession.”

The show will pinpoint the moment these decisions were made followed by a deep dive into their consequences and aftermath.

“Decision Points” marks RGN’s foray into paid subscription-based podcasting under the banner of RGN Originals. Although the network has produced original shows before, such as “Beirut Blast,” the new show will be available on Apple Podcasts for 4.99 Emirati dirhams ($1.36).

With podcast listenership rapidly increasing in the region, the network has a new slate of shows ready to be released in the first quarter alone.

“We are planning seven new shows (under RGN Originals) at the moment, which would all be released this month,” Anabtawi said.

In March, RGN will also release a scripted show related to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, “Al-Tikriti,” followed by “Al-Rasool,” “7 Bharat,” and the second season of “Hakawati” during Ramadan.

“This (“Decision Points”) is not our first scripted show, but we’ve learned from our previous efforts that what best retains an audience is gripping and riveting content,” Anabtawi added.

“Decision Points” consists of five episodes with a new episode dropping every month.


Netflix to add 25 new Korean titles in 2022

Netflix to add 25 new Korean titles in 2022
Updated 19 January 2022

Netflix to add 25 new Korean titles in 2022

Netflix to add 25 new Korean titles in 2022
  • Global viewing hours of Korean shows grow sixfold in a year

DUBAI: Streaming giant Netflix saw a sixfold increase in global viewing hours of its Korean shows compared with 2020.

“Squid Game,” the platform’s biggest show, led the way with a massive 95 percent of its viewership coming from outside South Korea.

The dystopian drama is the most-viewed Netflix show in 94 countries, with many of its viewers going on to explore more Korean content on the platform.

Two months after the release of “Squid Game,” Netflix launched another Korean show, “Hellbound,” which racked up 43.48 million viewing hours, making it the No.1 show in 34 countries and among the top 10 Netflix shows in 93 countries.

The Korean production “The Silent Sea,” which launched last year, also made it to the top spot on the weekly non-English top 10 lists for its premiere.

The popularity of these shows is also reflected in popular culture, with “Squid Game” merchandise and the striking costume of the characters becoming a Halloween favorite.

Netflix launched more than 130 South Korean titles between 2016 and 2021, and with the increasing popularity and demand for Korean content, the platform is set to launch 25 new shows this year.

These include shows such as “All of Us Are Dead,” “Juvenile Justice,” “Money Heist: Korea — Joint Economic Area,” and movies such as “Seoul Vibe,” “Love and Leashes” and “Carter.”

“We believe this is a slate that showcases more of the inventive and gripping Korean storytelling that the world has come to love,” said Don Kang, vice president of content for Korea, Netflix, in a blog post.

He added: “To do that, we will continue to invest in Korea’s creative ecosystem and, together, we will keep on showing the world that ‘Made in Korea’ means ‘Well-Made’.”


UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down

UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down. (Shutterstock)
UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 January 2022

UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down

UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down. (Shutterstock)
  • Mondelez said the ad was aimed at parents, and had been shown only on programming for adults

LONDON: Britain’s advertising regulator has banned a TV ad that showed a girl eating cheese while hanging upside down, saying it could promote behavior that could lead to choking.
The ad for Dairylea cheese, a brand of US snacks giant Mondelez, had been shown on British video-on-demand services in August last year.
It featured two girls, aged six and eight, hanging upside down from a soccer goalpost, discussing where food went when you hang upside down. One of the girls then ate a piece of Dairylea cheese.
The Advertising Standards Authority said children could try to emulate the girls, and one person had complained that a three-year-old relative had eaten food while hanging upside down after seeing the ad.
Mondelez said the ad was aimed at parents, and had been shown only on programming for adults. The girls were close enough to the ground to be safe from falling, and adults supervising them could be seen in the background. However, the ASA concluded these were not sufficient factors to reduce the risk of harm.


Former New York Post editor alleges harassment, retaliation

The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they’re a victim of sexual harassment, unless they speak publicly, as Gotthelf has done. (Shutterstock)
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they’re a victim of sexual harassment, unless they speak publicly, as Gotthelf has done. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 January 2022

Former New York Post editor alleges harassment, retaliation

The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they’re a victim of sexual harassment, unless they speak publicly, as Gotthelf has done. (Shutterstock)
  • Gotthelf said Allan’s harassment of her “peaked” in fall 2015 when she was the newspaper’s metro editor

NEW YORK: A New York Post editor whose departure was announced Tuesday alleged she was fired two months after revealing to an executive that former editor Col Allan had sexually harassed her.
The Post said any suggestion of wrongdoing related to Editor-in-Chief Keith Poole’s announcement of Michelle Gotthelf’s exit was meritless.
Poole, who Gotthelf said fired her in November after more than two decades at the Post, is a defendant in a lawsuit she filed Tuesday, along with Allan, the newspaper’s publishing company and corporate owner News Corp.
Gotthelf said Allan’s harassment of her “peaked” in fall 2015 when she was the newspaper’s metro editor. The two were having drinks after an editors’ dinner meeting when Allan said that “we should sleep together,” she said in the lawsuit.
She said Allan became hostile when she rejected his advances. She complained to her superiors and human resources, and alleged that Allan was forced to retire shortly thereafter.
He returned as a consultant in 2019, however. Gotthelf said their relationship remained tense, and she saw her influence and status in the newsroom erode. She said that in 2019, Allan ordered her to remove from the Post’s website a story about journalist E. Jean Carroll’s accusations that she had been raped by then-President Donald Trump. Trump denied the charges and the lawsuit said Allan claimed Carroll’s charges were baseless.
During a lunch meeting in November 2021 to discuss a soon-to-expire contract, Gotthelf said Poole asked her “what happened between you and Col?” She told him Allan had propositioned her.
She said Poole fired her “without cause” on Jan. 12.
“Any suggestion of wrongdoing related to the management changes announced today is meritless,” the Post and News Corp. said in a statement.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they’re a victim of sexual harassment, unless they speak publicly, as Gotthelf has done.