Rights group slams Iran over attempted kidnapping of journalist

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian- American journalist, poses for a portrait in London in 2013. She said she was shocked by an Iranian plot to kidnap her from her New York home. (Reuters/File Photo)
Masih Alinejad, an Iranian- American journalist, poses for a portrait in London in 2013. She said she was shocked by an Iranian plot to kidnap her from her New York home. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 17 July 2021

Rights group slams Iran over attempted kidnapping of journalist

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian- American journalist, poses for a portrait in London in 2013. She said she was shocked by an Iranian plot to kidnap her from her New York home. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Tehran has carried out campaign of targeted harassment on New York-based Iranian journalist

LONDON: Leading rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that an alleged plot this week by four Iranians to kidnap a dissident journalist living in New York has heightened concerns about Tehran’s efforts to target its nationals and critics abroad.

On July 13, the US Justice Department indicted the four Iranian nationals at a New York federal court, which said that the four men allegedly “conspired to kidnap a Brooklyn journalist, author and human rights activist for mobilizing public opinion in Iran and around the world to bring about changes to the regime’s laws and practices.” 

Sources, and the target herself, have claimed that journalist and regime critic Masih Alinejad was the intended target of the alleged kidnapping attempt this week.

Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said: “For decades Iranian authorities have deployed vicious tactics to harass, intimidate and harm Iranian activists living abroad. 

“Iran’s security agencies have now allegedly attempted to kidnap another high-profile dissident to dragoon back to Iran and face serious abuses.”

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Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad said Wednesday she was shocked by an Iranian plot to kidnap her from her New York home, as Tehran stiffly denied the allegations contained in a US Justice Department indictment. More here.

Alinejad has been subjected to extensive targeted harassment and intimidation by various Iranian state agencies, including the state broadcasting agency. 

The activist and journalist has said that Tehran has repeatedly targeted her family, including attempts to convince her to return to the region and countries neighboring Iran.

Last July, the Center for Human Rights in Iran said that an Iranian court had sentenced Ali, her brother, to five years in prison for “assembly and collusion against national security.”

In addition to this charge, Ali Alinejad was sentenced to two years for “insulting the Supreme Leader,” and one year for “propaganda against the state.”

His lawyer said that sections of Ali’s hearing were focused on his sister’s journalism and campaigning efforts.

“However the Alinejad case plays out, Iranian authorities are doubtlessly determined to silence dissent and spread fear among outspoken critics outside the country,” Page said.


Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar violence

Rohingya Muslim children refugees, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait squashed against each other to receive food handouts at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh on Oct. 21, 2017. (AP)
Rohingya Muslim children refugees, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait squashed against each other to receive food handouts at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh on Oct. 21, 2017. (AP)
Updated 07 December 2021

Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar violence

Rohingya Muslim children refugees, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait squashed against each other to receive food handouts at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh on Oct. 21, 2017. (AP)
  • Facebook has said it is protected from liability over content posted by users by a US Internet law known as Section 230, which holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties

CALIFORNIA: Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing Meta Platforms Inc, formerly known as Facebook, for $150 billion over allegations that the social media company did not take action against anti-Rohingya hate speech that contributed to violence.
A US class-action complaint, filed in California on Monday by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, argues that the company’s failures to police content and its platform’s design contributed to real-world violence faced by the Rohingya community. In a coordinated action, British lawyers also submitted a letter of notice to Facebook’s London office.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment about the lawsuit. The company has said it was “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar and has said it has since taken steps to crack down on platform abuses in the region, including banning the military from Facebook and Instagram after the Feb. 1 coup.
Facebook has said it is protected from liability over content posted by users by a US Internet law known as Section 230, which holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties. The complaint says it seeks to apply Burmese law to the claims if Section 230 is raised as a defense.
Although US courts can apply foreign law to cases where the alleged harms and activity by companies took place in other countries, two legal experts interviewed by Reuters said they did not know of a successful precedent for foreign law being invoked in lawsuits against social media companies where Section 230 protections could apply.
Anupam Chander, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said that invoking Burmese law wasn’t “inappropriate.” But he predicted that “It’s unlikely to be successful,” saying that “It would be odd for Congress to have foreclosed actions under US law but permitted them to proceed under foreign law.”
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 after a military crackdown that refugees said included mass killings and rape. Rights groups documented killings of civilians and burning of villages.
Myanmar authorities say they were battling an insurgency and deny carrying out systematic atrocities.
In 2018, UN human rights investigators said the use of Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence. A Reuters investigation https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/myanmar-facebook-hate that year, cited in the US complaint, found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments and images attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims on Facebook.
The International Criminal Court has opened a case into the accusations of crimes in the region. In September, a US federal judge ordered Facebook to release records of accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media giant had shut down.
The new class-action lawsuit references claims by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who leaked a cache https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-whistleblower-says-transparency-needed-fix-social-media-ills-2021-12-03 of internal documents this year, that the company does not police abusive content in countries where such speech is likely to cause the most harm.
The complaint also cites recent media reports, including a Reuters report https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/information-combat-inside-fight-myanmars-soul-2021-11-01 last month, that Myanmar’s military was using fake social media accounts to engage in what is widely referred to in the military as “information combat.”


Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE

Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE
Updated 06 December 2021

Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE

Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE
  • Located in Al Quoz Creative Zone, the hub will support social media content creators

DUBAI: Dubai-based production and public relations company ThinkSmart has launched a creative content hub called the ThinkSmart Hub in Dubai’s Al Quoz Creative Zone.

Featuring a first-of-its-kind infrastructure, the hub aims to support and boost content creation for social media users on platforms including Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, YouTube, and podcast platforms.

The launch of the hub comes after Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum announced that residents of the zone renovating their properties would be exempt from rent for up to two years.

“We endeavor to provide a thriving space that optimizes the creative bent of content creators,” said Lina Nihad Husri, CEO, ThinkSmart Hub.

The hub provides “novel ideas and support” to anyone in the social media space — from brands to individual creators — and houses “diverse themes and decorations under one roof to suit content needs,” she explained. The decor will change every quarter based on occasions and festivals to ensure that creators have enough diversity in their shoots.

Commenting on the location of the hub, Husri said: “We chose to be at the Al Quoz Creative Zone following its announcement and launch in April 2021 by Sheikh Hamdan…because it is an incubator for everyone in the field of content and art creation, and we want to be an integral part of this ecosystem and will offer complete support to all content creators and artists.”


Shahid VIP Mobile strikes exclusive partnership with Orange Morocco and Tunisia

Shahid VIP Mobile strikes exclusive partnership with Orange Morocco and Tunisia
Updated 06 December 2021

Shahid VIP Mobile strikes exclusive partnership with Orange Morocco and Tunisia

Shahid VIP Mobile strikes exclusive partnership with Orange Morocco and Tunisia
  • Shahid VIP Mobile will offer the best of the platform’s shows and movies

DUBAI: Shahid VIP, the premium subscription-based service of Shahid, is launching via a new mobile-only package in Morocco and Tunisia.

The service will be available through telecom operator Orange for approximately $2 in both countries. Users who sign up before the end of December will also receive a free two-month introductory offer with Orange Telecom.

Shahid VIP Mobile, which can be accessed either via a single smartphone or tablet device, will offer the best of the platform’s shows and movies, including the new hit Moroccan TV series “Hayat,” as well “Salmat Abou El Banat,” “Masha’aer,” “Stalk,” and “Inside.”

“Given that we are more connected than ever on mobile, it is only natural for the way we consume content to change and evolve,” said Natasha Matos-Hemingway, group chief commercial officer, video on demand, at MBC Group.

“We have found that many individuals and households now prefer to watch their favorite shows on their smartphone instead of the television, for example, which is why we are teaming up with key partners to provide more ways of accessing Shahid VIP,” she added.

The high smartphone penetration and data usage in the region have resulted in more and more viewers streaming content on their mobile devices. Subsequently, streaming services are optimizing the mobile experience be it through app development or partnerships with telecom partners.

Matos-Hemingway said: “There’s no doubt that there are more partnerships of this kind to come.”


Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer

Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer
Updated 06 December 2021

Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer

Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer
  • New episodes on Arabic food network will go live on Dec. 20

DUBAI: Middle Eastern food and lifestyle TV channel Fatafeat is to launch its first-ever podcast series in an exclusive collaboration with global audio streaming service Deezer.

Through the partnership deal, Fatafeat — which is part of Discovery Inc. — and Deezer aim to provide a high-quality food-related podcast in the region celebrating the best of Arabic cuisine.

Mazen Abdallah, director of international brand partnerships, Deezer. (Supplied)

Mazen Abdallah, Deezer’s director of international brand partnerships, said: “Our promise to our users has always been offering the largest and most diverse library in the region. We want to make sure our listeners can find all interesting content on Deezer, from music to self-help, history, business, or cooking.”

The podcast series, which will be available for streaming across the Middle East and North Africa region, will see new episodes dropping weekly featuring recipes, talk shows, songs, and comedy news.

Layla Tamim, head of ad sales and brand partnerships MENA, Discovery Inc. (Supplied)

Layla Tamim, head of ad sales and brand partnerships for the MENA region at Discovery Inc., said: “We are driven to help spur people’s passions. With food being such an integral part of Middle East life, we are extremely excited to announce our latest partnership between Fatafeat and Deezer.”

The first episode will go live on Dec. 20.


TikTok launches transparency center to act as reports hub

TikTok launches transparency center to act as reports hub
Updated 06 December 2021

TikTok launches transparency center to act as reports hub

TikTok launches transparency center to act as reports hub
  • Initiative aims to bolster social networking firm’s efforts to be more open, accountable to audiences

DUBAI: Social networking service TikTok has launched a dedicated transparency center to bolster its efforts to be more open and accountable to audiences.

The new hub will house the platform’s annual and quarterly transparency reports, in addition to upcoming interactive reports. The launch accompanies the latest H1 2021 content removal requests reports.

The company began releasing transparency reports in 2019 in a bid to build trust, which is becoming increasingly important as more instances of social media platforms’ negligent use of user data come to light.

Most recently, the platform released the findings of a report specially commissioned to help better understand young people’s engagement with potentially harmful challenges and hoaxes — pranks or scams created to frighten someone — in an attempt to strengthen safety on the platform.

TikTok is also incorporating feedback from civil society organizations and experts to further develop refreshed report formats, offering downloadable data in machine-readable formats. The reports aim to be visually appealing and reader-friendly with interactive charts and graphs to better illustrate data and actions taken.

The reports will be published in 26 languages, including Arabic, English, French, German, Spanish, traditional Chinese, Russian, and Urdu.