Instagram launches new features for teen online safety

New Instagram users aged under 16 – 18 in some countries – will have a private account by default, which means their content will not show up in public areas. (Supplied)
New Instagram users aged under 16 – 18 in some countries – will have a private account by default, which means their content will not show up in public areas. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 July 2021

Instagram launches new features for teen online safety

New Instagram users aged under 16 – 18 in some countries – will have a private account by default, which means their content will not show up in public areas. (Supplied)
  • Young users’ accounts will be private by default, advertisers will have limited options to reach them

DUBAI: Instagram has announced new features to protect young adult users of its photo and video sharing platform.

Nadia Diab-Caceres, head of Instagram public policy for the Middle East and North Africa region, told Arab News that creating a secure online environment was a key priority of the social networking service.

“Especially in the Middle East, we see teens and young adults using Instagram as a conduit for self-expression and inspiration, and we want to ensure that they continue to create and collaborate on the platform while having a safe and secure experience,” she said.

New users aged under 16 – 18 in some countries – will have a private account by default, which means their content will not show up in public areas, such as Explore, and they will have to approve who follows them.

Existing users with public accounts will receive a notification highlighting the benefits of a private account and an explanation of how to change their privacy settings. However, both new and existing users can choose between a private and public account.

“We want to strike the right balance of giving young people all the things they love about Instagram – the ability to connect with friends and family, be inspired, and share the things they care about – while keeping them safe,” added Diab-Caceres.

The move comes after Instagram’s testing showed that eight out of 10 young people accepted the private default settings during sign-up.

Defaulting new accounts to private is the first step in preventing unwanted contact or potential harassment on the platform. The second step is the new technology Instagram has developed to find accounts that have shown potentially suspicious behavior and stop those accounts from interacting with young people’s accounts. These accounts are typically adult ones that may have recently been blocked or reported by a young person, for example.

Using the same technology, Instagram will not show young people’s accounts in Explore, Reels, or Accounts Suggested For You, to these adults. If they find young people’s accounts by searching for their usernames, they will not be able to follow them. They will also be unable to see comments from young people on other people’s posts or leave comments on young people’s posts.

These changes are being rolled out in the US, Australia, France, the UK, and Japan first, and will then be expanded to more countries.

Step three of the process will directly affect advertisers across Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger globally.

In the next few weeks, advertisers will not be able to target people aged under 18 (or older in certain countries) based on their age, gender, and location. That will mean that previously available targeting options, such as those based on interests or activity on other apps and websites, will no longer be available to advertisers.

When young people turn 18, they will be notified about targeting options that advertisers can use to reach them and how they can manage their ad experience.

Under-13s are not allowed on Facebook and Instagram. Although these platforms ask new users to enter their birth date when signing up, there is currently no way of verifying if the information is correct. Facebook recently announced that it was working on finding new ways of age verification to keep those under the age of 13 off its platforms.

“Artificial intelligence is the cornerstone of the approach we’re taking,” said Pavni Diwanji, vice president of youth products. Facebook has developed technology that allows it to estimate people’s ages through multiple signals. It also matches information across linked platforms.

“This technology isn’t perfect, and we’re always working to improve it, but that’s why it’s important we use it alongside many other signals to understand people’s ages,” Diwanji added.

Facebook is also working on a collaborative approach with operating system providers, internet browsers, and other providers to share information that can help understand a user’s age.

Lastly, and most importantly, Facebook is potentially working on an “Instagram experience” for those under 13. “The reality is that they’re already online, and with no foolproof way to stop people from misrepresenting their age,” said Diwanji.

Diab-Caceres said: “(Additionally) we will continue to listen to our community in the Middle East to roll out more measures to ensure that Instagram remains a platform that focuses on creativity and conversations as well as safety and security.”


Economist magazine calls for Georgieva to quit IMF over World Bank data scandal

Economist magazine calls for Georgieva to quit IMF over World Bank data scandal
Updated 23 September 2021

Economist magazine calls for Georgieva to quit IMF over World Bank data scandal

Economist magazine calls for Georgieva to quit IMF over World Bank data scandal
  • "The head of the IMF must hold the ring while two of its biggest shareholders, America and China, confront each other in a new era of geopolitical rivalry," the Economist said
  • Critics of multilateralism are already citing the findings as evidence that international bodies cannot stand up to China

WASHINGTON: The Economist magazine on Thursday called for International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva to resign over her role in a China-related data-rigging scandal while at the World Bank, saying it has undermined the IMF’s credibility.
The influential London-based publication said in a scathing editorial that an external investigation’s findings that Georgieva pressured staff for changes to the World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings in 2017 to favor China compromises the IMF’s ability to act as the custodian of data for the world’s macroeconomic statistics.
“The head of the IMF must hold the ring while two of its biggest shareholders, America and China, confront each other in a new era of geopolitical rivalry,” the Economist said, adding that critics of multilateralism are already citing the findings as evidence that international bodies cannot stand up to China.
“The next time the IMF tries to referee a currency dispute, or helps reschedule the debt of a country that has borrowed from China, the fund’s critics are sure to cite this investigation to undermine the institution’s credibility. That is why Ms Georgieva, an esteemed servant of several international institutions, should resign,” the editorial said.
It cited the allegation in the WilmerHale law firm’s report that Georgieva, who at the time was the World Bank’s CEO, thanked a senior bank researcher for “doing his bit for multilateralism” in altering the China data.
“Now she too should do her bit for multilateralism by falling on her sword,” the Economist said.
The World Bank’s “Doing Business” reports, now canceled, ranked countries based on their regulatory and legal environments, ease of business startups, financing, infrastructure and other business climate measures.
Georgieva, a Bulgarian who is a longtime former World Bank economist and European Commission official, has denied the accusations in the WilmerHale report, saying last week they are “not true” and she has never pressured staff to manipulate data.
The IMF’s executive board is conducting its own review of the allegations and has emphasized “the importance it attached to conducting a thorough, objective and timely review.”
An IMF spokesman declined comment on the Economist’s editorial. A US Treasury spokeswoman also declined comment beyond the Treasury’s earlier statement that is analyzing “serious findings” in the WilmerHale report.


Advocacy group slams shooting of Afghan journalist in Kabul

Afghan journalist Mohammad Ali Ahmadi was shot by an unidentified man while he was traveling in a taxi in Kabul last week. (Salam Watandar)
Afghan journalist Mohammad Ali Ahmadi was shot by an unidentified man while he was traveling in a taxi in Kabul last week. (Salam Watandar)
Updated 23 September 2021

Advocacy group slams shooting of Afghan journalist in Kabul

Afghan journalist Mohammad Ali Ahmadi was shot by an unidentified man while he was traveling in a taxi in Kabul last week. (Salam Watandar)
  • Ahmadi, a reporter and editor with the privately-owned national radio broadcaster Salam Watandar, was shot by an unidentified man

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the shooting and injuring of an Afghan journalist, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, in the capital Kabul. 

Ahmadi, a reporter and editor with the privately-owned national radio broadcaster Salam Watandar, was shot by an unidentified man while he was traveling in a taxi van on Sept. 18. 

He was asked by a man sat next to him where he worked, and when Ahmadi said he worked for Salam Watandar, the unidentified man said that outlet was an “American radio station,” pulled out a gun, and fired several shots at Ahmadi, two of which struck him in the leg. 

Steven Butler, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ program coordinator for Asia, said on Wednesday:  “The shooting of journalist Mohammad Ali Ahmadi is a test of the Taliban’s commitment to justice: Will they stand by their pledge to allow journalists to do their jobs?

“The Taliban must conduct an immediate and impartial investigation into this attack, hold the perpetrator to account, and ensure that members of the press can work safely. The continued detention of journalist Morteza Samadi by the Taliban is also unconscionable, and must end immediately,” he added. 

Ahmadi was hospitalized, and no suspects have been identified as of yet. 

It remains unclear whether the Taliban was behind the attack. Since the group’s takeover of the country, many journalists have been living in fear for their futures. 

In early September, Taliban fighters raided the homes of two journalists and seized cars, desktop computers and a licensed weapon from one of the houses. 

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


Facebook wraps up deals with Australian media firms, TV broadcaster SBS excluded

The agreement between tech companies and news outlets entails that tech giants must pay for news content. (File/AFP)
The agreement between tech companies and news outlets entails that tech giants must pay for news content. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 September 2021

Facebook wraps up deals with Australian media firms, TV broadcaster SBS excluded

The agreement between tech companies and news outlets entails that tech giants must pay for news content. (File/AFP)
  • Facebook announces deals with most of the Australia's s largest news outlets, excluding TV broadcaster SBS and smaller publishers

SYDNEY: Facebook Inc. has told Australian publishers it has stopped negotiating licensing deals, an email to the industry seen by Reuters showed, a move which came just six months after the passing of a law designed to make tech giants pay for news content.
While Facebook has announced deals with most of the country’s largest news outlets, some companies including TV broadcaster SBS and smaller publishers have been left out in the cold, raising questions about the scope and effectiveness of the ground-breaking law.
Australia is the only country with a law where the government may set the fees if negotiations between tech giants and news providers fail, but the rejected companies are left with little recourse for the time being and are waiting for the government to review the law in 2022 as planned.
Facebook’s regional head of news partnerships, Andrew Hunter, said in an August email to publishers it had “now concluded” deals where it would pay Australian companies for content on its just-launched “Facebook News” channel.
Nick Shelton, founder of Broadsheet Media, a website which publishes entertainment news, reviews and listings and was rebuffed by Facebook, said the decision to close off on new deals was “clearly an attempt from Facebook to cap their exposure to independent publishers.”
The Special Broadcasting Service, or SBS, one of Australia’s five national free-to-air broadcasters and the country’s main source of foreign language news, said Facebook declined to enter negotiations despite months of attempts and that it was surprised and disappointed. It noted it had successfully concluded a deal with Google.
“This outcome is at odds with the Government’s intention of supporting public interest journalism, and in particular including the public service broadcasters in the Code framework with respect to remuneration,” an SBS spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday.
Hunter said in the email to publishers, which has not been made public, that rejected publishers would continue to benefit from clicks directed from Facebook and recommended they tap a new series of industry grants.
In a separate statement to Reuters, Hunter said content deals were “just one of the ways that Facebook provides support to publishers, and we’ve been having ongoing discussions with publishers about the types of news content that can best deliver value for publishers and for Facebook.”
Facebook did not respond directly to questions about the statements from Broadsheet Media and SBS.
The US social media giant has inked deals with a range of large Australian big media companies including News Corp. and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and has a collective bargaining arrangement with rural publishers. But only a handful of independent and smaller publishers have reached deals.
Other rejected publishers include the Conversation, which publishes public affairs commentary by academics, Reuters has previously reported. That prompted a rebuke from the regulator which drafted the law. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission declined to comment on Wednesday.
Under the law, which drove Facebook to block third-party content on newsfeeds briefly in the country in February, Facebook and Google must negotiate with news outlets for content that drives traffic to their websites or face possible government intervention.
But before there can be any government intervention, the federal treasurer must determine that either Facebook or Google failed to negotiate in good faith, a step known as “designation.” A representative for Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was not immediately available for comment.
Facebook’s rejection of SBS and the Conversation flies in the face of law’s core proposition that it “should be required to compensate public interest journalism,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Center for Responsible Technology, a think tank.
“The treasurer has no alternative but to revisit designating Facebook to ensure that it meets its commitments to public interest journalism in Australia.”


Big Tech targeted by US and EU in draft memo ahead of tech and trade meeting

The move will be among announcements on tech, climate, trade and supply chains likely to be made at a US-EU Trade & Technology Council. (File/AFP)
The move will be among announcements on tech, climate, trade and supply chains likely to be made at a US-EU Trade & Technology Council. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 September 2021

Big Tech targeted by US and EU in draft memo ahead of tech and trade meeting

The move will be among announcements on tech, climate, trade and supply chains likely to be made at a US-EU Trade & Technology Council. (File/AFP)
  • The US and the EU plan to take a more unified approach to limit the growing market power of Big Tech companies

WASHINGTON: The United States and European Union plan to take a more unified approach to limit the growing market power of Big Tech companies, according to a draft memo seen by Reuters.
The move will be among announcements on tech, climate, trade and supply chains likely to be made at a US-EU Trade & Technology Council meeting on Sept. 29 in Pittsburgh.
With the US and Europe trying to restrain the growing power of American tech giants such as Alphabet’s Google , Facebook, Apple and Amazonom Inc. , such cooperation has become critically important for regulators on both sides of the Atlantic — and would make it harder for the US tech industry to fight new rules.
This month, the White House announced that the council would meet for the first time on Sept. 29 in Pittsburgh. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and the European Union’s trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis are scheduled to attend along with European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.
The White House, which is coordinating with different agencies on the meeting, declined to comment on the memo. Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The council has 10 working groups for areas such as strengthening trade, economic relations and shared democratic values, according to the draft memo.
The group focused on tech company regulation will “exchange information on our respective approaches to technology platform governance, seeking convergence where feasible,” the memo says.
There are many examples where the two continents could cooperate more. Google, which faces several antitrust lawsuits in the US related to its advertising business, also faces a wide-ranging investigation related to ad technology in the EU.
“We have identified common issues of concern around gatekeeper power by major platforms and the responsibility of online intermediaries,” the memo says, adding that more can be done to combat misinformation.
“This includes in particular the responsibility of online intermediaries to safeguard democratic processes from the impact of their business activities. Areas of common ground... include content moderation and fair competition,” the memo said.
The group will tackle areas such as hate speech, algorithmic amplification and data access for researchers, the memo says.
The council’s climate and clean tech group will work to identify trade and investment opportunities in low- and zero-carbon technologies and products, according to the memo. The supply chain working group will focus on securing supplies of pharmaceuticals, critical minerals and clean energy.
The council will also work to address the shortage of semiconductor chips in a way that is “balanced and of equal interest for both parties” and will avoid a “subsidy race.”
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that European Union ambassadors have postponed discussions to prepare for the meeting in protest of Washington’s submarine agreement with Australia at France’s expense.
A spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council said preparations for the meeting were continuing.
Several tech trade groups in Washington said the industry does not want the European approach to digital regulation to be adopted in the United States.
“The risk is that the European side will press the United States to harmonize its regulations with the EU by taking a precautionary approach... which would skewer America’s leading tech companies,” said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a tech think tank based in Washington.
“We shouldn’t do that, nor do we need to. Our interests are broadly aligned and compatible, particularly when it comes to China,” Atkinson said.


Snapchat launches first-of-kind activation for Saudi National Day

Snapchat launches first-of-kind activation for Saudi National Day
Updated 23 September 2021

Snapchat launches first-of-kind activation for Saudi National Day

Snapchat launches first-of-kind activation for Saudi National Day
  • Messaging app celebrates Saudi heritage with world-first national Snap Map, other augmented reality activations

DUBAI: To mark this year’s Saudi National Day, Snap is launching a first-of-its-kind activation in the region using augmented reality.

In Saudi Arabia, nearly 90 percent of Snapchat daily users already interact with AR Lenses experiences, on average at least 30 times each day.

Now, the messaging app’s 19.5 million monthly active users in the Kingdom, as well as its global audiences, will have the opportunity to celebrate National Day on the platform through AR.

Launched on Sept. 22, the activation sees the Snap Map of Saudi Arabia appearing in a bright green to represent the national flag and the Kingdom highlighted from other countries, the first time Snap has ever recolored a Middle East territory on the map.

Along with the distinctive color change, Snap will also mark cultural and heritage sites — such as AlUla, Tabuk Castle, Alkhobar Water Tower, Rijal Almaa, Masmak Fort, and Nassif House — on the map allowing users to explore the Kingdom.

The markers for the sites include a Face Lens experience, whereby Snapchatters in Saudi Arabia will find themselves on a virtual balcony with all of the national landmarks behind them.

A celebratory atmosphere filled with fireworks and accompanied by the national anthem of Saudi Arabia will be recreated in AR, with users able to put themselves in the thick of the action and flip the camera to see the monuments in front of them.

Additionally, a series of customized Actionmojis, exclusive to Snapchatters in the Kingdom, are also being unveiled for a limited time on National Day only.

Abdulla Alhammadi, regional business lead at Snap Inc., said: “Snapchatters in Saudi Arabia are one of the most active communities on the platform anywhere in the world.

“We wanted to bring even larger, more engaging experiences to this community on Saudi National Day as a sign of gratitude for their contribution to Snap’s creative ecosystem, while together celebrating the rich legacy of visual storytelling that exists in the Kingdom.”

Diriyah, past, present and future
On Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day, the birthplace of the Kingdom continues to make history
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