UK media urge govt to give Afghan colleagues refuge

UK media urge govt to give Afghan colleagues refuge
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (File/AFP)
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Updated 05 August 2021

UK media urge govt to give Afghan colleagues refuge

UK media urge govt to give Afghan colleagues refuge
  • A number of Afghan journalists and media workers have been killed or wounded in attacks over recent months

LONDON: Britain’s leading newspapers and broadcasters on Thursday urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give sanctuary to media workers in Afghanistan under threat from the resurgent Taliban.

In an open letter, every major newspaper plus broadcasters Sky News and ITN said media workers risk “persecution, physical harm, incarceration, torture or death.”

The “peril is acute and intensifying” as the Islamist insurgents take control of vast swathes of the countryside and key border towns, they added.

“President Biden’s decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan without conditions is a risk to western security, but more urgently still to Afghanistan’s people, the letter said.

“None are more exposed than Afghan civilians who have served western military forces during their 20-year mission to thwart terrorism and Islamist extremism in the country, and in particular those who have helped western media organizations to report it,” it continued.

“We and other media organizations implore and plead with Boris Johnson and (Foreign Secretary) Dominic Raab to put in place a special visa program for journalists and other media workers who are at risk in their home country. Honour and duty require it.”

The letter was organized by the Times and The Guardian, who fear the return of the Taliban following the NATO pull-out spells danger for those who helped western entities during the two-decade war, or who reported critically on the group.

They pointed to the murder of Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, a reporter with Radio Free Europe, who was killed in November last year by an explosive device attached to his car.

“Time is running out. Should Afghan journalists be left to the Taliban’s mercies, the costs to Britain’s reputation will be immense,” they wrote.

A number of Afghan journalists and media workers have been killed or wounded in attacks over recent months.

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer backed the campaign, saying “the UK must not abandon them.”


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.”


Twitter sends out gift boxes to celebrate Saudi National Day

Twitter sends out gift boxes to celebrate Saudi National Day
Updated 23 September 2021

Twitter sends out gift boxes to celebrate Saudi National Day

Twitter sends out gift boxes to celebrate Saudi National Day
  • Platform also launches dedicated emoji, event page for #SaudiNationalDay

DUBAI: In a bid to help brands better connect with online users, Twitter recently held a virtual event to reveal audience insights from a dedicated survey.

The results showed that 46 percent of Saudis felt National Day celebrations were more special on Twitter with many of them taking to the platform to express their love for the country and engage with patriotic content.

This year has seen a 10 percent year-on-year increase in the number of times the Saudi flag emoji has been used on the social networking platform, raising the volume to 29.7 million.

To amplify the conversations around Saudi National Day, Twitter Middle East and North Africa asked its audiences to share their plans for celebrating #SaudiNationalDay.

 

 

People throughout the Kingdom, including lifestyle creators Az bin Fahad and Areej Abdullah, music producer Abdulaziz Al-Yami, actress Wed Osama, TV host Tariq Aljaser, singer Dania Al-Sabban, beauty and lifestyle creator Shahad Alzahrani, and gamer Meshael, jumped into the conversation, sharing their own plans for celebrating the occasion.

In response, Twitter brought the celebration directly to a select few with custom National Day inspired gift boxes. Those who received the gifts took to the platform to share pictures and tweet their appreciation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additionally, Twitter also created an emoji of the Saudi flag triggered whenever the hashtags #SaudiNationalDay, #SaudiNationalDay2021, and #SaudiNationalDay91 are tweeted throughout September.

A dedicated event page in Arabic and English has also been launched, providing platform users with real-time updates on activities.

The event page will be accessible through either the Twitter Explore section or on top of individual timelines, for those who already engage with the #SaudiNationalDay content on Twitter. Alternatively, the page can be found by searching for Saudi National Day on Twitter.


US court orders Facebook to release records of anti-Rohingya content for genocide case

US court orders Facebook to release records of anti-Rohingya content for genocide case
Updated 23 September 2021

US court orders Facebook to release records of anti-Rohingya content for genocide case

US court orders Facebook to release records of anti-Rohingya content for genocide case
  • Social media giant had refused to release the data, saying it would violate a US law
  • ‘Facebook taking up the mantle of privacy rights is rich with irony’

A US federal judge has ordered Facebook to release records of accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media giant had shut down, rejecting its argument about protecting privacy as “rich with irony.”
The judge in Washington, D.C, on Wednesday criticized Facebook for failing to hand over information to investigators seeking to prosecute the country for international crimes against the Muslim minority Rohingya, according to a copy of the ruling.
Facebook had refused to release the data, saying it would violate a US law barring electronic communication services from disclosing users’ communications.
But the judge said the posts, which were deleted, would not be covered under the law and not sharing the content would “compound the tragedy that has befallen the Rohingya.”
“Facebook taking up the mantle of privacy rights is rich with irony. News sites have entire sections dedicated to Facebook’s sordid history of privacy scandals,” he wrote.
A spokesperson for Facebook said the company was reviewing the decision and that it had already made “voluntary, lawful disclosures” to another UN body, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 after a military crackdown that refugees said including 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.
The crackdown by the army, during the rule of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government, did not generate much outcry in the Buddhist-majority nation, where the Rohingya are widely derided as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Gambia wants the data for a case against Myanmar it is pursuing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, accusing Myanmar of violating the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide.
In 2018, UN human rights investigators said Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence.
A Reuters investigation that year found more than 1,000 examples of hate speech on Facebook, including calling Rohingya and other Muslims dogs, maggots and rapists, suggesting they be fed to pigs, and urging they be shot or exterminated.
Facebook said at the time it had been “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar.
In Wednesday’s ruling, US magistrate judge Zia M. Faruqui said Facebook had taken a first step by deleting “the content that fueled a genocide” but had “stumbled” by not sharing it.
“A surgeon that excises a tumor does not merely throw it in the trash. She seeks a pathology report to identify the disease,” he said.
“Locking away the requested content would be throwing away the opportunity to understand how disinformation begat genocide of the Rohingya and would foreclose a reckoning at the ICJ.”
Shannon Raj Singh, human rights counsel at Twitter, called the decision “momentous” and “one of the foremost examples of the relevance of social media to modern atrocity prevention & response.”


Netflix acquires the whole works of Roald Dahl

Netflix acquires the whole works of Roald Dahl
Updated 22 September 2021

Netflix acquires the whole works of Roald Dahl

Netflix acquires the whole works of Roald Dahl
  • The streaming giant said it had bought The Roald Dahl Story Company, the family firm that owns the late British author’s copyright
  • No financial details of the deal were given

SAN FRANCISCO: Netflix has acquired the whole works of acclaimed children’s author Roald Dahl, creator of such classics as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda,” the company  announced Wednesday.

In 2018, Netflix signed a deal to create animated series based on 16 Dahl books. But now the streaming giant said it had bought The Roald Dahl Story Company, the family firm that owns the late British author’s copyright.

“This acquisition builds on the partnership we started three years ago to create a slate of animated TV series,” Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos and Luke Kelly, RDSC managing director and Dahl's grandson, said in a joint statement.

Under the previous deal, Oscar-winning filmmaker Taika Waititi and “Zootropolis” screenwriter Phil Johnston are working on a series based on the world of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and an adaptation of “Matilda the Musical,” both of which are currently underway.

“These projects opened our eyes to a much more ambitious venture – the creation of a unique universe across animated and live action films and TV, publishing, games, immersive experiences, live theater, consumer products and more,” Netflix said.

Dahl died in 1990 aged 74. His books have been translated into 63 languages and sold more than 300 million copies worldwide.

“These stories and their messages of the power and possibility of young people have never felt more pertinent,” the statement said. “As we bring these timeless tales to more audiences in new formats, we're committed to maintaining their unique spirit and their universal themes of surprise and kindness, while also sprinkling some fresh magic into the mix.”

No financial details of the deal were given. However, in 2018, The Hollywood Reporter quoted sources as saying that the licensing deal covering the 16 Dahl books cost Netflix more than $100 million.


Facebook’s Project Amplify blatantly pushes pro-company stories: US newspaper

Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. (File/AFP)
Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 September 2021

Facebook’s Project Amplify blatantly pushes pro-company stories: US newspaper

Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. (File/AFP)
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg signed off pushing pro-platform stories to users via Facebook News Feed, reported The New York Times

LONDON: A recently launched Facebook initiative codenamed Project Amplify was set up to push pro-platform stories on users’ news feeds, The New York Times reported.

And some of the promoted articles were written by the social networking giant to help paint the company in a positive light, the newspaper claimed.

The article said Project Amplify came into being at a meeting in January with the aim of reshaping Facebook’s image by adopting a multi-faceted approach including measures such as distancing the chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, from controversies, and reducing external access to data.

Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. As a result, Facebook executives decided to go on the offensive with a new approach involving marketing, communications, policy, and integrity teams, sources revealed.

Although Zuckerberg did not drive all the decisions as part of the new initiative, he reportedly approved them.

Denying the newspaper’s claims, Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said: “People deserve to know the steps we’re taking to address the different issues facing our company — and we’re going to share those steps widely.”

Since the recent launch of the new project, Facebook has been testing the changes in three US cities through a tool called Quick Promote. The stories appear with a Facebook logo and link to websites published by the company as well as third-party websites.

Osborne told The New York Times that it was a “test for an informational unit clearly marked as coming from Facebook,” adding that the new initiative was “similar to corporate responsibility initiatives people see in other technology and consumer products.”

In a series of tweets, Osborne said The New York Times’ article had attempted to “villainize Facebook,” included “clear falsehoods,” and had left out part of his statement which included him saying, “there is zero change to News Feed ranking.”

He added that the January meeting had never taken place, although according to the newspaper report one attendee had claimed that several executives at the meeting were shocked by the proposal.

Osborne concluded his tweets by suggesting that The New York Times’ story should have written that, “Facebook ran a small test of an informational unit on Facebook in three cities – clearly labeled as from Facebook on the top of the unit,” along with an image of what the stories looked like.

Screengrab of Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne's tweet of pro-Facebook stories in the News Feed. (Twitter:@JoeOsborne)