Russian journalists demand end to crackdown on media

Journalist Sonya Groysman arrested in front of where she held a single picket in support of independent media, in Moscow. (The NY Times)
Journalist Sonya Groysman arrested in front of where she held a single picket in support of independent media, in Moscow. (The NY Times)
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Updated 27 August 2021

Russian journalists demand end to crackdown on media

Journalist Sonya Groysman arrested in front of where she held a single picket in support of independent media, in Moscow. (The NY Times)
  • Russian media outlets publish an open letter to President Vladimir Putin demanding an end to the “state campaign” against independent journalism
  • This comes after Russia slapped several media outlets and individual journalists with the “foreign agent” label

MOSCOW: Several Russian media outlets on Friday published an open letter to President Vladimir Putin and other top officials demanding an end to the “state campaign” against independent journalism.
The outcry comes after Russia slapped several media outlets and individual journalists with the “foreign agent” label that requires them to carry out tedious administrative procedures and clearly indicate their status on everything they publish.
Independent journalism in Russia is facing mounting pressure, especially in the run-up to parliamentary polls in September.
The letter was signed by the Meduza news website, Dozhd TV channel — both of which have been declared foreign agents this year — Forbes Russia and around half a dozen local media outlets.
“We, journalists and editors of Russian and Russian-language media, demand an immediate end to the state campaign against the independent press,” the open letter said.
It added that these labels “directly violate” the constitution, media laws and freedom of speech.
The status either leads to the media’s closure or creates “discriminatory conditions” that restrict the work of journalists, the letter said.
But the Kremlin on Friday swiftly rejected the letter’s demands, saying authorities were simply applying the law.
“The law should exist and will exist,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
That was because “NGOS and journalists are often used” by foreign states interfering in “the affairs of our country,” he said.
He did say, however, that how the law is being enforced “should be discussed.”
Organizations or individuals declared “foreign agents” must disclose sources of funding and label all their publications, including social media posts, with the tag or face fines.
The status is a deterrent for advertisers, a key source of revenue for many independent media.
In July, the investigative outlet Proekt, which reported on the wealth of Russia’s elites, was declared an “undesirable organization,” de-facto banning its work in the country under the threat of fines or jail time.
Russia has also blocked the websites of two media outlets and one human rights group linked to self-exiled Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Legislation behind the term “foreign agent,” which has Soviet-era undertones, was originally passed in 2012 to cover NGOs.
It was expanded to include media organizations in 2017 after Kremlin-funded RT.


TikTok partners with INJAZ for its Future Jobs Initiative

TikTok partners with INJAZ for its Future Jobs Initiative
Updated 25 May 2022

TikTok partners with INJAZ for its Future Jobs Initiative

TikTok partners with INJAZ for its Future Jobs Initiative
  • Program aims to prepare young people for jobs in emerging industries

DUBAI: TikTok has partnered with INJAZ, the non-profit organization for education and training in workforce readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship across the Arab world.

The partnership, which was launched today, aims to raise awareness of the Future Jobs Initiative program. The collaboration will see TikTok leverage its community to empower the region’s youth by preparing them for future jobs in the fields of artificial intelligence, product development, green economy, and people and culture, among others.

“At TikTok, we aim to help communities thrive and inspire the new generation of entrepreneurs and changemakers to be active and pursue their dreams,” said Talal Al-Fayez, head of public policy, TikTok, Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

“Through our partnership with INJAZ, we are able to do so in a tangible way by bringing more awareness to the jobs of the future, encouraging youth to explore these growing and lucrative fields,” he added.

The short-form video platform has brought together experts from companies such as Microsoft, McKinsey and MetLife to create a series of informative and easily digestible videos that will be available on TikTok.

These experts will share their personal journeys and insights, aiming to inspire young people to pursue future jobs that are currently growing in demand.

Fifty-one percent of MENA youth feel that they lack the work experience necessary to find employment. Yet, by 2040, an estimated 127 million young Arabs are expected to join the MENA workforce, according to a recent study conducted in collaboration with Oliver Wyman, said Akef Al-Aqrabawi, president and CEO, INJAZ Al-Arab.

The non-profit is “committed to enabling the next generation of entrepreneurs,” and the partnership with TikTok will enable INJAZ “to connect directly with today’s youth, providing them with the knowledge needed to navigate their futures,” he added.


BBC News channel apologizes after calling Manchester United ‘rubbish’

BBC News channel apologizes after calling Manchester United ‘rubbish’
Updated 25 May 2022

BBC News channel apologizes after calling Manchester United ‘rubbish’

BBC News channel apologizes after calling Manchester United ‘rubbish’

DUBAI: The BBC has issued an apology after a message appeared on the news channel’s ticker that read “Manchester United are rubbish.”

The text appeared at the bottom of the screen during a tennis update on Tuesday morning. Later the same day, BBC News presenter Annita McVeigh apologized for the error.

“I hope that Manchester United fans weren’t offended by it,” McVeigh said. She explained that the error occurred because someone behind the scenes was learning how to use the ticker.

“They were just writing random things, not in earnest,” she added.

That does appear to be the case as the ticker also featured the text “Weather rain everywhere.”

The incident and the apology have gone viral on social media, with many users commenting on how the BBC only apologized to the fans and not to the club itself.


WEF 2022: YouTube CEO discusses Russia, recession and misinformation

WEF 2022: YouTube CEO discusses Russia, recession and misinformation
Updated 24 May 2022

WEF 2022: YouTube CEO discusses Russia, recession and misinformation

WEF 2022: YouTube CEO discusses Russia, recession and misinformation
  • ‘During downturns is when we get better at what we do,’ Susan Wojcicki tells Davos audience
  • Although Russia has not suspended YouTube, it has its own version of the video-sharing platform, RUTUBE

DAVOS: “During downturns is when we get better at what we do,” Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, told the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier today.
Seventy-five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs expect the next recession to begin by the end of 2023, according to a Fortune 500 survey. Wojcicki, who was Google’s 16th employee, has lived through two recessions during her time at the company.
And although there are “concerning macros trends” such as the war in Ukraine and inflation in the US, she said with regard to Google’s and YouTube’s business: “We have always tried to take a long-term point of view and we see tremendous growth across the board.”
The war in Ukraine marks a significant moment for YouTube, which is still operating in Russia, unlike other social media platforms. “As soon as the war broke out, we realized this was an incredibly important time for us to get it right with regard to our responsibility, and we made a number of really, really tough decisions,” Wojcicki said.
The reason for YouTube continuing to operate in Russia, said Wojcicki, is the platform’s ability — and responsibility — to “deliver independent news into Russia,” so that the average Russian citizen has the same free access to information as anybody else anywhere else in the world.
Although Russia has not suspended YouTube, it has its own version of the video-sharing platform, RUTUBE. Wojcicki is not concerned about RUTUBE specifically, but she said that “video is a very competitive emerging market right now and I expect us to continue to see more players,” especially out of Asia.
TikTok’s growth story, for instance, is worth mentioning. “We definitely are seeing really strong competition coming out of China, particularly with TikTok,” Wojcicki said.
TikTok’s rise to popularity was largely fueled by its short-form content format, which enticed both viewers and creators. Although YouTube now features longer videos, it was a short-form video platform in its early days when the only other form of video was traditional TV. In fact, the first-ever video uploaded to YouTube was only 18 seconds long.
Today, YouTube is investing more and more in short-form content with the launch of YouTube Shorts. “I expect to see a lot of competition there,” said Wojcicki of short-form video platforms, adding that such content “is probably the fastest part of the market right now.”
The conversation would not have been complete without talking about misinformation. YouTube has made worthy investments and improvements in battling misinformation through new policies and frameworks. According to a study by the company, the amount of violative content that is not caught by YouTube is down to 10-12 videos per 100,000 views.
“That number has come down significantly and our plan is to continue to work on it and make sure that we continue to reduce that,” Wojcicki said.


Meta hosts Digital Literacy Forum for MENA youth

A smartphone with Facebook's logo is seen in front of displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta. (REUTERS)
A smartphone with Facebook's logo is seen in front of displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 May 2022

Meta hosts Digital Literacy Forum for MENA youth

A smartphone with Facebook's logo is seen in front of displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta. (REUTERS)
  • Forum seeks to raise awareness on how young adults can safely access the internet

DUBAI: Meta recently hosted a virtual forum on digital literacy to help young adults in the Middle East and North Africa navigate digital platforms. The forum, which was broadcast live on Meta’s official Facebook page, explored the importance of digital literacy programs in creating a safer online experience for young users and reducing the risk of misbehavior in the real world.

The event brought together leading organizations working on youth well-being to discuss the role of digital literacy in promoting the safe and responsible use of digital platforms to fight misinformation, hate speech, bullying and harassment and address online safety, privacy and digital citizenship among MENA youth aged 13 to 18 years old.

“Digital citizenship involves using technology responsibly for any individual who engages with social media, the internet, and other digital tools to interact with other members of society,” said Rama Halaseh, policy programs manager at Meta for the MENA region.

She added: “We aim to partner with multiple organizations across the region on youth digital literacy as a key pillar of the work we continue to do in the MENA to create a safe environment for everyone engaging responsibly on digital platforms.”

The first panel brought together experts from the SecDev Foundation and the Arab Digital Expression Foundation to discuss the importance of understanding digital citizenship.

Ranwa Yehia, co-founder and chairperson of ADEF Egypt, said: “In designing programs on digital literacy for youth, attention to long-term impact, criticality and fun exposure and practice to latest trends in technology are essential.”

Dr. Raed M. Sharif, senior regional manager of [email protected], the Digital Resilience for Women and Youth in MENA Program at the SecDev Foundation said: “Digital citizenship and resilience skills are crucial for Arab youth’s future.”

He added: “Whether it is basic digital literacy skills, such as using digital tools, or more advanced ones, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, Arab youth need to be digitally safe, productive and innovative in order to capitalize on the many socioeconomic, political and cultural opportunities offered by the digital environment.”

The second panel featured leaders from the non-profit Sourire de Reda and the Himaya Foundation, who discussed building an ecosystem for prevention and protection.

Myriam Bahri, director-general of Sourire de Reda, said that the non-profit, which has been working for over a decade to prevent suicide among youngsters, believes in “the importance of spreading messages of life, hope and kindness through awareness campaigns.”

She added that the non-profit believes that “social media plays a tremendous role in this matter” and trusts “peer prevention to be one of the most efficient ways to prevent suicide among teenagers,” as they identify more easily with a person their age who is going through the same life experiences.

Meta said in a statement that it will work on “leveraging collective efforts and building partnerships with organizations on the ground” and “convene with stakeholders, share resources, and invest programmatically in educating young users about the responsible and safe use of digital platforms across the region.”

The organization is also looking to work with local partners in the region to address community needs and challenges.


UK privacy regulator fines facial recognition firm over unlawful image collection

UK privacy regulator fines facial recognition firm over unlawful image collection
Updated 24 May 2022

UK privacy regulator fines facial recognition firm over unlawful image collection

UK privacy regulator fines facial recognition firm over unlawful image collection
  • Clearview AI told to stop obtaining and using the personal data of UK residents, and to delete their data from its systems

LONDON: The UK’s data watchdog fined facial recognition firm Clearview AI £7.5 million ($9.3 million) on Tuesday for unlawfully collecting images of people from social media platforms and the web for use in a global database.

The Information Commissioner’s Office, the UK’s privacy regulator, also told Clearview AI to stop obtaining and using the personal data of UK residents, and to delete their data from its systems.

“The company not only enables identification of those people, but effectively monitors their behavior and offers it as a commercial service,” John Edwards, the information commissioner, said. “That is unacceptable. People expect that their personal information will be respected, regardless of where in the world their data is being used.”

According to the ICO, Clearview AI had gathered people’s private photos from social media and across the web without their knowledge. It subsequently created a database of 20 billion images, committing multiple breaches of data protection laws.

Clearview AI’s services are no longer being offered in the UK.

Previous clients included the Metropolitan police, the National Crime Agency and nationwide police forces. However, the ICO said on Monday that as the firm still had customers abroad, it was still using the data of UK residents.

It also found that the firm had asked for additional personal information, including photos, when asked by members of the public if they were in the database.

“I am deeply disappointed that the UK information commissioner has misinterpreted my technology and intentions,” Hoan Ton-That, the company’s CEO, said.

“My company and I have acted in the best interests of the UK and their people by assisting law enforcement in solving heinous crimes against children, seniors and other victims of unscrupulous acts.

“We collect only public data from the open internet and comply with all standards of privacy and law,” he added.