New campaign to help Saudi Arabia’s legion of internet addicts

Special New campaign to help Saudi Arabia’s legion of internet addicts
Twenty-five percent of internet users in the Kingdom understood and acknowledged the negative effect of internet overuse on their social life and their productivity at work. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 16 September 2021

New campaign to help Saudi Arabia’s legion of internet addicts

New campaign to help Saudi Arabia’s legion of internet addicts
  • Excessive use of social media and online gaming is a threat to family stability, campaign chief says
  • Study finds 46% of participants spend between 2 and 5 hours a day on social media or playing online games

MAKKAH: The growing dependence on the internet has dramatically changed the way people communicate with one another. With the rise in social media content and a boom in the online gaming industry, Saudis are more connected than ever before.
As Saudi Arabia continues to grow, both online and offline, 95.7 percent of its 34.8 million population now have internet capabilities. Earlier this year, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha announced that the Kingdom ranked seventh place globally in 5G technology and internet speed, which means more people are connected, making it potentially easier to stay online for more extended periods than necessary.
In collaboration with “Social Impact Corporation UK,” Saudi Arabia’s Mawaddah Society for Family Development in Makkah launched its campaign “Use it, do not get addicted,” which aims to shed light on the emerging problem of internet addiction — specifically social media and online gaming — along with the social and economic impact it has on the Kingdom. The study was led by Dr. Maen Altengi, an entrepreneur who specializes in data and social impacts, and Tania Gupta, the director of data science, engineering, and analytics at marketing agency MRM, who also studied internet social science at Oxford University.
More than 1,200 participants were included in the study as the information was sent through online surveys and short messages via social media outlets.
The results showed that 46 percent of people in the study spend between two and five hours a day going through social media and/or playing online games. Participants who spent more than six hours a day made up 36 percent while 6 percent spent less than one hour a day engaging on social media and/or online games.
Mawaddah director general Mohammed Al-Radhi said the campaign aims to increase societal awareness regarding the danger of internet addiction, ways to fight it, and provide treatment consultations for technology addiction.
He told Arab News that 23 percent of family problems were due to internet addiction and pornographic films based on his past research. 
“The campaign comes to enhance awareness in a large segment of society about the dangers of internet addiction and ways of treatment through several media channels,” Al-Radhi said.
“We are preparing to turn the campaign into a treatment program for technology addicts in an attempt to preserve the cohesion and stability of the family.”
Although it is not technically considered a clinical addiction, Al-Radhi said internet addiction disorder is caused by a pathological and compulsive use of the internet, which weakens an individual’s function in society, the family, and various other areas of life.
“Technology addiction also leads to a lack of communication between individuals and creates problems due to moods and behavioral disturbance,” Al-Radhi said. “There is also a mental health impact of addiction when it comes to social media, games, browsing websites, pornography, and online purchases.”
He suggested the establishment of consulting centers to cure technology addiction and setting a limit for internet use, particularly for children, as positive means of breaking the habit. 
“Strategies should be developed to control the volume and type of use of the internet through trainers and parents, setting societal programs to help manage addiction, and being keen on promoting participatory technology with society,” Al-Radhi said.
He said the cost of wasted opportunities due to social media and online gaming use among Saudis reached SR92 billion ($23.92 billion).
The most outstanding result of the study, Al-Radhi said, is that 25 percent of internet users in the Kingdom understood and acknowledged the negative effect of internet overuse on their social life and their productivity at work.

According to the study, 20 percent of the participants said that they still need to spend more time on the internet and that 34 percent had attempted to minimize their internet use on social media and online gaming, but to no avail.
Al-Radhi also said 32 percent of the participants in the study admitted they used social media or online gaming to combat their daily life problems or improve their behavior.
Mohammed Hussein Al-Abdali, a high school student in Makkah, said that he spends most of his time on social media, specifically Snapchat.
“I found the diversity that I was looking for through the presence of Snapchat celebrities,” Al-Abdali said. “Some provide meaningful content and some of them provide useless content.”
Sharing the same sentiment, 17-year-old high school student Awad Ammar Al-Hadhali from Jeddah told Arab News that he faces a big problem when he is offline. He said he prefers his social media feed, watching his favorites series on Netflix, and having quick access to his online games to actual in-person entertainment.
“They are an integral part of my daily life,” Al-Hadhali said. “It is the way it is in today’s world. You are never disconnected.”
Al-Radhi said the problem with internet addiction will only get worse over time.
“It becomes harder for addicts to control using the internet now or in the future,” he said. “This is why it is necessary to think in more realistic, comprehensive, and creative ways to deal with this issue.”


Press watchdog slams Israel over treatment of Palestinian journalists

Press watchdog slams Israel over treatment of Palestinian journalists
Updated 06 August 2022

Press watchdog slams Israel over treatment of Palestinian journalists

Press watchdog slams Israel over treatment of Palestinian journalists
  • Amer Abu Arafa detained while Majdoleen Hassouna blocked from travel
  • Committee to Protect Journalists: ‘Israeli authorities are showing their determination to clamp down on the Palestinian press’

LONDON: Israel must release Palestinian journalist Amer Abu Arafa, who was ordered on Aug. 1 to be detained for four months, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Friday.

The reporter for the London-based Quds Press News Agency was under investigation for alleged membership of a terrorist organization, an Israel Defense Forces official told the CPJ. Abu Arafa’s home was raided by Israeli authorities on July 19.

Meanwhile, Israel reportedly prevented Palestinian journalist Majdoleen Hassouna from leaving the occupied West Bank in July.

Border guards are said to have blocked the reporter for Turkey’s TRT from crossing into Jordan. Hassouna was previously blocked from travel in 2020 and 2021.

Justin Shilad, the CPJ’s senior Middle East and North Africa researcher, said: “Whether they use prison walls or travel bans, Israeli authorities are showing their determination to clamp down on the Palestinian press.

“Israeli authorities should immediately release all detained journalists including Amer Abu Arafa, and end the use of arbitrary detention and travel bans against the press.”


Warner Bros. Discovery to launch streaming service

Warner Bros. Discovery to launch streaming service
Updated 06 August 2022

Warner Bros. Discovery to launch streaming service

Warner Bros. Discovery to launch streaming service
  • Company will offer free, paid service from next summer

LONDON: Executives at HBO Max and Discovery+ have revealed their plans to launch a new streaming service next summer that combines the two platforms’ offerings.
From a meeting with investors on Thursday, it emerged that the two companies have set out the scope and strategy of their streaming ambitions, announcing that they will offer free and paid services.
The platform, which aims to reach 130 million paying subscribers by 2025, will offer content that is currently distributed on HBO Max and Discovery+. 
The parent companies of HBO and Animal Planet merged together to form Warner Bros. Discovery earlier this year.
David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, praised the new company’s “bouquet of owned content,” and said it will offer a single paid subscription product and a free service supported by the advertisement-based revenue model.
“The fact is there are only a handful of companies globally that can do what we do,” he said. “And putting it all together, we believe no one does it better than us.”
The name of the service was not disclosed, but executives said it will launch next year in the US and then expand worldwide in the following years.
Zaslav said Warner Bros. Discovery will adopt a “disciplined strategy,” highlighting the company’s intention to steer away from the growth-at-any-cost tactics that became common in the streaming business.
“Owning the content that really resonates with people is much more important than just having lots of content,” he added. 
“In other words, at a time when almost every piece of content ever made is available to consumers across any number of free and paid services, curation, quality and brand have never been more important.”
After the boom of the pandemic era, the streaming service market has not performed well in recent months. 
Fierce competition and the fear of a looming recession have pushed many users to cancel their subscriptions. 
Earlier this week, Warner Bros. canceled the release of the $90 million DC superhero movie “Batgirl,” which was expected to be distributed through HBO Max as part of a broader plan to increase subscribers, reiterating the company’s intention to prioritize quality over quantity.


Smartwatches to be used to monitor migrant offenders in UK

Smartwatches to be used to monitor migrant offenders in UK
The individuals will be required to scan their faces using the smartwatches up to five times a day. (Shutterstock/File)
Updated 05 August 2022

Smartwatches to be used to monitor migrant offenders in UK

Smartwatches to be used to monitor migrant offenders in UK
  • The scheme will require migrant offenders to scan their faces using a smartwatch fitted with facial recognition technology up to five times daily

LONDON: The UK Home Office and Ministry of Justice announced on Friday that migrants who have been convicted of a criminal offense will soon be required to scan their faces using facial recognition technology.

The Home Office said that the scheme will involve “daily monitoring of individuals subject to immigration control,” with the requirement to wear either a fitted ankle tag or a smartwatch at all times. 

The individuals will be required to scan their faces using the smartwatches up to five times a day. Information including their names, date of birth, nationality and photographs will be stored for up to six years.

Locations of migrant offenders will also be tracked 24/7. 

The data will be shared with the Home Office, MoJ and the police, with Home Office officials stressing: “The sharing of this data (to) police colleagues is not new.”

The Home Office added that the smartwatch scheme will be for foreign-national offenders who have been convicted of a criminal offense, rather than other groups such as asylum seekers.

Critics highlighted that the surveillance scheme is a clear breach of human rights, and is likely to impact asylum seekers’ mental health.

“Facial recognition is known to be an imperfect and dangerous technology that tends to discriminate against people of color and marginalized communities,” said Lucie Audibert, a lawyer and legal officer for Privacy International.

“These ‘innovations’ in policing and surveillance are often driven by private companies, who profit from governments’ race toward total surveillance and control of populations.”

“Through their opaque technologies and algorithms, they facilitate government discrimination and human rights abuses without any accountability. No other country in Europe has deployed this dehumanizing and invasive technology against migrants,” she said.

According to the UK government website, the Ministry of Justice had awarded a £6 million contract to British technology company ‘Buddi Limited’ in May to supply electronic monitoring non-fitted devices “to support implementation of the Home Office Satellite Tracking Service for specific cohorts.”

This service, introduced in 2018, uses satellite technology to monitor foreign offenders awaiting deportation. 

“A non-fitted device solution will provide a more proportionate way of monitoring specific cohorts over extended periods of time than fitted tags,” the statement on the website reads. 

“These devices will utilize periodic biometric verification as an alternative to being fitted to an individual.”


Instagram announces expansion into NFT market

Instagram announces expansion into NFT market
Updated 05 August 2022

Instagram announces expansion into NFT market

Instagram announces expansion into NFT market
  • Users in more than 100 countries across the world are now able to share their NFTs on the platform

LONDON: Meta, Instagram’s parent company, announced on Thursday the international expansion of its non-fungible token support across its platforms, namely Instagram.

Users in more than a hundred countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the Americas will now be able to use the new feature, which allows them to share their NFTs on the platform.

“Today we’re starting international expansion to 100 countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and the Americas. Additionally, we now support wallet connections with the Coinbase Wallet and Dapper, as well as the ability to post digital collectibles minted on the Flow blockchain,” Meta said in a statement.

The tech giant announced the integration of Coinbase and Dapper, as well as other third-party wallets such as Rainbow, MetaMask and Trust Wallet, which are required to access and purchase NFTs assets.

“In order to post a digital collectible, all you need to do is connect your digital wallet to Instagram,” the statement continued.

Meta first announced its test launch in May, with the feature initially rolled out to selected creators and collectors.

Instagram users can now include NFTs in their feed and messages, as well as in augmented reality stickers in Stories. When tapped, it would reveal information about the creator of the work, as well as the owner of that digital item.

“Every day, creators inspire people and push culture forward around the world. With the incredible opportunity of blockchain technology, they can now leverage new tools to earn income, and fans can support their favorite creators by purchasing digital collectibles — art, images and videos, music or trading cards — as non-fungible tokens (NFTs),” Meta highlighted.

Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of the new feature in an Instagram post featuring a signed baseball card of himself as a kid, which will soon become an NFT, he pointed out.

Meta’s move into the NFT market is considered by some to be ill-timed, but experts speculate that Instagram could soon start monetizing the new feature by introducing its own marketplace.


Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube

Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube
Updated 05 August 2022

Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube

Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube
  • Google said it already has measures to address the Nigerian government’s concerns including a system for trained users to flag troublesome content

ABUJA: Nigeria asked Google to block the use of YouTube channels and livestreams by banned groups and terrorist organizations in the country, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said on Thursday.
Nigeria has been exploring ways to regulate social media usage in the country, Africa’s most populous. The country is home to millions of Internet users and platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Tiktok are popular. YouTube “channels and emails containing names of banned groups and their affiliates should not be allowed on Google platforms,” Mohammed said he told Google executives in Abuja, the country’s capital.
Charles Murito, Google’s sub-Saharan African director for government affairs and public policy, in a statement said the company already has measures to address the Nigerian government’s concerns.
Those measures include a system for trained users to flag troublesome content, he added. “We share the same goals and objectives,” Murito said. “We do not want our platform to be used for ill purposes.”
The minister said the government was particularly concerned with online activities by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The government has labeled IPOB, a group campaigning for the secession of a southeastern region of Nigeria, a “terrorist organization.”
The YouTube concerns are part of an effort by the government, the minister said, to protect Nigerian Internet users from harmful effects of social media, especially ahead of a presidential election next year.
Nigeria suspended Twitter in June 2021 and blocked access to users after the social media giant removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari threatening to punish regional secessionists.
The government lifted the Twitter ban six months later.