Philippine Nobel winner Ressa calls Facebook ‘biased against facts’

Philippine Nobel winner Ressa calls Facebook ‘biased against facts’
Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa reacts during an interview at a restaurant in Taguig city, Philippines on Saturday. (AP)
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Updated 09 October 2021

Philippine Nobel winner Ressa calls Facebook ‘biased against facts’

Philippine Nobel winner Ressa calls Facebook ‘biased against facts’
  • She said the social media giant fails to protect against the spread of hate and disinformation and is "biased against facts"
  • Facebook's algorithms "prioritise the spread of lies laced with anger and hate over facts"

MANILA: Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa used her new prominence to criticize Facebook as a threat to democracy. She said the social media giant fails to protect against the spread of hate and disinformation and is “biased against facts.”
The veteran journalist and head of Philippine news site Rappler told Reuters in an interview after winning the award that Facebook’s algorithms “prioritize the spread of lies laced with anger and hate over facts.”
Her comments add to the pile of recent pressure on Facebook, used by more than 3 billion people, which a former employee turned whistleblower accused of putting profit over the need to curb hate speech and misinformation. Facebook denies any wrongdoing.
Sought for comment on Ressa’s remarks, a Facebook spokesperson said the social media giant continues to invest heavily to remove and reduce the visibility of harmful content.
“We believe in press freedom and support news organizations and journalists around the world as they continue their important work,” the spokesperson added.
Ressa shared the Nobel with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov on Friday, for what the committee called braving the wrath of the leaders of the Philippines and Russia to expose corruption and misrule, in an endorsement of free speech under fire worldwide.
Facebook has become the world’s largest distributor of news and “yet it is biased against facts, it is biased against journalism,” Ressa said.
“If you have no facts, you can’t have truths, you can’t’ have trust. If you don’t have any of these, you don’t have a democracy,” she said. “Beyond that, if you don’t have facts, you don’t’ have a shared reality, so you can’t solve the existential problems of climate, coronavirus.”
Ressa has been the target of intense social-media hatred campaigns from President Rodrigo Duterte’s supporters, which she said were aimed at destroying her and Rappler’s credibility.
“These online attacks on social media have a purpose, they are targeted, they are used like a weapon,” said the former CNN journalist.
Rappler’s reporting has included close scrutiny of Duterte’s deadly war on drugs and a series of investigative reports into what it says is his government’s strategy to “weaponize” the Internet, using bloggers on its payroll to stir up anger among online supporters who threaten and discredit Duterte’s critics.
Duterte has not commented on Ressa’s award. The presidential palace, Duterte’s spokesperson, his chief legal counsel, and communications office did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
Facebook in March 2019 removed an online network in the Philippines for “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” and linked it to a businessman who has previously said he helped manage the president’s social media election campaign in 2016.
Filipinos top the world in time spent on social media, according to 2021 studies by social media management firms.
Platforms like Facebook have become political battlegrounds and have helped strengthen Duterte’s support base, having been instrumental in his election victory in 2016 and a rout by his allies in mid-term polls last year.
The Philippines will hold an election in May to choose a successor to Duterte, who under the constitution is not allowed to seek another term.
That campaign “will be a battle for facts,” Ressa said. “We are going to keep making sure our public sees the facts, understands it. We are not going to be harassed or intimidated into silence.”


SRMG announced as official publisher for Red Sea International Film Festival 2021

SRMG announced as official publisher for Red Sea International Film Festival 2021
Updated 08 December 2021

SRMG announced as official publisher for Red Sea International Film Festival 2021

SRMG announced as official publisher for Red Sea International Film Festival 2021
  • Region’s leading media group appointed as the official publisher at one of the Middle East and North Africa’s biggest film festivals
  • SRMG and RSIFF have established a shared commitment of championing the multimedia and creative arts industries, making them natural partners for the 2021 Festival

RIYADH: The global media house from the Middle East, Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG), has been selected as the official publisher for one of the region’s most exciting creative arts events, the Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF).

The partnership will leverage the reach of SRMG with its audiences of 165 million people across the Middle East and globally. Covering RSIFF programming in the run up to and during the festival, editorial and advertising content will be featured on SRMG’s digital, social, broadcast and print platforms across more than 30 of the region’s most impactful media titles. These include Asharq Al-Awsat, Arab News, Asharq News, Hia and Sayidaty.

SRMG and RSIFF have established a shared commitment of championing the multimedia and creative arts industries, making them natural partners for the 2021 Festival. SRMG has built a five-decade legacy as a media and content powerhouse, while RSIFF has carved the way for a new generation of Saudi creatives and storytellers since its inception.

Saleh Aldowais, Chief Operating Officer at Saudi Research and Media Group, said: “We’re excited about our appointment as the official publishing partner for one of Saudi Arabia’s leading creative cultural events, the Red Sea International Film Festival. This is both a strategic and creative alliance for SRMG and RSIFF, reflecting our shared goals and commitment to creating the highest quality media and arts content for and of the region.”

Shivani Pandiya Malhotra, Red Sea International Film Festival Managing Director, added: “We are proud to be partnering with one of most dynamic media houses, SRMG, for the 2021 edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival. The Festival aims to promote cross-cultural exchange and foster the growth of the Arab film industry, positioning Saudi Arabia as a contributor to the international film industry while delivering a world-class event for local communities. Working together with SRMG, we are aligned in our goal of creating a platform to new and established Arab voices in the creative arts, in 2021 and beyond.”

The 2021 festival is expected to be the most prolific yet for RSIFF, with 135 films premiering at the event from more than 67 countries. RSIFF will showcase the best films from the region and a carefully curated selection of international acclaimed titles - encouraging dialogue and presenting different cultures and traditions from around the world. The Festival provides Saudi talent with a platform for storytelling, and through dedicated funds develops and nurtures local filmmakers as well as promoting film production in the region.

Operating since 1972, Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG) is a global media house from the Middle East and North Africa with a portfolio of more than 30 major media outlets – including Asharq Al-Awsat, Asharq News and Arab News – delivering information, news, and lifestyle content to a monthly audience of more than 165 million.

Listed on the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh, SRMG is focused on delivering original, exclusive, and premium content in multiple languages to empower consumers with news and information through digital and social platforms, in addition to its leading cable and satellite reach.

Through its many platforms, content, and voices, SRMG is uniquely positioned to capitalize on fast-growing opportunities for digital content distribution, online advertising and commercial partnerships in the media and entertainment market worldwide.

Headquartered in Riyadh, KSA, SRMG has offices in 18 locations around the world, including London and Dubai. Find out more about SRMG here: www.srmg.com.

The inaugural edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival in partnership with the MBC GROUP, Saudia Airlines and VOX Cinemas is set to bring the best in Arab and World Cinema to the UNESCO world heritage site of Jeddah Old Town from December 6-15, 2021.

The Festival will showcase a compelling slate of new and diverse films, alongside a retrospective programme celebrating the masters of cinema as well as introducing audiences to exciting new voices from the region and beyond. The Festival will provide a platform for Arab filmmakers and industry professionals from around the world to connect, host feature and short film competitions, and present a series of events, masterclasses, and workshops to support emerging talent. Find out more about the Red Sea Film Festival: www.redseafilmfest.com


Publicis Groupe employees can work from anywhere in world for limited time

Publicis Groupe employees can work from anywhere in world for limited time
Updated 08 December 2021

Publicis Groupe employees can work from anywhere in world for limited time

Publicis Groupe employees can work from anywhere in world for limited time
  • Advertising giant introduces ‘Work Your World’ experience for staff

PARIS: Publicis Groupe has announced a new global employee program called “Work Your World.”

Launching in January 2022, the program will allow Publicis Groupe employees to work from any country where the company is present, for up to six weeks a year.

The move comes after nearly two years of organizations adopting different work models as the pandemic led to many employees working from home and continuing to do so after restrictions were eased.

“We have been working hard on how to turn the hybrid world into new opportunities for everyone at Publicis, and make the future of work more creative and more daring,” said Arthur Sadoun, global chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe.

The new work model is possible, in part, via Marcel, the company’s internal artificial intelligence platform that connects all its global employees. Through Marcel’s landing page, employees will be able to browse different destinations in more 100 countries; see live health and travel updates on different locations; find accommodation through “Home Swap” — essentially an “Airbnb” for Publicis employees — and access a 24-hour contact center.

“Our people have been incredibly resourceful despite the limitations of the pandemic. They deserve to work for a company as resourceful as they are. ‘Work Your World’ can help every Publicis employee “work their world” in a bigger, better and brighter way thanks to our scale, diversity and Marcel,” said Carla Serrano, global chief strategy officer of Publicis Groupe. 

The company will release more details about the program later this month.


INTERVIEW: ‘Female creators in MENA are incredibly passionate’

INTERVIEW: ‘Female creators in MENA are incredibly passionate’
Updated 08 December 2021

INTERVIEW: ‘Female creators in MENA are incredibly passionate’

INTERVIEW: ‘Female creators in MENA are incredibly passionate’
  • Hala Ajil, partner manager at YouTube MENA talks women-led content creators on YouTube

DUBAI: Earlier this year, in October, YouTube relaunched YouTube Batala, a channel by YouTube in the Middle East and North Africa region dedicated to spotlighting the next generation of Arabic-speaking women creators.

YouTube Batala better serves as a hub than a channel itself consisting of over 250 women-led channels from across the region. It features a collection of playlists, categorized by genre, with each playlist containing various creators.

The playlists span genres from beauty and fashion to music and gaming. In fact, gaming has been one of the most important genres in terms of its growth among female audiences as well as content creation.

In 2016-17, when YouTube first launched the Batala project and other women-focused events and initiatives, there were only five women-led channels with more than 1 million subscribers. Today, there are more than 150 women-led channels, with more than 1 million subscribers in the MENA region.

Arab News spoke to Hala Ajil, partner manager at YouTube MENA to learn more about the relaunch of Batala and the growth of female content creators on the platform.

Why was Batala discontinued and relaunched?

The Batala program started in 2017 but was never discontinued. Since 2017, we have been hosting creator events in order to help educate, empower and inspire Arabic-speaking female content creators everywhere. Earlier this year, I was proud to see us relaunch the hub arm of the program, which is effectively a YouTube channel that acts as an index to all great women creators who are part of the program.

(Batala was first launched in 2017 when YouTube held the first-ever female event in Saudi Arabia and launched the Batala hub, which was dedicated to showcasing the diversity of female talent in the region.)

Can you tell us about YouTube's initiatives in empowering female creators?

Over the years, Batala underwent several shape-shifts. We ran two #AnaBatala workshops: in 2018, we ran one in Dubai based on #IamRemarkable with the goal of empowering underrepresented groups, by helping them focus on what made them ‘remarkable’ and another one in 2019 in Cairo during our YouTube pop-up event. COVID-19 prevented us from holding any in-person workshops in 2020 and 2021, so we decided to revamp Batala and hold a three-week virtual Batala workshop and re-launch the hub (this year).

Can you give us some insight into male vs female creators on the platform?

Female content isn’t easy to find in general, and although there’s still a large gap between male and female content creators on the platform, we’re seeing huge amounts of growth in female content. We’re working on several initiatives — Batala being the main one — to help bridge that gap.

YouTube Batala’s star creators. (Supplied)

How have female creators in the region evolved on the platform?

Certain nuances in the region can challenge women on the platform, and prevent them from creating content, but that’s how passion projects are born. Today, the female creator community is incredibly diverse, with women leading channels across all kinds of genres, from lifestyle and fashion to horror stories and book reviews. One of the things we’re proudest of is how passionate these women are, and that’s one of the main reasons we launched Batala: to celebrate and grow this dynamic community of creative storytellers.

What are the content trends you see among female creators?

Female-led content was typically the content you’d find on most social platforms, such as ‘beauty’ and ‘lifestyle’ content. However, over the years, we’ve seen their content mature and develop; we’re now seeing women delve into the vlogging world, where they create challenges and pranks, travel the world, and collaborate with other creators. We’ve recently seen them start to focus on ‘gaming’ content; more and more females are becoming gamers or at least gaming on the side.

How do female creators in the region differ from ones in Western markets?

Female creators in MENA are incredibly passionate. They want to be heard, and they’ll work hard to ensure they are. These women come from a range of different backgrounds and subcultures; some are still students, others are mothers, and most of them have to juggle several jobs at the same time.

This doesn’t stop them from doing what they love and sharing their world with their audience, as their channels are a window into their world.

What do brands need to know about working with female creators?

Content creators are essentially storytellers; their ability to connect with audiences through opinions, ideas, and events that they are passionate about is what makes them such a powerful force that brands can harness.

The most successful brand and creator collaborations are often the ones where the creator gets to test the product beforehand and genuinely ends up falling in love with it. That way, the product placement can seamlessly fit into the creator’s channel without looking like an advert.

A good example of this is Azza Zarour’s collaboration with Lancome. Lancome wanted to raise awareness about its range of skincare products. Instead of just creating a video talking about the products, Azza worked with Lancome to make a video with her husband, where he chooses her skincare (a common trend on YouTube). The video was authentic, and had a similar look and feel to the rest of the videos on her channel, which is what made it a success.


CPJ condemns Iraqi journalist’s arrest

n the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, Iraq ranked 163rd out of 180 countries. (File/AFP)
n the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, Iraq ranked 163rd out of 180 countries. (File/AFP)
Updated 08 December 2021

CPJ condemns Iraqi journalist’s arrest

n the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, Iraq ranked 163rd out of 180 countries. (File/AFP)
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the arrest of Iraqi reporter Hamid Majed and urged Iraqi police to release him immediately

LONDON: The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists on Thursday condemned the arrest of Iraqi reporter Hamid Majed and urged Iraqi police to release him immediately. 

Hamid Majed, a reporter for Al-Ahd TV, was called to the Anbar Crime Directorate in the city of Habbaniyah on Wednesday to discuss an “important topic” over coffee. Once Majed arrived, however, police officers arrested him. 

“Luring a journalist to a police station to arrest him is not only shameful practice, but an abuse of police power,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. 

“We call on Iraqi authorities to release Hamid Majed immediately and allow journalists to do their work freely and without fear of retaliation.”

Director of public relations at Al-Ahd TV, Reda Al-Akaili, said that Majed’s arrest is likely related to his reporting on the deteriorating conditions and public services in Anbar province in Iraq.

His reporting “has angered the relevant authorities and officials in Anbar province and prompted them to arrest Majed and prevent him from performing his duties,” Al-Akaili said.

In the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, Iraq ranked 163rd out of 180 countries. Since the 2019 anti-government protests, Iraqi journalists have increasingly been targeted for covering protests, investigating corruption, and reporting the demands of demonstrators. 


OSN to launch first Moonbug Kids channel in MENA

OSN to launch first Moonbug Kids channel in MENA
Updated 08 December 2021

OSN to launch first Moonbug Kids channel in MENA

OSN to launch first Moonbug Kids channel in MENA
  • OSN partners with Moonbug Entertainment to launch the first linear Moonbug Kids channel in MENA

DUBAI: Moonbug Entertainment Ltd. and Orbit Showtime Network have announced a partnership, which will see the launch of the first Moonbug Kids linear channel in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Launching on Dec. 12, the new channel will bring Moonbug’s full collection of kids’ entertainment and educational programs to families in the region for the first time. The slate of shows that will be aired includes “Cocomelon,” “Blippi,” “Morphle,” and “Little Baby Bum,” among others.

The linear channel will provide over 175 hours of content with a supporting content package available on the OSN Streaming app. All content on the streaming app will be available in English and dubbed in Arabic and French.

“We are excited to be the exclusive home to the first-ever Moonbug Kids linear channel in MENA. It will be a safe, curated but most importantly, an entertaining place for kids, especially preschoolers,” said Nick Forward, chief digital and content officer at OSN.

The partnership with OSN is in line with Moonbug’s global expansion plans. Earlier this year, the kids’ entertainment company partnered with television network Cignal to launch a dedicated Moonbug Kids channel in the Philippines. The company said in a statement that there would be more launches from single show packages on third-party outlets to branded channel blocks as well as 24/7 linear channels.

“Launching a new linear channel in this region forms a key part of our mission at Moonbug, to create and distribute inspiring and engaging stories to expand kids’ worlds and minds,” said Nicolas Eglau, managing director for the Europe, Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific regions at Moonbug.