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.”


Meta to integrate WhatsApp with Workplace

Meta to integrate WhatsApp with Workplace
Updated 24 January 2022

Meta to integrate WhatsApp with Workplace

Meta to integrate WhatsApp with Workplace
  • Update aims to ease communication between businesses, front-line workers

DUBAI: Meta will launch the integration of WhatsApp with its Workplace platform, with the aim of easing communication between business and employee, especially front-line workers.

The new update, which will release later this year, will allow companies to share posts from Workplace over WhatsApp. The announcement comes on the back of a research report, “Deskless Not Voiceless,” which surveyed 7,000 front-line workers and 1,350 C-suite executives in seven countries.

An overwhelming 94 percent of C-suite executives said that they need to start prioritizing front-line tech in the way that they have historically prioritized office and desk-based technology.

Almost half (45 percent) of front-line workers said that they feel disconnected from their company’s headquarters. Moreover, 75 percent do not completely trust their employers to be transparent about company news and updates.

“At Workplace, we strongly believe that the most successful organizations empower their front-line employees to make a difference and listen to their ideas. So it’s disappointing to see there’s still a clear disconnect between the front line and HQ in 2021,” said Ujjwal Singh, Workplace head of product.

“Our integration with WhatsApp is designed to help fix that,” he added.

Virgin Atlantic and AstraZeneca both use Workplace to stay connected with employees.

“Our front-line teams — whether on the ground or in the skies — are constantly on the move; Workplace allows them to remain connected to Virgin Atlantic, wherever they are in the world and whenever suits them,” said Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic.

AstraZeneca started using Workplace as a test for its global manufacturing and supply teams in 2017 and rolled it out across the entire company by 2018. Today, 70,000 employees in 10 countries use the platform as a way to stay in touch and share ideas.

For example, the company held an event on Workplace, which saw employees submit 56,000 ideas in two weeks, and another event designed to understand lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in 24,000 ideas being shared.

“Workplace has been key to AstraZeneca’s high employee engagement rates by helping us drive tangible change and adjust to the changing nature of how we all work,” said Alun Metford, head of internal communications at AstraZeneca.

“It will play a central role as we adjust to the next normal,” he added.


BBC Arabic accused of withholding guest pay for 2 years

BBC Arabic was also embroiled in another controversy last year. (Screenshot)
BBC Arabic was also embroiled in another controversy last year. (Screenshot)
Updated 23 January 2022

BBC Arabic accused of withholding guest pay for 2 years

BBC Arabic was also embroiled in another controversy last year. (Screenshot)
  • “The important matter I want to discuss now is that BBC Arabic hasn’t paid us any dues for two years,” Political analyst Mehdi Eliefifi said

LONDON: BBC Arabic was accused last week of not paying its contributors for two years after one of its guests cut a live interview to raise the issue.

Political analyst Mehdi Eliefifi was invited to speak on a BBC Arabic newscast about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict when he cut his commentary in order to raise the failed payments issue.

“The important matter I want to discuss now is that BBC Arabic hasn’t paid us any dues for two years,” he said, in reference to analysts appearing on the channel’s program.

He then held a piece of paper in front of the camera, on which the names of the channel’s officials were written in English and Arabic, as well as the question “where are my financial dues that haven’t been paid for two years?”

BBC Arabic issued a statement to Arab News and on Twitter, saying: “To clarify the issue of the symbolic payments owed to some of the BBC’s guests, we conducted further investigations and we are aware of a technical defect in the payment mechanism within the institution, which led to the delay in the dues of some guests.

“Therefore, we apologize for the delay to all those affected by this matter and assure that we are working hard to solve this case as soon as possible.”

The BBC’s English-language service declined to comment on the matter while it “looked into the technical issue.”

BBC Arabic was also embroiled in another controversy last year, when an investigation by The Jewish Chronicle titled “Shame of BBC Arabic as systematic bias revealed,” highlighted the Arabic-language news channel’s consistent use of antisemitic and “Hamas-inspired language.”

However, a BBC spokesperson strongly rejected claims of compromised impartiality and said: “BBC Arabic shares exactly the same principles of accuracy and impartiality as BBC News in English.”


Turkish court orders imprisonment of journalist Sadaf Kabas for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Kabas, who was taken into custody as part of an investigation launched against her on the charge of insulting the President, was referred to the court for processing. (Anadolu)
Kabas, who was taken into custody as part of an investigation launched against her on the charge of insulting the President, was referred to the court for processing. (Anadolu)
Updated 23 January 2022

Turkish court orders imprisonment of journalist Sadaf Kabas for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Kabas, who was taken into custody as part of an investigation launched against her on the charge of insulting the President, was referred to the court for processing. (Anadolu)
  • The law on insulting the president carries a jail sentence of between one and four years

ANKARA: A Turkish court on Saturday ordered well-known journalist Sedef Kabas to be jailed pending trial on a charge of insulting President Tayyip Erdogan, CNN Turk said, targeting her with a law under which tens of thousands have been prosecuted.

Police detained Kabas at around 2 a.m. (2300 GMT) and took her first to Istanbul's main police station before transferring her to the city's main courthouse, where a court subsequently ruled in favour of her formal arrest, the broadcaster said.

The alleged insult was in the form of a palace-related proverb that Kabas expressed both on an opposition television channel and on her Twitter account, drawing condemnation from government officials.

"The honor of the presidency's office is the honor of our country... I condemn the vulgar insults made against our president and his office," Fahrettin Altun, head of Turkey's Communications Directorate, wrote on Twitter.

Merdan Yanardag, chief editor of the Tele 1 channel on which Kabas made the comment, sharply criticised her arrest.

"Her detention overnight at 2 a.m. because of a proverb is unacceptable," he wrote on Twitter. "This stance is an attempt to intimidate journalists, the media and society."

The law on insulting the president carries a jail sentence of between one and four years.

Last October, Europe's top human rights court called on Turkey to change the legislation after ruling that a man's detention under the law violated his freedom of expression.

Thousands have been charged and sentenced over the crime of insulting Erdogan in the seven years since he moved from being prime minister to president.

In 2020, 31,297 investigation were launched in relation to the charge, 7,790 cases were filed and 3,325 resulted in convictions, according to Justice Ministry data. Those numbers were slightly lower than the previous year.

Since 2014, the year Erdogan became president, 160,169 investigations were launched over insulting the president, 35,507 cases were filed and there were 12,881 convictions.


MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin condemns media bias towards Israel

MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin condemns media bias towards Israel
Updated 22 January 2022

MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin condemns media bias towards Israel

MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin condemns media bias towards Israel
  • MSNBC and Peacock TV host discusses why paying attention to “smaller” stories between Israel and Palestine explains the wider conflict

DUBAI: MSNBC anchor Ayman Mohyeldin repeatedly condemned the mainstream media bias towards Israel, saying “the media only pays attention when war breaks out between Israel and Hamas.”

During his segment on Peacock TV, Mohyeldin discussed a number of "small" stories that went under the radar including the American citizen who was found dead after being held in Israeli custody and the anti-occupation activist killed after being struck by an Israeli police truck.

Last week, a prominent activist named Suleiman al-Hathaleen from the South Hebron Hills was hit by a police tow truck after blocking its path, dying a few days later after succumbing to his wounds.

Meanwhile, an elderly Palestinian American named Omar Assad Majid this month died shortly after being detained by Israeli forces. Reports suggest he died of a heart attack while in handcuffs.

Mohyedldin demanded an investigation of his treatment, blasting the US’ mild response to the matter after it said it was seeking “clarification” from Israeli authorities.

“If this would have happened in the UK, is that all we would have said? That we're seeking clarification?” he wondered aloud.

Finally, Mohyeldin touched on the latest eviction in Sheikh Jarrah, where Israeli police destroyed this week a Palestinian family’s home that has been at the center of an anti-forced expulsion campaign in the town east of Jerusalem.

“If you want to understand why those larger conflicts erupt [between Israel and Hamas], you must first pay attention to these “smaller” stories that go under the radar,” he said. 


Vistas Media Acquisition Co. shareholders approve business combination with Anghami

Vistas Media Acquisition Company shareholders have approved a business combination with Anghami. (Supplied)
Vistas Media Acquisition Company shareholders have approved a business combination with Anghami. (Supplied)
Updated 21 January 2022

Vistas Media Acquisition Co. shareholders approve business combination with Anghami

Vistas Media Acquisition Company shareholders have approved a business combination with Anghami. (Supplied)
  • Vistas Media Acquisition Co. shares rose more than 20 percent in premarket trading on Friday

NEW YORK: Shareholders of Vistas Media Acquisition Co. on Wednesday voted to approve a business combination with Anghami, one of the leading music streaming platforms in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The proposal was supported by approximately 98 percent of the publicly traded special-purpose acquisition firm’s shareowners.

The special meeting vote followed last year’s announcement by the companies of the launch of Vibe Music Arabia, a joint venture record label between Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, and Anghami.

Vistas Media Acquisition Co. shares rose more than 20 percent in premarket trading on Friday after the approval announcement, according to Market Watch.