Google to ban political advertising ahead of Philippine elections

Google to ban political advertising ahead of Philippine elections
Election advertisements that promote or oppose any political party or the candidacy of any person or party for public office, would not be allowed to run between Feb. 8 to May 9, 2022, Google said. (AFP)
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Updated 01 December 2021

Google to ban political advertising ahead of Philippine elections

Google to ban political advertising ahead of Philippine elections
  • Move comes amid pressure on social media platforms over their handling of political advertising during the US presidential election in 2020

MANILA: Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Wednesday it will ban political advertising on its platform in the run-up to Philippine elections in May next year to choose a successor to President Rodrigo Duterte.
The move comes amid pressure on social media platforms over their handling of political advertising during the US presidential election in 2020.
Social media platforms have become political battlegrounds in the Southeast Asian nation, with studies showing Filipinos top the rankings globally for time spent on social media.
Election advertisements that promote or oppose any political party or the candidacy of any person or party for public office, would not be allowed to run between Feb. 8 to May 9, 2022, Google said in an update to its political content policy.
The dates cover the period of campaigning in the Philippines up to election day on May 9.
Google said notifications would be sent to affected advertisers about the policy update.
Google has banned political advertising on its platform before, including in Canada’s federal election in 2019 and before an election in Singapore in 2020.
Social media platforms like Facebook have helped strengthen Duterte’s support base, with analysts regarding them as instrumental in his election victory in 2016 and a rout by his allies in mid-term polls last year.
The Philippines will choose a successor to Duterte, who under the constitution is not allowed to seek another term, but will be standing for a senator’s seat.


OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’

OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’
Updated 1 min 12 sec ago

OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’

OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’
  • Film to premiere on the platform this year after theatrical release

DUBAI: Streaming service OSN, which has been investing heavily in original content, has announced its latest original, “Yellow Bus,” which marks its foray into feature films.

“Yellow Bus” tells the story of a schoolgirl who dies from heat exhaustion after falling asleep on a school bus and is left behind.

The movie follows her mother Ananda, played by Tannishtha Chatterjee, as she searches for the truth about her daughter’s death.

“Yellow Bus” explores universal themes of motherhood, grief and dealing with loss against the backdrop of Gulf culture.

“We were drawn to the story as it works on many levels. It takes you on a heartbreaking roller-coaster of the mother’s desperation, while also covering controversial themes and concepts that are rarely addressed in this region,” said Darine ElKhatib, senior vice president of Arabic services and original production at OSN.

The film is written and directed by Wendy Bednarz, who has previously directed short films such as “On Crystal” and “Leaving Gussie,” and is produced by award-winning Jordanian screenwriter and producer Nadia Eliewat.

In addition to Chatterjee, the cast includes Amit Sial as the father, Gagan, and Kinda Alloush as the school owner, Mira.

“I can’t imagine a mother going through the loss of her child; it was a very emotional role for me to immerse myself in the character. The production of the film and the atmosphere on set were a truthful reflection of real life with its diversity of languages and accents,” said Chatterjee.

Alloush added: “When I read the script’s first 10 pages, I knew I wanted to be a part of this film. It’s a relatable story that can take place anywhere.”

The shooting of the film has been completed, and it will premiere on the platform later in the year after its theatrical release.


Netflix meets outrage in Egypt with risque comedy-drama

Netflix meets outrage in Egypt with risque comedy-drama
Updated 16 min 15 sec ago

Netflix meets outrage in Egypt with risque comedy-drama

Netflix meets outrage in Egypt with risque comedy-drama

CAIRO: Netflix's first Arabic film production was always set to be a big event, but within days of its release, public opinion in Egypt was so inflamed that critics called for a ban on the platform.
"Ashab wala Aaz" -- one of countless remakes of the Italian comedy-drama "Perfetti Sconosciutti" (Perfect Strangers) -- features renowned actors from Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.
The movie is about a group of friends meeting for dinner and deciding to make the night more interesting by agreeing to share every text message, email and phone call received with the rest of the group.
As events unfold, the game reveals shocking truths about members of the group as it touches on topics from adultery and premarital sex to homosexuality, all widely considered taboos in Egypt.
The film, which was released on January 20, immediately shot up to the most-watched list in Egypt.
But in the ensuing fracas, lawsuits have been filed against the culture ministry and the censor's office for allowing the film to be streamed, and MPs have called for a special session to discuss whether to ban Netflix altogether.
Online, many slammed celebrated Egyptian actress Mona Zaki, who took part in what they dubbed a "disgraceful" movie.
Amid the storm, the US streaming giant has refrained from commenting.

Lawmaker Mostafa Bakry argued Netflix should be banned altogether as he called for an urgent meeting in parliament to discuss it.
Premarital sex is also taboo in Egypt, where in extreme cases it may provoke "honour killings", especially in rural areas.
"This network targets Egyptian and Arab citizens ... we should ban Netflix," Bakri said in an interview with a private TV channel.
He said the film includes "more than 20 suggestive profanities which shocked Egyptian families".
Netflix rated the one-and-a-half hour long feature as not suitable for those under 16 years old, though it did not include any nudity or sex scenes.
Egyptian film critic Tarek Shennawy said he was "surprised" at the attack on actress Mona Zaki.
Zaki, who played the part of a wife trapped in an unsatisfying marriage, was particularly criticised for a scene in which she removes her underwear from under her dress.
On social media, many viewed the scene as a source of shame for her husband -- renowned actor Ahmed Helmi -- and their daughter.
"How did Ahmed Helmi allow his wife to play this part in the movie," one user asked on Twitter.
Another questioned how Zaki "was not afraid for her daughter to see her this bold".
But Shennawy argued that "the movie's content should not affect the personal or national honour of those who took part in it".
"We are confusing fiction with reality and this is very weird."


Mobile app downloads in UAE jump 15 percent in 2021, report shows

Mobile app downloads in UAE jump 15 percent in 2021, report shows
Updated 25 January 2022

Mobile app downloads in UAE jump 15 percent in 2021, report shows

Mobile app downloads in UAE jump 15 percent in 2021, report shows
  • UAE marketers spent $74m in 2021 on Android app installs

DUBAI: With consumers spending 3.8 trillion hours on mobile devices in 2021, it is no surprise that marketers are also spending more on mobile advertising.

UAE marketers spent $74 million in 2021 on Android app installs, representing a 35 percent year-on-year growth, according to a new report by global attribution company AppsFlyer.

A massive 84 percent of UAE businesses said that they consider mobile apps a “must” to remain relevant to their customers.

Overall app installs on iOS and Android devices grew by 15 percent last year. The study found that finance apps were among the most popular, with installs growing by 55 percent.

Retail or shopping apps also increased in popularity, especially during shopping seasons such as Ramadan and White Friday. Total installs of shopping apps in the UAE increased by 24 percent on White Friday (Nov. 26) compared with an average of the previous three Fridays in November.

“Propelled by forward-thinking government initiatives and use of apps, the UAE’s mobile-first economy has been one of the key markets that has quickly shifted to digital in recent years. Many brands are now recognizing that mobile needs to be at the forefront of their business activity,” said Samer Saad, Middle East regional manager of AppsFlyer.

Over 91 percent of UAE organizations now offer mobile apps, with the report highlighting “customer acquisition” and “customer retention and loyalty” as the top two reasons behind the focus on mobile apps.

The investment in mobile is paying off, with over 40 percent saying they believe there has been at least a 26 percent increase in mobile-driven revenues for their organization in the past 12 months.

UAE shoppers’ mobile-friendliness was most evident during the shopping periods of Ramadan and White Friday.

During the holy month, there was a 10 percent increase in overall installs for shopping apps and a massive 71 percent increase for finance apps, compared with the same period in 2020. In fact, in-app spending on both shopping and finance apps recorded triple-digit growth through Ramadan.

Overall spending on shopping apps during White Friday increased by 43 percent despite the number of installs dropping by 41 percent compared with the previous year, suggesting that the average spend per consumer is now higher than in the previous year.

“Looking ahead to 2022, the signs look positive for businesses looking to acquire more customers through their mobile devices. However, as this space becomes more competitive, just providing an app will no longer be enough. Organizations that leverage the power of mobile marketing to offer personalized experiences to their customers will rapidly pull ahead of the pack,” Saad said.


Facebook parent Meta creates powerful AI supercomputer

Facebook employees take a photo with the company's new name and logo outside its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Oct. 28, 2021. (AP)
Facebook employees take a photo with the company's new name and logo outside its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Oct. 28, 2021. (AP)
Updated 25 January 2022

Facebook parent Meta creates powerful AI supercomputer

Facebook employees take a photo with the company's new name and logo outside its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Oct. 28, 2021. (AP)
  • The computer, which is already up and running but is still being built, is called AI Research SuperCluster

MENLO PARK, California: Facebook’s parent company Meta on Monday said it has created what it believes is among the fastest artificial intelligence supercomputers running today.
The social media giant said it hopes the machine will help lay the groundwork for its building of the metaverse, a virtual reality construct intended to supplant the Internet as we know it today.
Facebook said it believes the computer will be the fastest in the world once it is fully built around the middle of the year.
Supercomputers are extremely fast and powerful machines built to do complex calculations not possible with a regular home computer. Meta did not disclose where the computer is located or how much it is costing to build.
The computer, which is already up and running but is still being built, is called AI Research SuperCluster. Meta says it will help its AI researchers build “new and better” artificial intelligence models that can learn from “trillions” of examples and work across hundreds of different languages simultaneously and analyze text, images and video together.
The way Meta is defining the power of its computer is different from how conventional and more technically powerful supercomputers are measured because it relies on the performance of graphics-processing chips, which are useful for running “deep learning” algorithms that can understand what’s in an image, analyze text and translate between languages, said Tuomas Sandholm, a computer science professor and co-director of the AI center at Carnegie Mellon University.
“We hope RSC will help us build entirely new AI systems that can, for example, power real-time voice translations to large groups of people, each speaking a different language, so they can seamlessly collaborate on a research project or play an AR game together,” Meta said in a blog post.
The company said its supercomputer will incorporate “real-world examples” from its own systems into training its AI. It says its previous efforts used only open-source and other publicly available data sets.
“They are going to, for the first time, put their customer data on their AI research computer,” Sandholm said. “That would be a really big change to give AI researchers and algorithms access to all that data.”


Biden caught insulting Fox News journalist

Biden caught insulting Fox News journalist
Updated 25 January 2022

Biden caught insulting Fox News journalist

Biden caught insulting Fox News journalist

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden was caught on a live microphone Monday calling a Fox News journalist a “stupid son of a bitch” on the sidelines of a White House photo op.
As journalists were leaving the room after the event, a reporter from Fox News, the favorite channel of conservatives, asked whether inflation is a political liability.
The Democratic leader, possibly unaware that his microphone was still on, began by deadpanning: “It’s a great asset. More inflation.”
And then muttered, “What a stupid son of a bitch,” before glancing briefly down.
A pool reporter who was in the room at the time admitted to not being able to hear what Biden actually said over the noise.
But he added that he would “direct your attention to video of the event if you are curious how the president really feels about being asked about inflation from Fox’s Peter Doocy.”
Doocy shrugged the insult off in a later interview on Fox.
“Yeah nobody has fact-checked him yet and said it’s not true,” he said, nonchalantly.