Twitter shuts propaganda accounts in six countries

Twitter has faced criticism over failures to tackle misinformation on its platform as well as racist, sexist and homophobic posts. (File/AFP)
Twitter has faced criticism over failures to tackle misinformation on its platform as well as racist, sexist and homophobic posts. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 02 December 2021

Twitter shuts propaganda accounts in six countries

Twitter has faced criticism over failures to tackle misinformation on its platform as well as racist, sexist and homophobic posts. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter shuts down almost 3500 accounts posting pro-government propaganda in six different countries, including Russia and China

SAN FRANCISCO: witter on Thursday said it had shut down nearly 3,500 accounts that were posting pro-government propaganda in six countries, including China and Russia.
The vast majority of the accounts were part of a network that “amplified Chinese Communist Party narratives related to the treatment of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang,” Twitter said in a statement.
China faces accusations of grave human rights violations against the ethnic minority in the northwestern province, where experts have estimated that more than one million people are incarcerated in camps.
Aside from 2,048 accounts linked to the pro-Beijing campaign, Twitter also shut down 112 accounts connected to a company named Changyu Culture, linked to Xinjiang’s regional government.
The move came a day after Facebook’s parent company Meta said it had shut down more than 500 accounts that were part of a China-linked influence campaign relating to Covid-19.
The accounts promoted claims from a fictitious Swiss biologist, Wilson Edwards, that the United States was interfering in efforts to identify the origins of the coronavirus.
Chinese state media had widely quoted “Edwards” in July, although several newspapers deleted references to him after the Swiss embassy in Beijing said there was no trace of him.
Both Twitter and Facebook are banned in China, but Beijing frequently uses both US social networks to promote its positions on the international stage.
Beyond China, Twitter also shuttered 16 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company labeled a “troll farm” by critics, which runs pro-government online influence campaigns.
“The operation relied on a mix of inauthentic and real accounts to introduce a pro-Russia viewpoint into Central African political discourse,” Twitter said.
Russia has wielded increasing influence in the Central African Republic since 2018 when it sent a large contingent of “instructors” to train the army.
“We also removed a network of 50 accounts that attacked the civilian Libyan government and actors that support it, while voicing significant support for Russia’s geopolitical position in Libya and Syria,” Twitter added.
The banned accounts also include 276 that shared pro-government content in Mexico, and “277 Venezuelan accounts that amplified accounts, hashtags and topics in support of the government and its official narratives.”
In Africa, 268 accounts were shut down for targeting civil rights group FichuaTanzania, along with 418 that “engaged in coordinated inauthentic activity” in Uganda to promote President Yoweri Museveni.
“In most instances, accounts were suspended for various violations of our platform manipulation and spam policies,” Twitter said.
Like other social media giants, Twitter has faced criticism over failures to tackle misinformation on its platform as well as racist, sexist and homophobic posts, among other forms of hate speech.
It also announced Thursday that it will launch a Twitter Moderation Research Consortium early next year, bringing together “experts from across academia, civil society, NGOs and journalism” to study possible improvements.
Twitter said it would not seek to influence the consortium’s findings.


Imagination launches BEAST TV, first Saudi music streaming channel

Imagination launches BEAST TV, first Saudi music streaming channel
Updated 32 sec ago

Imagination launches BEAST TV, first Saudi music streaming channel

Imagination launches BEAST TV, first Saudi music streaming channel
  • ‘Always-on’ interactive platform will offer music, gamified content

DUBAI: Imagination, an award-winning design experience agency, has created Saudi Arabia’s first-ever music streaming channel, BEAST TV.

The channel was launched by entertainment company MDLBEAST at the Soundstorm Festival, which was held in Riyadh from Dec. 16 to 19, recording 732,000 total visitors.

The launch of BEAST TV in Saudi Arabia is reflective of the Kingdom’s investment in music, culture and entertainment, said Ross Wheeler, creative director at Imagination.

“Saudi is changing fast, and this is a perfect moment to highlight, celebrate and share these changes through the rich and diverse music scene, and artists that are emerging in the region,” Wheeler added.

“The Saudis we spoke to at the event — many of whom had traveled back to their homeland for this — were there because it marked such a significant moment, even if electronic music was not their first love,” he said.

The festival was streamed through BEAST TV to 107 countries. The livestream saw the use of live spatial audio for the first time at a streamed festival, providing a uniquely immersive experience.

Ross Wheeler, creative director at Imagination. (Supplied)

“Listening to spatial audio on your headphones breathes space into a live performance. Normal stereo is very intimate, like listening to the artist playing just for you in your head, whereas with spatial audio, you feel as though you are at the front of the crowd watching the artist on stage, without any loss of detail or expression,” Wheeler said.

The audio offering included a real-time immersive spatial mix from seven stages, featuring star DJs such as Armin van Buuren, David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, Afrojack and Salvatore Ganacci.

“It is the closest you can get to experiencing being at the festival without being there in person,” Wheeler added.

Following the success of its launch, the BEAST TV channel will become a permanent platform, bringing all of MDLBEAST’s live experiences to digital audiences, in addition to other interactive content.

The platform, which has been built for scale, can stream to more than 1 million concurrent viewers. “The aspiration is to become an equivalent to MTV or Red Bull TV in the Middle East,” said Wheeler.

The channel offers both local and international music with a focus on electronic music, as well as “content from the world of entertainment and culture as well,” he added.

Last week, MDLBEAST partnered with music rights company Esmaa to ensure that composers and rights holders are paid whenever their work is played by MDLBEAST. Artists who work with the company’s in-house record label, MDLBEAST Records, will also be paid when their tracks are played by other organizations signed to Esmaa.

“This is a critical and required move, aligning the Kingdom with global music copyright practices, and further demonstrating the country’s dedication to growing its music and creative industries, attracting international artists, and supporting its homegrown, emerging talent,” said Wheeler.

“Alongside the emergence of an exciting new film industry in the Kingdom, this move will ensure that artists and rights holders are compensated whenever and wherever their music is played live or licensed commercially,” he added.

The BEAST TV platform, which is free to use, can be viewed here.


Disney+ to launch across Saudi Arabia and 41 other countries in MidEast, Europe and Africa

Disney+ to launch across Saudi Arabia and 41 other countries in MidEast, Europe and Africa
Updated 57 min 32 sec ago

Disney+ to launch across Saudi Arabia and 41 other countries in MidEast, Europe and Africa

Disney+ to launch across Saudi Arabia and 41 other countries in MidEast, Europe and Africa
  • New countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen

RIYADH: Disney+, the streaming service from The Walt Disney Company, confirmed that this summer it will launch in 42 countries and 11 new territories, including 16 markets across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). New countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

With exclusive original content and thousands of episodes and movies from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and general entertainment from Star, Disney+ is the streaming home for some of the world’s most beloved stories.


Google Doodle celebrates ‘Egyptian Cinderella’ Soad Hosny

Google Doodle celebrates ‘Egyptian Cinderella’ Soad Hosny
Updated 26 January 2022

Google Doodle celebrates ‘Egyptian Cinderella’ Soad Hosny

Google Doodle celebrates ‘Egyptian Cinderella’ Soad Hosny
  • One of the most dominant artists in the Middle East and the Arab world during her time

DUBAI: Google’s latest doodle celebrates what would have been the 79th birthday of the late Egyptian actress, singer and dancer Soad Hosny, better known as the ‘Egyptian Cinderella’, and one of the most dominant artists in the Middle East and the Arab world during her time.
Soad was born to a large, artistic family in Cairo – her father Mohammad was a calligrapher and some of her half-siblings were musicians, painters and composers  – with their household known as the “artists’ home” because leading artists from across the Arab world regularly visited.
Her career in show business began at just three-years-old when she sang for a popular children’s TV program, Papa Sharo, and had her first starring role at 17 in the 1959 with ‘Hassan and Naima’ – an Arabic adaptation of Romeo and Juliet – a breakout role that marked the start of a prolific on-screen career covering a wide genre including comedies, musicals, dramas and romance films.
Soad was touted as an icon of women’s empowerment, with many of her works intertwined with social and political moments in modern Middle Eastern history, from her leading role as a student and political activist who was tortured in ‘Karnak’ to other films which she transformed musical numbers into scathing satires which gave voice to the oppressed.
Her final screen appearance was in ‘Al Ra’i We El Nissa’ before retiring from acting in 1991. Soad died on June 21, 2001 at the age of 58.


Aramco tops Arab companies on Brand Finance Global 500 list

Aramco tops Arab companies on Brand Finance Global 500 list
Updated 26 January 2022

Aramco tops Arab companies on Brand Finance Global 500 list

Aramco tops Arab companies on Brand Finance Global 500 list

LONDON: Saudi Aramco has maintained its position as the Middle East’s most valuable brand, with the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 report valuing the Kingdom’s oil giant at $43.6 billion.

Following a difficult period for the oil and gas sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aramco placed 31st in the list and is the only Arab company in the top 100 of the world’s 500 most valuable brands in 2022.

It recently announced plans to increase its production capacity from 12 million barrels per day to 13 million bpd by 2027.

“Despite there only being seven brands from the Middle East in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking, their strong performances prove once again that the region punches well above its weight on the global stage,” Andrew Campbell, managing director of Brand Finance Middle East, told Arab News. “The future looks bright, with all of the brands from the region – including Aramco, ADNOC, Etisalat, and stc – seeing positive brand value growth this year.”

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company was the second most valuable brand in the region and held on to the top spot in the UAE, asserting the dominance of the oil sector.

ADNOC managed to score a 19 percent brand value growth to $12.8 billion, the fastest among the top 10 oil and gas brands globally, which sees it hold on to its position as the second most valuable brand in the region.

Its CEO Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber was crowned the highest-ranked CEO outside of the US and China. He is also the top-scoring leader in the oil and gas sector.

Other Middle Eastern brands in the top 500 include Saudi telecom provider stc (184th and valued at $10.5 billion), the UAE’s Etisalat (192nd and valued at $10.1 billion), Qatar National Bank (305th and valued at $7.05 billion), and Dubai’s Emirates airline (461st and valued at $4.9 billion).

Expo 2020 Dubai offered Etisalat a chance to demonstrate itself as a strategic enabler of the UAE's digital transformation, meaning it was crowned with the Middle East and Africa’s strongest brand for the second consecutive year.

“Etisalat’s brand focuses on togetherness and plays its part by providing a first-class telecoms infrastructure across its footprint. Exceptional rollout of 5G technology has also meant that the Etisalat Group’s portfolio of brands is the most valuable amongst telecoms organisations in the Middle East,” said David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance.

Saudi Arabia’s stc continued to see good growth this year, with its brand value increasing by 16 percent to $10.6 billion.

Globally, Apple continues to hold the world’s most valuable brand title for the second year in a row, overtaking Amazon and Google. TikTok, meanwhile, was crowned the fastest-growing brand in the world with a growth of 215 percent.

Media brands accounted for the top three fastest-growing brands in the ranking, with Snapchat and South Korea’s Kakao following closely behind TikTok.


OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’

OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’
Updated 25 January 2022

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.