Twitter admits policy ‘errors’ after far-right abuse

Twitter launched new rules Tuesday blocking users from sharing private images of other people without their consent. (File/AFP)
Twitter launched new rules Tuesday blocking users from sharing private images of other people without their consent. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 04 December 2021

Twitter admits policy ‘errors’ after far-right abuse

Twitter launched new rules Tuesday blocking users from sharing private images of other people without their consent. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter admitted policy errors which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent
  • This comes after a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulated on Telegram claiming things now “work more in our favor.”

WASHINGTON: Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.
Even the social network admitted the roll out of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.
It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.
Their concerns were quickly validated, with anti-extremism researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulating on Telegram: “Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor.”
“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.
Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.
Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.
“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.
In announcing the privacy policy on Tuesday, Twitter noted that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.”
But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”
By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”
“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.

However, Los Angeles-based activist and researcher Chad Loder said their account was permanently blocked after reports to Twitter over publicly-recorded images from an anti-vaccine rally and a confrontation outside the home of a former Vice journalist.
“Twitter is saying I must delete my tweets featuring photographs of people at newsworthy public events that did indeed get news coverage, or I will never get my account back,” Loder told AFP, adding it was the third report of their account to Twitter in 48 hours.
“The current mass-reporting actions by the far-right are just the latest salvo in an ongoing, concerted effort to memory-hole evidence of their crimes and misdeeds,” Loder added, using a term popularized by George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.
Experts noted that Twitter’s new rules sound like a well-intentioned idea but are incredibly thorny to enforce.
One reason is that the platform has become a key forum for identifying people involved in far-right and hate groups, with Internet sleuths posting their names or other identifying information.
The practice of so-called “doxxing” has cost the targets their jobs, set them up for intense public ridicule and even criminal prosecution, while the activists who post the information have faced threats or harassment themselves.
A major example was the online effort to track down people involved in the violence at the US Capitol, which was stormed in January by Donald Trump supporters seeking to block the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
Even the US Federal Bureau of Investigation regularly posts images on its feed of as-yet unnamed people it is seeking in connection with the violence.
“Twitter has given extremists a new weapon to bring harm to those in the greatest need of protection and those shining a light on danger,” said Michael Breen, president and CEO of advocacy group Human Rights First, which called on Twitter to halt the policy.
The new rules, announced just a day after Parag Agrawal took over from co-founder Jack Dorsey as boss, wander into issues that may be beyond the platform’s control.
“It gets complicated fast, but these are issues that are going to be resolved probably in our courts,” said Betsy Page Sigman, a professor emeritus at Georgetown University. “I’m not optimistic about Twitter’s changes.”


Palestine’s high society stirs controversy on social media

The elites of Palestine and stylish clothes and lavish cars paint an almost unrecognizable image of a country scarred by years of conflict. (Screenshots)
The elites of Palestine and stylish clothes and lavish cars paint an almost unrecognizable image of a country scarred by years of conflict. (Screenshots)
Updated 28 January 2022

Palestine’s high society stirs controversy on social media

The elites of Palestine and stylish clothes and lavish cars paint an almost unrecognizable image of a country scarred by years of conflict. (Screenshots)

LONDON: A quick search of Palestine on Google displays headlines and images of protests, war, human rights violations and the latest Israeli attacks against Palestinians. A similar search on social media tells a different tale.

Away from the destruction, forced displacement and politics lies a particular segment of society: The elites of Palestine. Their stylish clothes and lavish cars paint an almost unrecognizable image of a country scarred by years of conflict.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Aya Eid (@ayaeid8)

Such images draw a negative reaction from many social media users, who say that this is the side of Palestine the media does not want to portray. Some comments were accompanied by the hashtag Palestine is not my cause or #فلسيطن_ليست_قضيتي

The tweet reads: “Honestly I was expecting to see wars, famine and persecution but I saw these beautiful pictures, good cars, stylish clothes and safe cities. I am happy for you Palestine #فلسيطن_ليست_قضيتي” 

Another response to the tweet said: “The Palestinian is currently living a better life than the Iraq, Syrian or Lebanese whose countries were invaded under the pretext of liberating Quds, or the Quds road.”

Many disagreed, jumping to Palestine’s defence and reminding everyone that not too long ago Palestine was being bombed and raided by the Israeli forces.

A similar phenomenon is mirrored by many Lebanese influencers whose Instagram accounts showcase luxury, beauty, shopping and travel, all the while the country is battling its worst economic and political crises.

It is not uncommon for these Lebanese elites to share social media posts showing themselves wearing expensive clothes, partying away in luxurious venues and tucking into sumptuous meals. Looking at their posts, one can almost forget that they are in Lebanon — the same Lebanon that has been going through successive crises for the past two years.

We cannot ignore the presence of socialites in society, especially if their pictures are splattered all over social media, but we can wonder which reality their pictures depict.


INTERVIEW: ‘Our focus will always be on credible, authentic and factual reporting’

INTERVIEW: ‘Our focus will always be on credible, authentic and factual reporting’
Updated 28 January 2022

INTERVIEW: ‘Our focus will always be on credible, authentic and factual reporting’

INTERVIEW: ‘Our focus will always be on credible, authentic and factual reporting’
  • Caroline Faraj, vice-president of Arabic services at CNN, talks to Arab News about the network’s success and its evolution over the last 20 years

DUBAI: Social media is by far the most popular source of news for young Arabs with 61 percent getting their news from the medium in 2021, according to the annual Arab Youth Survey. In comparison, 43 percent got their news from TV and 9 percent from newspapers.

The quick, bite-sized, always-on nature of social media channels has challenged many traditional media brands.

One such brand is CNN. Its Arabic edition, CNN Arabic, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, ranked as the number one news provider against competitors such as Sky News, Al Arabiya and BBC Arabic, according to an independent study of news consumers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and the US.

Speaking to Arab News, Caroline Faraj, vice-president of Arabic services at CNN, reflected on the network’s decision to branch into Arabic 20 years ago. “Back in 2002, CNN already had networks in English and Spanish, and the addition of CNN Arabic gave us the ability to reach, engage, better represent and understand those of us who speak one of the world’s most popular languages.”

“Since then, we have realized that vision by telling stories for Arab audiences all over the world in myriad ways via mobile-first video, interactive content, written news and more,” she said. 

The digital transformation of CNN has been at the forefront of its success. “As a digital news service from the very outset, it has always been in our DNA to evolve, experiment and be relevant as people’s news habits continue to change.”

For example, when CNN first launched, there were no smartphones. Today, however, 90 percent of the network’s traffic comes via mobiles because “long ago we started tailoring our content to engage with people on the devices they carry around with them 24/7,” she said.

Despite social media being the most popular news source, it is the least trusted. Only 26 percent of young Arabs consider it “very trustworthy” as a news source, according to the Arab Youth Survey. More than 50 percent of them don’t have much trust in any channel — be it TV and newspapers, or online portals and social media.

Yet, CNN Arabic emerged as highly trusted, scoring more than three times the average trust rating compared to other brands in the industry.

“This trust factor is crucial,” said Faraj, “especially at a time when research such as the Arab Youth Survey shows high levels of distrust in news, particularly on social media.

“Looking further ahead, the way that news is consumed will undoubtedly change, just as it has changed in the last 20 years.”

CNN Arabic witnessed its biggest year in 2021, with daily audience numbers growing by more than 150 percent in the past six years, according to Adobe Analytics.

Although “we are in a strong position right now due to our audience growth across various digital platforms,” said Faraj, “the platforms that people use for news will certainly evolve in line with new technology and ways of communicating.”

“Our focus will always be on credible, authentic and factual reporting. Our commitment to the Arabic-speaking world is that we will continue to innovate in the way that we provide people with news and information wherever they need it.”


Al Arabiya crew caught in a Daesh ambush in Al-Hasakah

Al Arabiya crew caught in a Daesh ambush in Al-Hasakah
Updated 27 January 2022

Al Arabiya crew caught in a Daesh ambush in Al-Hasakah

Al Arabiya crew caught in a Daesh ambush in Al-Hasakah
  • “We have been caught in crossfire, Al Arabiya crew has been caught in crossfire after Daesh fighters moved in the vicinity of the prison.”

LONDON: The dramatic moment when an Al Arabiya TV crew was caught in a Daesh ambush on Thursday in the northwestern Syrian city of Al-Hasakah was captured live on air.

The channel broadcast the video of Daesh fighters firing on the news team, Kurdish, and US forces with footage showing members of the film crew taking refuge behind a car.

The news presenter is heard saying, “we have been caught in crossfire, Al Arabiya crew has been caught in crossfire after Daesh fighters moved in the vicinity of the prison.”

The incident came after Kurdish forces, backed by US-led anti-Daesh coalition forces, recaptured Ghwayran prison in Al-Hasakah after six days of fighting sparked by a Daesh attempt to free jailed fighters.

Al Arabiya footage shows Kurdish forces engage in a fierce gun battle with Daesh fighters in Al-Hasakah. (Al Arabiya)

The jail held about 3,500 Daesh prisoners when the initial attack was launched on Jan. 20 using explosive-laden vehicles driven by suicide bombers.

The prison break bid and the fighting that ensued immediately after resulted in the death of more than 200 people, including 124 Daesh militants, 50 Kurdish fighters, and seven civilians. More casualties were expected to be found as Kurdish forces gained access to all parts of the jail.

The heavy fighting saw Daesh fighters seize control of a north wing in the prison, using child inmates as human shields. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 850 children and minors were caught in crossfire when Kurdish forces stormed the jail.

Ghwayran prison is one of the largest facilities where the Kurdish administration holds Daesh detainees.


Bloomberg announces 2022 Gender-Equality Index, names WPP for 4th consecutive year

Bloomberg announces 2022 Gender-Equality Index, names WPP for 4th consecutive year
Updated 27 January 2022

Bloomberg announces 2022 Gender-Equality Index, names WPP for 4th consecutive year

Bloomberg announces 2022 Gender-Equality Index, names WPP for 4th consecutive year
  • GEI tracks the performance of public companies committed to advancing gender equality in the workplace

DUBAI: Multinational advertising and communication group WPP has been named in the 2022 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI) for the fourth consecutive year.

WPP CEO Mark Read said that the company is a “people business” and its “client work directly benefits from having diversity in our teams.”

He added: “We’re proud of our recognition in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index, which reflects our continued investment in our people and culture, and our progress in driving greater gender balance throughout the company.”

Peter T. Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg, said: “We are proud to recognize WPP and the other 417 companies included in the 2022 GEI for their commitment to transparency and setting a new standard in gender-related data reporting.”

The Index tracks the performance of public companies committed to advancing gender equality in the workplace, and helps bring transparency to gender-related practices and policies at publicly-listed companies around the world, increasing the environmental, social, governance (ESG) data available to investors.

This year, Bloomberg lost a total of 418 companies representing a combined market capitalization of $16 trillion from across 45 territories.

A record number of companies disclosed their data for this year’s GEI by using the GEI Framework, marking a 20 percent increase year-over-year.

The GEI Framework scores companies across five pillars: Female leadership and talent pipeline, equal pay and gender pay parity, inclusive culture, anti-sexual harassment policies, and pro-women brand. Bloomberg also requests information from other expanded areas to support the broader goal of providing more robust ESG data to investors.

“Even though the threshold for inclusion in the GEI has risen, the member list continues to grow. This is a testament that more companies are working to improve upon their gender-related metrics, fostering more opportunity for diverse talent to succeed in their organizations,” said Grauer.


Iran state TV shows dissidents’ images after apparent hack

Iran state TV shows dissidents’ images after apparent hack
Updated 27 January 2022

Iran state TV shows dissidents’ images after apparent hack

Iran state TV shows dissidents’ images after apparent hack
  • The hack represented a major breach of Iranian state television
  • For several seconds, graphics flashed on screen showing the leaders of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq

DUBAI: Channels of Iran’s state television broadcast images Thursday showing the leaders of an exiled dissident group and a graphic demanding the country’s supreme leader be killed, an incident that state TV later described as a hack.
For several seconds, graphics flashed on screen showing the leaders of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and the name of a social media account, which claimed to be a group of hackers who broadcast the message honoring the dissidents.
The MEK, now largely based in Albania, did not immediately answer telephone calls seeking comment.
The hack represented a major breach of Iranian state television, long believed to controlled and operated by members of the Islamic Republic’s intelligence branches, particularly its hard-line Revolutionary Guard. Such an incident hasn’t happened for years.
Iran’s state TV acknowledged the breach as a “hack,” saying the case was “under investigation.”
A clip of the incident seen by the AP showed the faces of MEK leaders Massoud Rajavi and his wife, Maryam Rajavi, suddenly superimposed on the channel’s regular 3 p.m. news programming. A man’s voice chants, “Salute to Rajavi, death to (supreme leader) Khamenei.”
Then, a speech from Rajavi briefly plays over the images. He can be heard saying, “Today, we still honor the time that we declared death to the reactionary. We stood by it ...”
Massoud Rajavi hasn’t been seen publicly in nearly two decades and is presumed to have died. Maryam Rajavi now runs the MEK.
The MEK began as a socialist organization against the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It claimed and was suspected in a series of attacks against US officials in Iran in the 1970s, something the group now denies.
It supported the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but soon had a falling out with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and turned against the clerical regime. It carried out a series of assassinations and bombings targeting the young Islamic Republic.
The MEK later fled into Iraq and backed dictator Saddam Hussein during his bloody eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s. That saw many oppose the group in Iran, though to this day it claims to operate a network inside of the country.