Facebook whistleblower says transparency needed to fix social media ills

Haugen said the company should be required to disclose which languages are supported by its tech safety systems. (AFP)
Haugen said the company should be required to disclose which languages are supported by its tech safety systems. (AFP)
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Updated 04 December 2021

Facebook whistleblower says transparency needed to fix social media ills

Haugen said the company should be required to disclose which languages are supported by its tech safety systems. (AFP)
  • Facebook whistleblower says the degree to which Facebook is harmful in languages other than English will leave people “even more shocked”

LONDON: A deeper investigation into Facebook’s lack of controls to prevent misinformation and abuse in languages other than English is likely to leave people “even more shocked” about the potential harms caused by the social media firm, whistleblower Frances Haugen told Reuters.
Haugen, a former product manager at Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook, spoke at the Reuters Next conference on Friday.
She left the company in May with thousands of internal documents which she leaked to the Wall Street Journal. That led to a series of articles in September detailing how the company knew its apps helped spread divisive content and harmed the mental health of some young users.
Facebook also knew it had too few workers with the necessary language skills to identify objectionable posts from users in a number of developing countries, according to the internal documents and Reuters interviews with former employees.
People who use the platform in languages other than English are using a “raw, dangerous version of Facebook,” Haugen said.
Facebook has consistently said it disagrees with Haugen’s characterization of the internal research and that it is proud of the work it has done to stop abuse on the platform.
Haugen said the company should be required to disclose which languages are supported by its tech safety systems, otherwise “Facebook will do ... the bare minimum to minimize PR risk,” she said.
The internal Facebook documents made public by Haugen have also raised fresh concerns about how it may have failed to take actions to prevent the spread of misleading information.
Haugen said the social media company knew it could introduce “strategic friction” to make users slow down before resharing posts, such as requiring users to click a link before they were able to share the content. But she said the company avoided taking such actions in order to preserve profit.
Such measures to prompt users to reconsider sharing certain content could be helpful given that allowing tech platforms or governments to determine what information is true poses many risks, according to Internet and legal experts who spoke during a separate panel at the Reuters Next conference on Friday.
“In regulating speech, you’re handing states the power to manipulate speech for their own purposes,” said David Greene, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The documents made public by Haugen have led to a series of US congressional hearings. Adam Mosseri, head of Meta Platforms’ Instagram app, will testify next week on the app’s effect on young people.
Asked what she would say to Mosseri given the opportunity, Haugen said she would question why the company has not released more of its internal research.
“We have evidence now that Facebook has known for years that it was harming kids,” she said. “How are we supposed to trust you going forward?“


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.