Meta supports Palestinians with $100,000 in grants and digital skills training

Meta supports Palestinians with $100,000 in grants and digital skills training
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Updated 16 March 2022

Meta supports Palestinians with $100,000 in grants and digital skills training

Meta supports Palestinians with $100,000 in grants and digital skills training
  • Program developed and designed in partnership with Startups Without Borders

DUBAI: Tech giant Meta has launched a new initiative to support Palestinian entrepreneurs and small businesses.

The initiative, which was designed and developed in partnership with Startups Without Borders, consists of three pillars: A donation of $100,000; a Boost Without Borders — Palestine program to train 500 small businesses; and expanding partnerships with local organizations in Palestine.

The initiative aims to build the capacities of small-business owners and entrepreneurs, as well as give them the opportunity to grow outside Palestine, Meta said in a statement.

Azzam Alameddin, Meta’s public policy director for the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, said: “Small businesses are at the heart of our communities as well as the economic health of the MENA region. We care deeply about the challenges these businesses are facing and how well they are equipped to handle them.”

Meta has donated $100,000 to Startups Without Borders to be deployed in support of startups and small businesses in Palestine. Through this donation, the nonprofit organization will fund an investment readiness program for 50 local businesses.

The program will start with a training and end in a pitching competition. An external jury will evaluate participants based on three factors: Growth, impact and business model. Winners will be awarded up to $20,000 to support their growth and operations.

The Boost Without Borders — Palestine program will train 500 small businesses on how to use Meta tools and platforms to expand their business. It will include a mix of virtual and on-ground learning sessions to help startups and small to medium businesses.

Meta is also working with local organizations to nominate up to 20 trainers to receive digital marketing training, and an opportunity to become part of Meta’s trainer network.

“For the past year, we have been working with Meta in building a program that supports Palestinian entrepreneurs to grow their businesses amid the challenges their nation faces,” said Valentina Primo, founder and CEO of Startups Without Borders.

“Palestinian entrepreneurs are some of the world’s most resilient founders and we are confident this program will support them to flourish beyond borders.”

The initial phase of the program began last September with a round table discussion among key Palestinian entrepreneurs, who identified the challenges as well as the strategies needed to support their business growth.

The program launched on March 15 and is open to founders of startups and small-business owners from Palestine.


France weighs up ban on influencers promoting risky products, services

France weighs up ban on influencers promoting risky products, services
Updated 01 February 2023

France weighs up ban on influencers promoting risky products, services

France weighs up ban on influencers promoting risky products, services
  • Bill will stop content creators’ promotion of diet pills, crypto, cosmetic surgery
  • French parliament to debate wider regulatory proposal for influencers in spring

LONDON: France is considering making it illegal for influencers to promote dangerous products or services deemed risky to public health via social media platforms.

The French parliament is due to discuss a proposal by a group of MPs aimed at banning the promotion of plastic surgery and drugs, as well as risky financial investments, including cryptocurrencies.

“Influencers have a lot of weight, so they have a lot of responsibility. The rules are not sufficiently respected and they must be reinforced,” French economy chief Bruno Le Maire told French radio.

“There are interesting proposals coming from parliamentarians. We will try to agree on a common text.”

The draft follows a major debate among French politicians over the need to regulate the scandal-plagued industry.

In recent months, the government has pledged to address the issue and create a legal framework for influencers’ activity on social networks.

In a separate proposal, lawmakers focused on developing a legal definition covering influencers, as well as requiring online platforms to implement a “flagging feature” to report content relating to prohibited, aggressive and misleading commercial practices.

The document was reported to also include the establishment of a code of conduct and a legal requirement for influencers living abroad to have legal representation in France.

The text is due in the National Assembly in mid-March and will include the results of a consultation launched by Le Maire in January, which has gathered more than 12,000 contributions.

In recent years, online influencers have prospered as brands have looked to so-called content creators to capture the attention of consumers.

According to the media company Influencer Marketing Hub, more than 50 million individuals worldwide consider themselves to be influencers, with the Middle East home to over 200,000 content producers.

In 2022, the global creator economy was estimated to be worth $104.2 billion.

Along with traditional goods such as apparel items or food articles, content creators promote a host of questionable products and services to millions of followers on platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Snap, including diet pills, fake music festivals and counterfeit products.

Experts believe that the proposal advanced by French politicians might resonate with EU lawmakers since the bloc in recent months has sought to establish a legal framework for influencers and businesses that work with them.

“This legislation, if successful, could be the inspiration for an EU-wide regulation on the issue,” a spokesperson for international legal practice Osborne Clarke said.

Although the proposal represents one of the first attempts by a European country to better regulate the sector, other states around the world have already taken steps in the same direction.

In October, the Saudi government launched a new licensing system to properly monitor the influencer industry in the country.

Under the system, Saudi and non-Saudi content creators in the Kingdom who earn revenue by advertising on social media must apply for an official three-year permit from the General Commission for Audiovisual Media in order to promote products or services, as long as they do not violate the Kingdom’s laws or values.

Similarly, in the UAE content creators must apply for a permit and cannot promote products or services that are harmful to individuals, such as tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs.


Former colleagues, media leaders reflect on ‘legendary’ Rani Raad’s departure from CNN Worldwide

Former colleagues, media leaders reflect on ‘legendary’ Rani Raad’s departure from CNN Worldwide
Updated 01 February 2023

Former colleagues, media leaders reflect on ‘legendary’ Rani Raad’s departure from CNN Worldwide

Former colleagues, media leaders reflect on ‘legendary’ Rani Raad’s departure from CNN Worldwide
  • ‘We are all a part of the vision Raad created over a quarter of a century at the network,’ said former anchor John Defterious
  • "Rani enriched CNN’s shows with sponsors without compromising the integrity and editorial independence of the content,” says former colleague Rima Maktabi

LONDON: After Rani Raad, the most senior Arab to lead an international media group commercially, announced his departure from CNN, former colleagues and a number of MENA region’s media leaders reflect on his legacy and time in the role. 

Former CNN Emerging Markets editor and anchor John Defterios said that “all of the feature programming, plus the bureaus/content hubs in the Middle East, are a product of a vision (Raad) created over a quarter century at the network. 

“One could certainly make the case; it is his work that put the rising economies the MENA region on the global map.”

Rani Raad, who first joined CNN’s parent company Turner Broadcasting, New York, in 1998 as an intern, is leaving his role as president of CNN Commercial Worldwide, a global position the company introduced for the first time when he assumed it.

It is likely that Raad, whose CNN departure was announced Monday, will join another leading media group in a leadership position, where he will advise on international expansion, strategic direction and investments, media industry sources told Arab News. 

“There are plenty of possibilities for his next destination,” the sources said, “but it will most likely be in the Middle East region, where there is not only the ability to invest and expand, but also a new atmosphere of rational decision-making and hiring the best global talent to make sure investments are strategic and in the right direction.” 

In addition to having managed Turner Broadcasting’s portfolio of general entertainment and kids channels in Turkey, the Middle East and Africa, Raad led the commercial strategy for an international news and information portfolio, including CNNI, CNN en Español, CNN-IBN, CNN Turk and CNN Chile. He also oversaw advertising and content sales, business development, international research, and marketing activities. 

“It is hard to sum up 25 years of incredible memories and milestones in one email,” Raad wrote, Monday, in a message to CNN staff. 

“Every single day I have had the privilege of working for a brand that has such a profound impact on the world,” he added, “There is no way those business milestones would have been achieved without the ambition, skills, attitude and passion of those at CNN Commercial. And there is no way we could have done it without the dedication and integrity of our editorial colleagues.” 

Raad was appointed president of the CNN International Commercial group, London, in Feb. 2016, after leading the company as its Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer since its creation in 2013, according to a Warner Media press statement. 

At the time, Turner International President Gerhard Zeiler said that Rani had “a remarkable track record in leading a diverse portfolio of commercial initiatives across international markets.  

“He has built a new digital team that is the authority in this space and has transformed the commercial operation for CNN internationally, bringing in a new leadership team to deliver best-in-class and award-winning ad sales solutions as well as re-setting the licensing and content sales businesses to yield a suite of new branded initiatives around the globe.” 

Meanwhile, Faisal J. Abbas — Editor-in-Chief of Arab News described Raad as a “legend in his own right.”

“If Messi is the 'Greatest of All Time' in football, then Rani Raad would absolutely be the equivalent in running global news channels commercially,” said Abbas, who has known Raad for nearly twenty years. 

“I have first met Rani in the early 2000’s when I had just started as a media reporter for a sister publication in London. Many of the things I have learned and adopted today in building the Arab News brand and expansion, I have learned from Rani’s career as I witnessed how he turned around CNN International from a sideshow to a core business for the network,” he added.

Alarabiya's current UK bureau chief Rima Maktabi, who worked at CNN with Raad during the period from 2010 to 2012, said: "Oftentimes, big international news channels miss out on understanding certain cultures and politics in the Arab world. Yet Rani was able to explain the Arab world in depth to the editorial team, when needed."

"On the commercial side," Maktabi added, "Rani enriched CNN’s shows with sponsors without compromising the integrity and editorial independence of the content."

"With Rani’s leaving, CNN has lost yet another skilled professional who was able to add to the network’s commercial success worldwide."

During his tenure as commercial president, Raad delivered a data-driven strategy, equipped with digital capabilities, for all the group’s platforms, meeting market needs in over 200 countries. 

Raad first joined the company’s New York headquarters as an intern, right after graduating from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.  

Within five years of joining Turner Broadcasting, Raad, fluent in English, French and Arabic, got promoted to vice president for regional advertising sales in the Middle East, Africa and Southern Europe. 

In May 2020, he was named President for CNN Commercial Worldwide to expand CNN’s new business pathways. He worked closely with the sales department of Warner Media, oversaw CNN’s distribution activities globally, led the company’s business operations outside America, and maximized the news network’s business potential. 

He had told Arabian Business he was from a “media family.” His father, Ramzi, established the advertising agency TBWA/Raad in 2000, after about three decades in the field across EMEA, while his brother Reda heads the group. 

In recognition of his contributions to the media industry, including the initiation of CNN’s programming sponsorship initiatives Inside the Middle East, Marketplace Middle East, Business Traveller, and Eye on Series, the World Economic Forum named Raad in 2011 a Young Global Leader. 

Arabian Business named him in 2013 among the world’s most influential Arabs in its Power 500 list, ranking 71st, and listed him in 2015 the 13th most influential Arab under 40. 

Prior to that, Raad was shortlisted in 2010 for Media Professional of the Year at the Festival of Media Awards in Valencia.  

In a note to CNN staff, obtained by Arab News, CEO Chris Licht wrote that Raad, who is leaving Warner Bros. Discovery, will be replaced by Phil Nelson, who had been leading “the CNNIC team over the past weeks.” 

“I’m sure there are many questions about structure and how we will interact with the Sport team,” Licht wrote, “We will work through all this as soon as possible.” 

Raad concluded his farewell email to CNN staff: “Now it is the right time for me to move on to new challenges and pass that stewardship of this amazing group to new leadership.” 

“CNNIC, you got this!”

Arab News tried reaching several serving CNN members for comment. However, no comment was obtained and all attempts were deferred to the above statement. Rani Raad could not be reached for comment.


Spotify launches ‘Women of Iran’ playlist

Spotify launches ‘Women of Iran’ playlist
Updated 01 February 2023

Spotify launches ‘Women of Iran’ playlist

Spotify launches ‘Women of Iran’ playlist
  • Compilation celebrates Persian music history and amplifies female voices

LONDON: Spotify has launched a new playlist called “Women of Iran,” voicing its support for females protesting in the country.

Curated by Iranian American Leila Kashfi, DSP’s associate manager, artist partnerships, the playlist aims to amplify the voices of Iranian girls and women and their global allies, according to reports.

“For decades, the Islamic Republic has forced Iranians to suppress the beauty of Persian culture — a culture founded thousands of years ago in music, dance, romance, & tolerance,” Kashfi wrote on Instagram.

“The (Islamic Republic) targets artists because music fuels revolution.”

The compilation reflects core characteristics of Iran’s culture and celebrates the country’s past and contemporary music history, including songs specifically about the current protests.

“Women of Iran” includes songs by iconic Iranian singers, including Googoosh, Mahasti and Hayedeh, alongside artists Shervin Hajipour and Toomaj Salehi, who were both arrested and imprisoned after sharing music in support of the fight against the Islamic Republic’s injustices.

Hajipour, who received a whopping 95,000 submissions for The Grammys’ new best song for social change award, was released following international pressure back in October.

As a part of the playlist launch, Spotify is utilizing its video story feature that provides a platform for the Iranian creative community to speak on topics including culture, art and freedom of expression.

The algorithm-driven 50-song custom selection pulls from over 100 Iranian songs and will include five songs pinned to every user’s playlist, including Hajipour’s “Baraye” and Salehi’s “Soorakh Moosh.”

The other three are “Dobareh,” a collective song led by iconic artist Googoosh, “Soroode Zan” from popular singer Mehdi Yarrahi, and a song that translates to “Freedom Anthem” by a collective calling themselves Ethnic Musicians.

The playlist also includes diasporic Iranian artists, including Rana Mansour, Snoh Aalegra, and Iranian-Dutch singer Sevdaliza, who has released a number of songs in support of the ongoing revolution in Iran.


ChatGPT maker fields tool for spotting AI-written text

ChatGPT maker fields tool for spotting AI-written text
Updated 01 February 2023

ChatGPT maker fields tool for spotting AI-written text

ChatGPT maker fields tool for spotting AI-written text
  • But the company said the detection tool is still "imperfect"

SAN FRANCISCO: Creators of a ChatGPT bot causing a stir for its ability to mimic human writing on Tuesday released a tool designed to detect when written works are authored by artificial intelligence.
The announcement came amid intense debate at schools and universities in the United States and around the world over concerns that the software can be used to assist students with assignments and help them cheat during exams.
US-based OpenAI said in a blog post Tuesday that its detection tool has been trained “to distinguish between text written by a human and text written by AIs from a variety of providers.”
The bot from OpenAI, which recently received a massive cash injection from Microsoft, responds to simple prompts with reams of text inspired by data gathered on the Internet.
OpenAI cautioned that its tool can make mistakes, particularly with texts containing fewer than 1,000 characters.
“While it is impossible to reliably detect all AI-written text, we believe good classifiers can inform mitigations for false claims that AI-generated text was written by a human,” OpenAI said in the post.
“For example, running automated misinformation campaigns, using AI tools for academic dishonesty, and positioning an AI chatbot as a human.”
A top French university last week forbade students from using ChatGPT to complete assignments, in the first such ban at a college in the country.
The decision came shortly after word that ChatGPT had passed exams at a US law school after writing essays on topics ranging from constitutional law to taxation.
ChatGPT still makes factual mistakes, but education facilities have rushed to ban the AI tool.
“We recognize that identifying AI-written text has been an important point of discussion among educators, and equally important is recognizing the limits and impacts of AI generated text classifiers in the classroom,” OpenAI said in the post.
“We are engaging with educators in the US to learn what they are seeing in their classrooms and to discuss ChatGPT’s capabilities and limitations.”
Officials in New York and other jurisdictions have forbidden its use in schools.
A group of Australian universities have said they would change exam formats to banish AI tools and regard them as cheating.
OpenAI said it recommends using the classifier only with English text as it performs worse in other languages.


Tech giants in Europe could pay for 5G, fiber networks under fresh EU plans

Tech giants in Europe could pay for 5G, fiber networks under fresh EU plans
Updated 31 January 2023

Tech giants in Europe could pay for 5G, fiber networks under fresh EU plans

Tech giants in Europe could pay for 5G, fiber networks under fresh EU plans
  • Proposal aims to offset costs of data-heavy companies including Google, Netflix
  • But ‘fair share’ vision could threaten net neutrality, civil society groups warn

LONDON: ‘Data-heavy’ tech companies in Europe recording high levels of internet data traffic could be required to contribute to telecom infrastructure costs under new EU plans, sources said on Monday.

Under the proposal, companies including Netflix and Google will be required “to help pay for the next generation of internet infrastructure” across the continent.

The initiative to charge companies over their bandwidth usage — data transfer measured in bits per second — is part of the “fair share” vision being pursued by the EU.

“Fair share,” also known as the sender-pays principle, is based on the argument advanced by leading European telecom carriers that online platforms fail to contribute to network expenses while benefiting from the digital economy.

A draft document suggested that tech firms might contribute to a fund to offset the costs of building 5G mobile networks and fiber infrastructure, as well as take part in the creation of a mandatory system of direct payments to telecom operators.

The European Commission, which is developing the proposal with industry players, is reportedly floating a “threshold” proposal that would help identify companies that generate large amounts of data traffic, similar to the concept of “gatekeeper” companies introduced as part of the Digital Markets Act.

According to a European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association study, a small number of internet companies — including Google, Apple, Meta, Microsoft and Netflix — account for more than 56 percent of global data traffic.

The proposal to force tech giants to contribute to telecom costs was first brought forward in May 2022 but was met with skepticism by some members of the EC, who called for broad consultations with relevant stakeholders.

Tech companies and civil society organizations have also expressed alarm about the move, warning that it might jeopardize net neutrality, which promotes the democratization of the internet and freedom for individual users.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen said in December that the EU “intends to launch a thorough discussion on the future of Europe’s connectivity infrastructure,” adding: “The amount of data exchanged and harvested is larger than ever and will increase.”

EU lawmakers are aiming to move ahead of the curve with legislation focusing on the growth of the data-intensive metaverse and virtual worlds.