Meta no longer requiring COVID booster shots for staff in US offices

Meta will no longer be requiring COVID booster shots for US staff. (File/AFP)
Meta will no longer be requiring COVID booster shots for US staff. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 April 2022

Meta no longer requiring COVID booster shots for staff in US offices

Meta will no longer be requiring COVID booster shots for US staff. (File/AFP)

LONDON: Facebook-owner Meta is no longer requiring employees to have COVID-19 boosters to enter its offices in the United States, a company spokesperson said on Friday.
The social media company previously said that all workers returning to the office would have to present proof of their booster jabs, while the company monitored the omicron variant situation.
“We updated our requirements in early March to align with CDC guidance, and now COVID-19 boosters are no longer required for entry, though strongly recommended. The primary vaccination requirement (1- or 2-shot series) remains in place,” said Meta spokesperson Tracy Clayton.


TikTok rolls out new account enforcement system to address repeated policy violations

TikTok rolls out new account enforcement system to address repeated policy violations
Updated 15 sec ago

TikTok rolls out new account enforcement system to address repeated policy violations

TikTok rolls out new account enforcement system to address repeated policy violations
  • The new update allows TikTok to remove harmful accounts more efficiently
  • TikTik will notify its community members when the new system is available

DUBAI: TikTok announced an updated system for account enforcement for a smoother content creation experience on the entertainment platform.

The move aims to better act against those who repeatedly violate the policies, helping TikTok to remove harmful accounts more efficiently, while promoting a clearer and more consistent experience for most creators who want to follow policies, the company said in a statement.

The updated account enforcement system is currently rolling out globally, and TikTok said it would notify all community members as the new system becomes available to them.

The existing account enforcement system leverages different types of restrictions, like temporary bans from posting or commenting, to prevent abuse of product features while teaching people about the policies detailed in TikTok’s community guidelines to reduce future violations.

While this approach has been effective in reducing harmful content overall, TikTok heard from creators that it can be confusing to navigate. It can disproportionately impact creators who rarely and unknowingly violate a policy, while potentially being less efficient at deterring those who repeatedly violate them.

Repeat violators, according to TikTok, tend to follow a pattern. Analysis has found that almost 90 percent violate using the same feature consistently, and over 75 percent violate the same policy category repeatedly.

To better address this, TikTok is updating the account enforcement system to support the creator community and remove repeat offenders from the platform.

Under the new system, if someone posts content that violates one of TikTok’s community guidelines, the account will accrue a strike as the content is removed. If an account meets the threshold of strikes within either a product feature (i.e. comments, LIVE) or policy (i.e. bullying and harassment), it will be permanently banned.

Those policy thresholds can vary depending on a violation’s potential to cause harm to community members. For example, there may be a stricter threshold for violating TikTok policy against promoting hateful ideologies, than for sharing low-harm spam.

TikTok will continue to issue permanent bans on the first strike for severe violations, including promoting or threatening violence, showing or facilitating child sexual abuse material, or showing real-world violence or torture.

As an additional safeguard, accounts that accrue a high number of cumulative strikes across policies and features will also be permanently banned. Strikes will expire from an account’s record after 90 days.

The company said in its statement that these changes are intended to drive more transparency around TikTok’s enforcement decisions and help the community better understand how to follow the community guidelines.

To further support creators, TikTok will roll out new features in the Safety Center provided to creators in-app in the coming weeks. These include an “account status” page where creators can easily view the standing of their account, and a “report records” page where creators can see the status of reports they have made on other content or accounts.

These new tools add to the notifications creators already receive if they have violated policies, and support creators’ ability to appeal enforcements and have strikes removed if valid. TikTok will also begin notifying creators if they are on the verge of having their account permanently removed.

As a separate step toward improving transparency about moderation practices at the content level, TikTok is beginning to test a new feature in some markets that would provide creators with information about which of their videos have been marked as ineligible for recommendation to the “For You” feed, let them know why, and give them the opportunity to appeal.


Big Tech earnings show digital ads market not out of the woods

Big Tech earnings show digital ads market not out of the woods
Updated 7 min 29 sec ago

Big Tech earnings show digital ads market not out of the woods

Big Tech earnings show digital ads market not out of the woods
  • Mood among advertisers remains ‘cautiously optimistic’ for the year ahead as economic slowdown looms

LONDON: After a challenging 2022 in which advertising-dependent companies faced shrinking budgets and cratering stock prices, fourth-quarter results this week from Alphabet, Meta Platforms and Snap showed they were not yet in the clear.
The health of the advertising industry closely mirrors the economy, and many advertisers have pared back their marketing budgets in response to record-high inflation rates and continued uncertainty about a recession.
Google-owner Alphabet Inc. on Thursday reported a slight fall in quarterly ad revenue, missing Wall Street expectations and surprising investors as the world’s largest digital ad platform has traditionally been resilient compared to smaller rivals. Shares of Alphabet were down 5 percent in trading after the closing bell.
“For a company the size of Google and as influential as Google to have such disappointing results, (that means the ad industry) won’t turn around in one quarter,” said Evelyn Mitchell, an analyst at Insider Intelligence.
Snap Inc, owner of photo messaging app Snapchat, said Tuesday it expects current-quarter revenue to decline as much as 10 percent due to competition for ad dollars and a challenging economy.
“(Advertisers) are managing their spend very cautiously so they can react quickly to any changes in the environment,” Snap Chief Executive Evan Spiegel said during an earnings call.
Meta Platforms Inc, the second-largest digital ad platform, lifted Wall Street on Wednesday with its cost cuts and big share buyback, though it posted its third consecutive quarter of year-over-year revenue decline.
Lower ad spending from brands in the financial services and technology sector was one reason for the revenue decline, the company said.
Meta Chief Financial Officer Susan Li said the broader economy continues to be “pretty volatile” and it was too early to tell what the year would look like.
The mood among advertisers broadly is one of “cautious optimism” for the year ahead, said Nicola Mendelsohn, Meta’s vice president of global business group, in an interview on Thursday.
By region, advertisers have been bullish about the US market, while sentiment in Europe has struggled comparatively and China has shown signs of improvement, though the future remains uncertain amid the country’s reopening, Mendelsohn said.


Meta accused of playing double game on data scraping

Meta accused of playing double game on data scraping
Updated 02 February 2023

Meta accused of playing double game on data scraping

Meta accused of playing double game on data scraping
  • Tech giant filed lawsuit against data collection company it collaborated with for years
  • Evidence shows Meta hired firm to pull information from a number of e-commerce sites

LONDON: Meta is accused of playing a double game on scraping, with the tech giant criticized for having scraped data for years while denouncing the practice.

According to evidence that surfaced from a legal case being pursued by the company, the tech giant has been subcontracting a company for years to scrape data from other websites, despite publicly criticizing the practice and suing companies that scrape data from its own social media platforms.

In an ironic twist, Meta filed a lawsuit against Israel-based data collection company Bright Data for allegedly pulling data from its platforms, but a series of emails between the two businesses reveals that Meta has worked with the Israeli firm for years.

The professional relationship was confirmed by Meta spokesperson Andy Stone, who said that the social media giant had hired Bright Data to pull information from a number of e-commerce sites in order to build brand profiles, as well as identify “harmful websites” and “phishing operations.”

“The collection of data from websites can serve legitimate integrity and commercial purposes, if done lawfully and in accordance with those websites’ terms,” said Stone.

He said that Meta was not using Bright Data to scrape rivals’ websites, but declined to specify what websites users’ data were pulled from.

Stone added that Meta interrupted its partnership with Bright Data after it found that the Israeli company breached terms and conditions for carrying out the practice on Meta’s own platforms.

“Many companies scrape websites to retrieve data that can help them keep track of competitors, better understand a specific audience, follow market trends and compare prices,” tech expert and writer Marissa Newman said.

“However, scraping can pose a privacy risk when it targets personal information, such as contact details, and runs foul of EU law if companies do not make an effort to prevent that through technical and legal means.”

In recent years, Meta has cracked down on scraping practices and pursued legal action against companies that carry out scraping-for-hire services on its platform.

Earlier in January, Meta filed a claim against surveillance company Voyage Lab, claiming it allegedly created more than 38,000 accounts to collect data from over 600,000 Facebook users.

Bright Data CEO Or Lenchner said the two companies had a “long-lasting successful partnership,” adding that Meta “has long been a valued client of our proxy and scraping services for six years.”

The Israeli data collection company decided to file a countersuit, claiming that it followed EU and US regulations, and acquired only public information that was not password-protected.


OpenAI launches ChatGPT $20-a-month subscription service

OpenAI launches ChatGPT $20-a-month subscription service
Updated 02 February 2023

OpenAI launches ChatGPT $20-a-month subscription service

OpenAI launches ChatGPT $20-a-month subscription service
  • Paid model will help subsidies-free version
  • ChatGPT is fastest-growing consumer application in history

LONDON: ChatGPT parent company OpenAI announced on Wednesday it is launching a pilot subscription plan for its popular AI-powered chatbot, called ChatGPT Plus, for $20 per month.

As part of the premium plan, subscribers will receive access to ChatGPT even during peak times, faster responses, and priority access to new features and improvements.

The company said that the pilot version will initially be rolled out to a limited number of users on the waiting list but said it is planning to make the service available to the wider public in the near future.

The new subscription-based model will help to support the free version, the company said in a blog post.

Experts estimate that the AI-powered chatbot, which is capable of generating human-like text and interaction-style conversations, costs OpenAI at least $100,000 per day or $3 million per month to run.

Since its launch in early December, ChatGPT has become a global phenomenon, attracting the attention of millions of users seeking to experiment with the technology.

On Wednesday, a UBS study reported that the service reached an estimated 100 million monthly active users in January, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history.

Besides the enthusiasm, the tool has also raised concerns and dilemmas including ethical challenges, copyright ownership, underlying prejudice and the question of authenticity.

In particular, ChatGPT has also raised questions about the facilitation of academic dishonesty and misinformation, prompting universities around the world to forbid students from using the tool to complete assignments and exams.

To address the issue, OpenAI released on Tuesday an “imperfect” tool designed to detect when written works are authored by artificial intelligence.


The Kingdom vs Captagon: Arab News investigates war on drug in latest Deep Dive

The Kingdom vs Captagon: Arab News investigates war on drug in latest Deep Dive
Updated 02 February 2023

The Kingdom vs Captagon: Arab News investigates war on drug in latest Deep Dive

The Kingdom vs Captagon: Arab News investigates war on drug in latest Deep Dive

RIYADH: The rogue Assad regime in Syria and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon are the primary source of a potent and toxic drug that is destroying lives across the region, an Arab News investigation has revealed.

The 14-month investigation — “The Kingdom vs Captagon — was carried out by the Arab News Research and Studies Unit, whose team conducted exhaustive research, interviews and information gathering in Beirut, Jeddah, Makkah and Syrian Kurdistan.

Recognizable by the distinctive twin half-moons logo, which gives the drug its Arabic street name Abu Hilalain,or Father of the Two Crescents, Captagon pills are easy to make, readily available and cheap to buy.

“While Captagon is known widely across the region, the outside world is still only coming across its notoriety and persistent dangers to children and families,” said Tarek Ali Ahmad, head of the Research and Studies Unit.“As journalists, it is our duty to raise awareness and uncover the truth behind what is happening.”

Mohammed Al-Sulami, Arab News’s regional manager in Saudi Arabia, said: “The drug smuggling operations the Kingdom is facing, and the targeting of its youth, are not novel. This war started a long time ago, and the Saudi government has been ferociously fighting and harnessing all capabilities to protect its citizens.

“The continuous seizure of large quantities of Captagon is not only evidence that the country is being targeted,but is also testimony to the immense efforts of the competent authorities, who have been relentlessly tracking and capturing smugglers and dealers.”

The Kingdom vs Captagon
Inside Saudi Arabia's war against the drug destroying lives across the Arab world
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