Fake news or free expression: Top CEO Conference panel examines the hazards of digital media age

Fake news or free expression: Top CEO Conference panel examines the hazards of digital media age
“There is no end to fake news but we must continue to battle it,”  Arab News editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abas said during a panel discussion at the Top CEO Forum in Dubai on May 17. (AN photo)
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Updated 19 May 2022

Fake news or free expression: Top CEO Conference panel examines the hazards of digital media age

Fake news or free expression: Top CEO Conference panel examines the hazards of digital media age
  • Top CEO Conference panel explores the case for digital media regulation to fight misinformation 
  • Examples of truth-telling and conspiracy theories show social media can be a double-edged sword

DUBAI: Fake news, a term popularized by former US President Donald Trump to berate sections of the media, is viewed by many in civil society and the business community as one of the most harmful phenomena of the digital age.

There are several recent examples of misinformation, or indeed deliberate disinformation, published online and then amplified by social media, having real-world consequences, from stirring up ethnic tensions to undermining public health initiatives. 

Take, for instance, the case of Edgar Welch, a 28-year-old father of two from Salisbury, North Carolina, who in December 2016 read an article online about an alleged elite pedophile ring operating out of a pizzeria in Washington D.C.

“Pizzagate,” as it became known, was a far-right conspiracy theory, which sought to connect several high-ranking Democratic Party officials with an alleged human trafficking and child sex ring linked to a restaurant named Comet Ping Pong.

After reading the article, Welch picked up a gun and drove the full six hours from his home to Washington D.C. where he opened fire on the restaurant. No one was injured in the attack, and the allegations have since been thoroughly debunked. 

Compare this example with the footage that emerged on May 13 of Israeli security forces attacking Palestinian pallbearers carrying the coffin of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead two days earlier. 

Thanks to video captured by witnesses on their smartphones and shared on social media, the whole world was able to bear witness to this shocking incident instantaneously, spurring world leaders to condemn the funeral assault.  

During a panel discussion at the Top CEO Conference in Dubai on May 17, both of these incidents were raised as examples of the tremendous power of social media as a means, on the one hand, of spreading misinformation, and, on the other, of exposing the truth. 

It is because of the positive traits of social media as a weapon of truth that media outlets and civil society are cautious about onerous government regulation of these platforms, which might undermine freedom of expression.

“Nobody is against freedom, but we should also be against chaos,” Faisal J. Abbas, the editor-in-chief of Arab News, told Tuesday’s panel. 

“We are talking about billions of people, billions of posts, it is physically impossible to monitor everything and by the time they get to it, the damage would most probably have been done.  

“If you remember from 2016 the fake story which was spreading on Facebook and other platforms about the pizzeria that had a child abuse ring, and somebody took a gun and went and shot up the place.

“The story got more views than the rebuttals. The more crazy the news, the more content it creates, the more websites like Facebook get traction,” Abbas said. 

“There is no end to fake news but we must continue to battle it.”  

Indeed, the digital transformation, which has revolutionized the sharing of information in just a matter of years, has left regulators and companies fighting to keep up with some of its more damaging manifestations.

Hussein Freijeh, general manager of Snap Inc. MENA, who also participated in Tuesday’s panel, said that the efforts of governments to regulate online platforms should not “take away the responsibility of the tech platforms” to tackle fake news.

“When we talk about regulations, there is a component of thoughtful regulation with the government, and we want to engage in that, and help the government to come up with what that means,” Freijeh told Arab News on the sidelines of Tuesday’s forum. 

“Then there is self-regulation, or platform regulation. And this is our responsibility and how we deal with product design, and how to do the policy to control that. 

“And then (there is) self-responsibility from (content) creators and the community, and that is an educational process. It requires a lot of technology to allow self-regulation, and it is a process that we have to commit to.” 

While fake news was in no way created by social media, the sheer speed and accessibility these networks provide means that harmful and malicious behavior now has a greater reach than ever before. 

“Social media gave people freedom,” Khaled Janahi, chairman of Vision 3, told Tuesday’s panel. But, he warned, people need to use it correctly.  

In separate comments to Arab News, Thomas Hughes, executive director of Meta’s oversight board, said that social media companies have a role to play in combating fake news. 

“Content moderation policies have to be crafted in a way that reflects the kinds of standards we want to set globally,” he said. 

“As the (oversight) board cannot hear every appeal, when we select cases, we are thinking about what kind of precedent our decision might create, and we prioritize cases that have the potential to affect lots of users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse or raise important questions about Meta’s policies.” 

He added that the Oversight Board for Meta — formerly known as Facebook — has already issued more than 100 recommendations and that Meta has committed to implementing the majority of them. 

But conflicts like those raging in Ukraine and Ethiopia, according to Hughes, add fuel to the fire of fake news. 

Conflict and instability “unfortunately, go hand in hand with rises in mis- and disinformation — although this issue is very much global,” he told Arab News.

Journalists can play a key role in tackling fake news, according to Hughes, which is why many of Meta’s board members have worked in the traditional media in the past. 

“They feel passionately about these issues and about ensuring that more is done to protect journalists and free speech, while also working to protect people from harm.”


Turkey blocks access to Deutsche Welle and Voice of America

Turkey blocks access to Deutsche Welle and Voice of America
Updated 01 July 2022

Turkey blocks access to Deutsche Welle and Voice of America

Turkey blocks access to Deutsche Welle and Voice of America
  • An Ankara court ruled to restrict access to their websites late Thursday
  • Deutsche Welle said it did not comply with the licensing requirement because it “would have allowed the Turkish government to censor editorial content”

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s media watchdog has banned access to the Turkish services of US public service broadcaster Voice of America and German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, prompting complaints of censorship.
The Supreme Board of Radio and Television enforced a February warning to the two companies which air Turkish-language television content online to apply for a broadcast license or be blocked. An Ankara court ruled to restrict access to their websites late Thursday.
Neither website was available in Turkey on Friday. Deutsche Welle is German taxpayer-funded and Voice of America is funded by the US government through the US Agency for Global Media.
In a statement, Deutsche Welle said it did not comply with the licensing requirement because it “would have allowed the Turkish government to censor editorial content.”
Director general Peter Limbourg said this was explained in detail to the Turkish radio and TV board, abbreviated as RTUK.
“For example, media licensed in Turkey are required to delete online content that RTUK interprets as inappropriate. This is simply unacceptable for an independent broadcaster. DW will take legal action against the blocking that has now taken place,” Limbourg said.
The German government said it took note of the reports “with regret.”
“Our concern about the state of freedom of opinion and the press in Turkey continues,” government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said, adding that Germany is in a “regular, critical exchange” with Turkey on the issue.
Asked whether the German government can intervene in this case, Hebestreit noted that Deutsche Welle has said it plans to take legal action “and we have to wait for that.”
RTUK dismissed any criticism in a statement on its website Friday, saying that “no one needs to have uncertainties on the freedom of expression or press, worry unnecessarily or incriminate our Supreme Board that is doing its duties based on legal grounds.”
The RTUK statement added that had the media organizations “acted in line with regulations,” there wouldn’t have been access bans. It also promised to request from the court that the restrictions be revoked if the websites launch companies in Turkey and get licensed.
But Ilhan Tasci, a RTUK member from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party, said he opposed the move to block the two foreign broadcasters. “Here is press freedom and advanced democracy,” he tweeted sarcastically.
The RTUK board is dominated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party and its nationalist allies, and regularly fines critical broadcasters.
Thursday’s move is based on an August 2019 regulation that says the RTUK would give 72-hour advance notice to unlicensed online media regarding when they had to apply and pay three months of licensing fees. Failure to do so could result in legal action against a media organization’s executives and access restrictions.
In February, RTUK said it identified three websites without broadcast licenses, which also included the Turkish services of Euronews. But Euronews said it argued that it did not broadcast live in Turkish or air visual bulletins and was therefore exempt from the licensing requirements.
The Journalists’ Union of Turkey called the decision censorship. “Give up on trying to ban everything you don’t like, this society wants freedom,” it tweeted.
Voice of America noted in February that while licensing for TV and radio broadcasts is a norm because broadcast airwaves are finite resources, the Internet does not have limited bandwidth. “The only possible purpose of a licensing requirement for Internet distribution is enabling censorship,” VOA said in a statement then.
State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted when the licensing regulation emerged in February that the US was concerned with RTUK’s “decision to expand government control over free press outlets.”
In response, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic noted that the US required Turkey’s state English-language broadcaster, TRT World, to register as a foreign agent under a law intended for lobbyists and public relations firms working for foreign governments. TRT said it was newsgathering and reporting like any other international media but had to register as a foreign agent in 2020.
“TRT abides by relevant regulations for its activities in the US Is that censorship? We expect the same from @VoATurkish and others,” Bilgic tweeted.
Turkey was rated “Not Free” for 2021 on the Freedom of the Net index by Freedom House. Hundreds of thousands of domains and web addresses have been blocked.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey at 149 out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index, saying “all possible means are used to undermine critics,” including stripping journalists of press cards, online censorship, lawsuits and arrests.


Amazon to allow Prime users to unsubscribe in two clicks after EU complaints

Amazon to allow Prime users to unsubscribe in two clicks after EU complaints
Updated 01 July 2022

Amazon to allow Prime users to unsubscribe in two clicks after EU complaints

Amazon to allow Prime users to unsubscribe in two clicks after EU complaints

BRUSSELS: US online retail giant Amazon has made it easier for users to cancel their subscriptions to its fast shipping club Prime with just two clicks, following complaints from consumer groups, the European Commission said on Friday.
European Consumer Organization (BEUC), the Norwegian Consumer Council and the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue took their grievances to the EU executive in April last year.
They said users had to go through numerous hurdles such as complicated navigation menus, skewed wording and confusing choices, to unsubscribe from Amazon Prime.
The company will now allow users to unsubscribe from Amazon Prime with two clicks via a prominent and clear ‘cancel button’, the Commission said.
The changes will apply to all EU websites and for desktop devices, mobiles and tablets with immediate effect.
“Consumers must be able to exercise their rights without any pressure from platforms. One thing is clear: manipulative design or ‘dark patterns’ must be banned,” Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said in a statement.


Media watchdog sounds alarm over Burkina journalist

Media watchdog sounds alarm over Burkina journalist
Updated 01 July 2022

Media watchdog sounds alarm over Burkina journalist

Media watchdog sounds alarm over Burkina journalist
  • Media watchdog calls on authorities in Burkina Faso to act after one of the country’s most prominent journalists received death threats
  • Thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million displaced in the past seven years

OUAGADOUGOU: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on authorities in Burkina Faso to act after one of the country’s most prominent journalists received death threats.
Ahmed Newton Barry, a former TV president and ex-editor of L’Evenement newspaper who now works as a current affairs commentator, was targeted in an audio clip circulating among WhatsApp groups, the watchdog said late Thursday.
The speaker in the clip identifies Barry by name, describes him as a “terrorist” and says a hundred people would assault his home.
“We are going to set fire to it and then destroy everything and collect the rubble that is piled up and leave the ground vacant,” the clip says, according to the CPJ.
Barry told the CPJ the threat may be related to comments he made on a TV program in which he described the Malian government as working with Russian mercenaries.
Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator in Johannesburg, urged the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation and ensure Barry’s safety.
“The security of journalists in Burkina Faso is tenuous enough without their having to worry about a mob being provoked to attack their homes,” she said.
Local press associations have also condemned the threats and urged the country’s junta-dominated authorities to investigate.
One of the world’s poorest countries, Burkina Faso is in the grip of a nearly seven-year-old crisis sparked by jihadist raiders crossing from neighboring Mali.
Thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million displaced.


Serie A reaches TV rights deal with Abu Dhabi Media

Serie A reaches TV rights deal with Abu Dhabi Media
Updated 01 July 2022

Serie A reaches TV rights deal with Abu Dhabi Media

Serie A reaches TV rights deal with Abu Dhabi Media
  • For the next three seasons, Abu Dhabi Media, an Emirati public body, has been awarded the rights for a minimum total amount of $79 million
  • In the absence of a satisfactory offer in its call for tenders last year, the Italian League had developed its own Youtube channel in Arabic

ROME: Serie A on Thursday accepted the offer of TV platform Abu Dhabi Media to broadcast the Italian league in the Middle East and North Africa after more than a year without a broadcaster in this region.
For the next three seasons, Abu Dhabi Media, an Emirati public body, has been awarded the rights for a minimum total amount of $79 million, the Italian League announced.
To this guaranteed minimum income may be added any additional revenue linked to the number of subscribers that Italian football will generate on the platform, a spokesperson for Serie A told AFP.
In the absence of a satisfactory offer in its call for tenders last year, the Italian League had developed its own Youtube channel in Arabic to offer matches free of charge.


Twitter launches branded likes in Saudi Arabia

Twitter launches branded likes in Saudi Arabia
Updated 30 June 2022

Twitter launches branded likes in Saudi Arabia

Twitter launches branded likes in Saudi Arabia
  • Custom animation encourages users to like, unlike and relike a tweet

DUBAI: Twitter is rolling out its new “branded likes” feature across the US, Britain, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Branded likes are essentially custom animations for the like button on a tweet that brands can pay for.

 

 

The feature is available as an add-on to Twitter’s Timeline Takeover offering, which ensures a brand’s ad is the first ad to appear when someone opens Twitter for the first time on a given day.

Advertisers can select a hashtag — and up to 10 translations of that hashtag. Twitter then works with its creative partner Bare Tree Media for the US, Britain and Saudi Arabia to create custom artwork for the campaign.

When a user taps the like button on any tweet containing the pre-selected hashtag, the custom branded like animation will appear.

Branded likes have been in testing for nearly two years with testers including brands such as Disney, Paramount Pictures, Tesco, NASA and the NBA.

 

 

 

https://twitter.com/disneyplus/status/1289092933598081025?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw 

 

Disney+ was the first brand to pay for the feature as part of the beta test, reported AdAge. The streaming platform used it to promote the premiere of “Black Is King,” Beyoncé’s highly anticipated visual album inspired by “The Lion King.”

The tweet has over 113,000 likes and more than 10,000 retweets. 

 

 

During testing, branded likes generated a positive impact when paired with the Timeline Takeover feature, resulting in a 277 percent lift in recall, and 202 percent lift in purchase and consideration intent.

Branded likes are well received by consumers too, with two-thirds of people finding them “appealing,” according to Twitter Insiders research.

It is unclear at this time when the branded likes feature will launch in other countries.