WEF 2022: YouTube CEO discusses Russia, recession and misinformation

WEF 2022: YouTube CEO discusses Russia, recession and misinformation
Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube.
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Updated 24 May 2022

WEF 2022: YouTube CEO discusses Russia, recession and misinformation

WEF 2022: YouTube CEO discusses Russia, recession and misinformation
  • ‘During downturns is when we get better at what we do,’ Susan Wojcicki tells Davos audience
  • Although Russia has not suspended YouTube, it has its own version of the video-sharing platform, RUTUBE

DAVOS: “During downturns is when we get better at what we do,” Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, told the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier today.
Seventy-five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs expect the next recession to begin by the end of 2023, according to a Fortune 500 survey. Wojcicki, who was Google’s 16th employee, has lived through two recessions during her time at the company.
And although there are “concerning macros trends” such as the war in Ukraine and inflation in the US, she said with regard to Google’s and YouTube’s business: “We have always tried to take a long-term point of view and we see tremendous growth across the board.”
The war in Ukraine marks a significant moment for YouTube, which is still operating in Russia, unlike other social media platforms. “As soon as the war broke out, we realized this was an incredibly important time for us to get it right with regard to our responsibility, and we made a number of really, really tough decisions,” Wojcicki said.
The reason for YouTube continuing to operate in Russia, said Wojcicki, is the platform’s ability — and responsibility — to “deliver independent news into Russia,” so that the average Russian citizen has the same free access to information as anybody else anywhere else in the world.
Although Russia has not suspended YouTube, it has its own version of the video-sharing platform, RUTUBE. Wojcicki is not concerned about RUTUBE specifically, but she said that “video is a very competitive emerging market right now and I expect us to continue to see more players,” especially out of Asia.
TikTok’s growth story, for instance, is worth mentioning. “We definitely are seeing really strong competition coming out of China, particularly with TikTok,” Wojcicki said.
TikTok’s rise to popularity was largely fueled by its short-form content format, which enticed both viewers and creators. Although YouTube now features longer videos, it was a short-form video platform in its early days when the only other form of video was traditional TV. In fact, the first-ever video uploaded to YouTube was only 18 seconds long.
Today, YouTube is investing more and more in short-form content with the launch of YouTube Shorts. “I expect to see a lot of competition there,” said Wojcicki of short-form video platforms, adding that such content “is probably the fastest part of the market right now.”
The conversation would not have been complete without talking about misinformation. YouTube has made worthy investments and improvements in battling misinformation through new policies and frameworks. According to a study by the company, the amount of violative content that is not caught by YouTube is down to 10-12 videos per 100,000 views.
“That number has come down significantly and our plan is to continue to work on it and make sure that we continue to reduce that,” Wojcicki said.

Egyptian judge detained in suspected murder of anchorwoman wife Shaima Jamal

Egyptian judge detained in suspected murder of anchorwoman wife Shaima Jamal
Updated 23 sec ago

Egyptian judge detained in suspected murder of anchorwoman wife Shaima Jamal

Egyptian judge detained in suspected murder of anchorwoman wife Shaima Jamal
  • 32-year-old TV presenter was found shot dead and buried in a villa
  • Husband of deceased reported to local authorities his wife went missing over a week ago

DUBAI: Egyptian prosecutors have arrested a judge over his alleged involvement in killing his 32-year-old wife, TV anchor Shaima Jamal, and burying her in a villa in Al-Mansouria area, local media has reported.
Reports said Al-Geeza authorities found Jamal’s body buried under a villa farm on Monday after she had been reported missing by her husband over a week ago.
It was said that the husband alleged in his missing person’s report that she had last been seen in a commercial complex in the 6th of October area.
In a three-minute video posted on Al-Hadath Twitter page, renowned broadcaster Amro Adib said that Jamal entered a coiffeur shop and never left.
After being missing for nearly a week, Egyptian authorities found her shot dead and buried in a villa farm in Al-Geeza province.
Local media said prosecutors’ investigations alleged that her husband was involved in her murder following marital disputes.
It was also reported that a witness testified before prosecutors that he had close ties with the husband and “was aware that the husband was allegedly involved in the murder over marital disputes since he witnessed the circumstances and knows where she was buried.”
Prosecutors summoned some of Jamal’s family members, who testified that she “vanished while she was with her husband.”
Due to his work as a judge, which grants him immunity, prosecutors obtained special permission to question the husband and issued an arrest warrant.
Egyptian authorities did not release any details on how the murder happened despite unsubstantiated rumors circulating on social media that her body was subject to alleged abuse and disfigurement after she was shot. It has only been confirmed that the investigation is ongoing.
Prosecutors said they gathered evidence that corroborated the witness account pertaining to the body’s whereabouts.
Crime scene investigators and prosecutors accompanied the witness and a forensic examiner to the villa where Jamal’s body was found buried. The witness admitted that he collaborated in the crime before he was detained.
Born in 1980, Jamal presented several TV shows, the most famous of which was “Al-Mushaghiba” on LTC satellite channel. She was suspended in 2017 for allegedly using heroin during a live episode about drug addiction before later clarifying that it was “soft sugar powder that she took for acting purposes and not heroin.” She was then nicknamed the “Heroin Anchor.”
She also worked for Egypt’s Al-Hadath Al-Youm.

Disney cancels exclusive Disney+ streaming deal with Israel’s YES

Disney cancels exclusive Disney+ streaming deal with Israel’s YES
Updated 2 min 13 sec ago

Disney cancels exclusive Disney+ streaming deal with Israel’s YES

Disney cancels exclusive Disney+ streaming deal with Israel’s YES

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Competition Authority said on Tuesday it closed a case against Walt Disney and Bezeq Israel Telecom’s satellite TV unit YES after the companies agreed to cancel an exclusive streaming deal.
Disney Israel launched its Disney+ streaming service in Israel earlier this month and it had forged an exclusive deal with YES to offer the service rather than make deals as well with cable company HOT and Internet-based TV operators.
The companies had applied for permission from the Competition Authority, which looked into the matter.
The agency said that on Monday, the companies withdrew their request for exclusivity.
“Disney has made it clear to the Commissioner that it is free to negotiate and enter into any agreement regarding the distribution of Disney+ broadcasts with competitors of YES,” the authority said.

Arrest of Muslim journalist sparks widespread outrage in India

Arrest of Muslim journalist sparks widespread outrage in India
Updated 44 min 43 sec ago

Arrest of Muslim journalist sparks widespread outrage in India

Arrest of Muslim journalist sparks widespread outrage in India
  • Mohammed Zubair is one of the co-founders of fact-checking website Alt News
  • Reporters in the Asian nation have been increasingly targeted in recent years

NEW DELHI: The arrest of a Muslim reporter who was one of the first to highlight controversial comments on Islam by an official from India’s ruling party, sparked nationwide outrage among media workers on Tuesday, with journalists calling for his immediate release.

One of the co-founders of fact-checking website Alt News, Mohammed Zubair drew attention to controversial comments made by the now-suspended spokesperson of India’s ruling party on the Prophet Muhammad that earlier this month created a diplomatic row for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration.

He was arrested by New Delhi police on Monday evening on charges of posting pictures on social media “against a particular religious community.” The arrest followed a complaint by a Twitter user over Zubair’s post from 2018, in which he commented on the renaming of a hotel after the Hindu monkey deity Hanuman. The arrest coincided with Modi signing, with leaders of the G7 in Germany, the 2022 Resilient Democracies Statement on protecting freedom of expression and opinion.

“(The) foundation of democracy is in danger today. We are concerned about the state of freedom of (the) press in India. Any attack on the press is an attack on democracy,” Umakant Lakhera, president of the Press Club of India, told Arab News, after the top association of Indian journalists demanded Zubair’s immediate release.

“Democracy cannot survive without the freedom of (the) press,” Lakhera said. The Editors Guild of India also issued a statement condemning the arrest.

“I don’t know whether this arrest should be seen as an attempt to control dissenting voices. The people who run the government have a different view of news — they want stenographers who unquestioningly write what’s told to them,” the guild’s secretary general, Sanjay Kapoor, said.

“Fact checking hurts the ecosystem that uses disinformation to undermine the credibility of the media and those who disagree with the state.”

Journalists in India have been increasingly targeted for their work in recent years. Some have been arrested under stringent criminal charges over posts on social media. The Twitter accounts of some of them have also been suspended on government orders.

The country’s position on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders has been consistently declining since Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014.

In 2022, it has fallen to 150 out of 180 countries.

Indian journalist, television anchor, and senior political commentator Urmilesh told Arab News that Zubair’s arrest is a “continuation of the government’s assault on media that has been going on for the last eight years.”

“This was not the trend earlier in India,” he said. “It has become quite risky in India to be critical. You are not safe if you are the critic of the government. You can be arrested any time. True journalists who practice their journalism honestly, are under threat in India today.”

Meta’s Oversight Board issued 20 decisions in its first year. Is that enough?

An aerial view shows a newly unveiled logo for
An aerial view shows a newly unveiled logo for "Meta" in front of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on October 28, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 28 June 2022

Meta’s Oversight Board issued 20 decisions in its first year. Is that enough?

An aerial view shows a newly unveiled logo for "Meta" in front of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on October 28, 2021. (AFP)
  • The first annual report from the independent review body, which is funded by Meta, explains the reasoning behind its 20 rulings and the 86 recommendations it has made

DUBAI: Meta’s Oversight Board has published its first annual report. Covering the period from October 2020 to December 2021, it describes the work the board has carried out in relation to how Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, treats its users and their content, and the work that remains to be done.

The board is an independent body set up and funded by Meta to review content and content-moderation policies on Facebook and Instagram. It considers concerns raised by Meta itself and by users who have exhausted the company’s internal appeals process. It can recommend policy changes and make decisions that overrule the company’s decisions.

During the period covered by the report, the board received more than a million appeals, issued 20 decisions — 14 of which overturned Meta’s own rulings — and made 86 recommendations to the company.

“Through our first Annual Report, we’re able to demonstrate the significant impact the board has had on pushing Meta to become more transparent in its content policies and fairer in its content decisions,” Thomas Hughes, the board’s director, told Arab News.

One of the cases the board considered concerns a post that appeared on media organization Al Jazeera Arabic’s verified page in May 2021, and which was subsequently shared by a Facebook user in Egypt. It consisted of Arabic text and a photo showing two men, their faces covered, who were wearing camouflage and headbands featuring the insignia of the Palestinian Al-Qassam Brigades.

The text read: “The resistance leadership in the common room gives the occupation a respite until 6 p.m. to withdraw its soldiers from Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, otherwise he who warns is excused. Abu Ubaida – Al-Qassam Brigades military spokesman.”

The user who shared the post commented on it in Arabic by adding the word “ooh.”

Meta initially removed the post because Al-Qassam Brigades and its spokesperson, Abu Ubaida, are designated under Facebook’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations community standard. However, it restored the post based on a ruling by the board.

The board said in its report that while the community standard policy clearly prohibits “channeling information or resources, including official communications, on behalf of a designated entity,” it also noted there is an exception to this rule for content that is published as “news reporting.” It added that the content in this case was a “reprint of a widely republished news report” by Al Jazeera and did not include any major changes other than the “addition of the non-substantive comment, ‘ooh.’”

Meta was unable to explain why two of its reviewers judged the content to be in violation of the platform’s content policies but noted that moderators are not required to record their reasoning for individual content decisions.

According to the report, the case also highlights the board’s objective of ensuring users are treated fairly because “the post, consisting of a republication of a news item from a legitimate outlet, was treated differently from content posted by the news organization itself.”

Based on allegations that Facebook was censoring Palestinian content, the board asked the platform a number of questions, including whether it had received any requests from Israel to remove content related to the 2021 Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In response, Facebook said that it had not received any valid, legal requests from a government authority related to the user’s content in this case. However, it declined to provide any other requested information.

The board therefore recommended an independent review of these issues, as well as greater transparency about how Facebook responds to government requests.

“Following recommendations we issued after a case decision involving Israel/Palestine, Meta is conducting a review, using an independent body, to determine whether Facebook’s content-moderation community standards in Arabic and Hebrew are being applied without bias,” said Hughes.

In another case, the Oversight Board overturned Meta’s decision to remove an Instagram post by a public account that allows the discussion of queer narratives in Arabic culture. The post consisted of a series of pictures with a caption, in Arabic and English, explaining how each picture illustrated a different word that can be used in a derogatory way in the Arab world to describe men with “effeminate mannerisms.”

Meta removed the content for violating its hate speech policies but restored it when the user appealed. However, it later removed the content a second time for violating the same policies, after other users reported it.

According to the board, this was a “clear error, which was not in line with Meta’s hate speech policy.” It said that while the post does contain terms that are considered slurs, it is covered by an exception covering speech that is “used self-referentially or in an empowering way,” and also an exception that allows the quoting of hate speech to “condemn it or raise awareness.”

Each time the post was reported, a different moderator reviewed it. The board was, therefore, “concerned that reviewers may not have sufficient resources in terms of capacity or training to prevent the kind of mistake seen in this case.”

Hughes said: “As demonstrated in this report, we have a track record of success in getting Meta to consider how it handles posts in Arabic.

“We’ve succeeded in getting Meta to ensure its community standards are translated into all relevant languages, prioritizing regions where conflict or unrest puts users at most risk of imminent harm. Meta has also agreed to our call to ensure all updates to its policies are translated into all languages.”

These cases illustrate the board’s commitment to bringing about positive change, and to lobbying Meta to do the same, whether that means restoring an improperly deleted post or agreeing to an independent review of a case. But is this enough?

This month, Facebook failed once again when it faced a test of how capable it is of detecting obviously unacceptable violent hate speech. The test was carried out by nonprofit groups Global Witness and Foxglove, which created 12 text-based adverts which featured dehumanizing hate speech that called for the murder of people belonging to Ethiopia’s three main ethnic groups — the Amhara, the Oromo and the Tigrayans — and submitted them to the platform. Despite the clearly objectionable content, Facebook’s systems approved the adverts for publication.

In March, Global Witness ran a similar test using adverts about Myanmar that used similar hate speech. Facebook also failed to detect those. The ads were not actually published on Facebook because Global Witness alerted Meta to the test and the violations the platform had failed to detect.

In another case, the Oversight Board upheld Meta’s initial decision to remove a post alleging the involvement of ethnic Tigrayan civilians in atrocities carried out in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. However, Meta restored the post after a user appealed to the board, so the company had to once again remove the content from the platform.

In November 2021, Meta announced that it had removed a post by Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed Ali, in which he urged citizens to rise up and “bury” rival Tigray forces who threatened the country’s capital. His verified Facebook page remains active, however, and has 4.1 million followers.

In addition to its failures over content relating to Myanmar and Ethiopia, Facebook has long been accused by rights activists of suppressing posts by Palestinians.

“Facebook has suppressed content posted by Palestinians and their supporters speaking out about human rights issues in Israel and Palestine,” said Deborah Brown, a senior digital rights researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch.

During the May 2021 Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Facebook and Instagram removed content posted by Palestinians and posts that expressed support for Palestine. HRW documented several instances of this, including one in which Instagram removed a screenshot of the headlines and photos from three New York Times op-ed articles, to which the user had added a caption that urged Palestinians to “never concede” their rights.

In another instance, Instagram removed a post that included a picture of a building and the caption: “This is a photo of my family’s building before it was struck by Israeli missiles on Saturday, May 15, 2021. We have three apartments in this building.”

Digital rights group Sada Social said that in May 2021 alone it documented more than 700 examples of social media networks removing or restricting access to Palestinian content.

According to HRW, Meta’s acknowledgment of errors that were made and attempts to correct some of them are insufficient and do not address the scale and scope of reported content restrictions, nor do they adequately explain why they occurred in the first place.

Hughes acknowledged that some of the commitments to change made by Meta will take time to implement but added that it is important to ensure that they are “not kicked into the long grass and forgotten about.”

Meta admitted this year in its first Quarterly Update on the Oversight Board that it takes time to implement recommendations “because of the complexity and scale associated with changing how we explain and enforce our policies, and how we inform users of actions we’ve taken and what they can do about it.”

In the meantime, Hughes added: “The Board will continue to play a key role in the collective effort by companies, governments, academia and civil society to shape a brighter, safer digital future that will benefit people everywhere.”

However, the Oversight Board only reviews cases reported by users or by Meta itself. According to some experts, the issues with Meta go far beyond the current scope of the board’s mandate.

“For an oversight board to address these issues (Russian interference in the US elections), it would need jurisdiction not only over personal posts but also political ads,” wrote Dipayan Ghosh, co-director of the Digital Platforms and Democracy Project at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“Beyond that, it would need to be able to not only take down specific pieces of content but also to halt the flow of American consumer data to Russian operatives and change the ways that algorithms privilege contentious content.”

He went on to suggest that the board’s authority should be expanded from content takedowns to include “more critical concerns” such as the company’s data practices and algorithmic decision-making because “no matter where we set the boundaries, Facebook will always want to push them. It knows no other way to maintain its profit margins.”

Delhi police arrest Muslim journalist over Twitter post

Mohammed Zubair. (Twitter @zoo_bear)
Mohammed Zubair. (Twitter @zoo_bear)
Updated 37 min 54 sec ago

Delhi police arrest Muslim journalist over Twitter post

Mohammed Zubair. (Twitter @zoo_bear)
  • Some local media reports linked Zubair’s arrest Monday to the recent controversy over incendiary remarks about Prophet Muhammad made by a BJP spokesperson, which sparked widespread global protests and outrage from the Islamic world

NEW DELHI: Indian police on Monday arrested the co-founder of a top fact-checking website who has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, his colleague said.
Mohammed Zubair was arrested in Delhi after being called in for questioning in an earlier case, said Pratik Sinha, who runs the Alt-News web site together with Zubair.
Sinha said in a post on Twitter that his colleague was arrested illegally and without warning and was being held by police in Delhi.
Zubair has been one of the fiercest critics of Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and has frequently called out hate speech by Hindu fringe groups on the Internet.
He has faced several legal cases over the years which his supporters dismiss as politically motivated attempts to silence a critic.
Some local media reports linked Zubair’s arrest Monday to the recent controversy over incendiary remarks about Prophet Muhammad made by a BJP spokesperson, which sparked widespread global protests and outrage from the Islamic world.
Many Hindu nationalists in the last few weeks have drawn attention to past comments on social media made by Zubair and other Modi critics and demanded that he be prosecuted for hurting their religious feelings.
Most government critics however see Zubair’s arrest as part of a crackdown on free-speech and rights activists that India has seen since Modi’s ascent to power in May 2014.
On Saturday, police detained activist Teesta Setalvad who hails from Modi’s western home state of Gujarat. Setalvad has been campaigning to have Modi declared complicit in deadly sectarian riots 20 years ago.
Protests were held in several Indian cities on Monday with rights activists and free-speech organizations demanding Setalvad’s release and describing her detention as “politics of vengeance.”