‘The Middle East has had a soft spot for anime since the Eighties’ — META executive

‘The Middle East has had a soft spot for anime since the Eighties’ — META executive
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‘The Middle East has had a soft spot for anime since the Eighties’ — META executive
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‘The Middle East has had a soft spot for anime since the Eighties’ — META executive
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‘The Middle East has had a soft spot for anime since the Eighties’ — META executive
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Updated 12 June 2022

‘The Middle East has had a soft spot for anime since the Eighties’ — META executive

‘The Middle East has had a soft spot for anime since the Eighties’ — META executive
  • Moon Baz, creator partnerships lead at META Middle East, Africa and Turkey, talks content trends and content creators

Can you tell us about the latest content trends on Instagram in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia?

The Middle East region has one of the highest social media usage rates in the world. People in the region have turned to Instagram to stand behind causes they care about and have successfully ignited waves of digital activism, which gave rise to content that focuses on sharing information and educating communities. It also allowed others to find their own voices in these movements.

We have also seen an increasing interest in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) among our communities as the buzz around concepts like the metaverse and Web3 continues.

Content creators in the region creatively used our Spark AR features to bring forth the spirit of Ramadan and augment the holy month celebrations with filters by @Bdanabol and @aymen_ghnia topping the list.

Reels content has also been on the rise with content spanning everything from celebrating Saudi coffee on the back of declaring the year 2022 as the Year of Saudi Coffee, to anime and K-pop content, and the latest hits on Netflix.




Moon Baz, head of Entertainment Partnerships for MENA and Turkey at Meta. (Supplied)

Can you elaborate on the popularity of anime content on the platform?

The Middle East has had a soft spot for anime since the Eighties. The Japanese art has inspired Arab creators to use anime for self-expression, incorporating Arab culture and sensibilities within its parameters of character and world-building.

With the boom in local anime creation, lovers of the medium are increasingly turning to Instagram as the platform to showcase their talents. To date, the hashtag #anime has garnered almost a million followers across KSA, UAE, Egypt and Kuwait on Instagram.

Regional creators are exploring the full range of the anime universe with manga, cosplay, origami and folktale anime productions coming together on the platform and redefining the boundaries of the medium through its originality.

Talents like Jassim Al Mohannadi use Instagram to publish original anime productions spiced with Middle Eastern flavors. Jasim has published 21 chapters of his own Arabic manga creations on WEBTOON under the title “Justice in the Wasteland” and penned the Middle Eastern manga “Primeval.” Others like Reem (@renberryart) were able to turn their impressive talents in anime illustration into a source of income on Instagram. Everything from anime movie characters to fusions of Mirko and Tengen can be found on Reem’s emerging storefront.

We are delighted to witness the incredible Japanese art shaping Middle Eastern creator communities and further making Instagram home to self-expression.

How has fashion and travel content grown on the platform?

Instagram is a place to explore, share and push culture forward. We see our community heading to places like Explore, Reels, and Stories for inspiration, self-expression and discovery of all types of content. Yet, there is no doubt that the fashion and travel categories have always been, and continue to be, a cornerstone of the Instagram experience.

There is always a new fashion trend to jump on in terms of what to wear and where to shop. Our 2022 Instagram Trends Report has shown that Gen Z is now making bold moves with its style choices, using fashion as a vehicle for joy, optimism and self-expression.

They are also moving away from big-box online retailer websites as more than half of young people are interested in new shopping experiences, opening new avenues for small-to-medium businesses and thrift shops.

In the region, we saw a recent interest in modest fashion where the hashtag #modestfashion grew 45 percent in the UAE, as creators were experimenting in the lead-up to Ramadan.

Travel content has also been on the rise, especially with the boom of Reels. We have seen creative content from a plethora of creators in the region such as Murad and Nataly Osmann and Kasem Hato, who continuously share everything from vacation hotspots for the summer to hidden gems around the world through content that sparks a sense of adventure.

What do brands need to know about current content trends both in terms of creating their own content as well as in terms of collaborating with creators?

90 percent of people on Instagram follow a business globally, making it easier for brands to transform content into commerce by building trust with customers through their owned channels as well as collaborating with key opinion leaders and creators.

We introduced an array of tools that help brands seamlessly connect and collaborate with creators on Instagram including Branded Content Ads, Shopping from Creators, and Branded Content Tags, to name a few.

Last year, we added a new hub to the Professional Dashboard where businesses can find inspiration to spark more content ideas for those unsure where to start. Instagram users with business accounts can browse a collection of quality organic and promoted posts from other businesses in the hope it will inspire them to post their brand-specific content.

There is so much room for exploring and expanding brands’ presence online and to make that search easier, we curated guidelines and tips to help businesses amplify their growth based on their goals.

How is Instagram investing in content creators?

Creators are the heart of culture on Instagram. We’re committed to building a suite of tools to support creators’ various needs and ambitions, regardless of if they’re aspiring, emerging or established creators.

If you have an idea that you want to share with the world, you should be able to create it and get it out there easily and simply — across Facebook and Instagram — and earn money for your work. That is why we are focused on developing a range of creative and monetization tools across our platforms to support creators’ various needs and ambitions, whether they are just getting started or already have an established brand.

In 2021, we expanded the support to fund content for even more creators to produce fun and engaging content that will help them grow their personal brands and make a living. We also launched @creators as a way to reach even more aspiring creators around the world with best practices, product news, and tips & trips.

We have a dedicated creators’ page, which includes everything a creator needs to know on Instagram — ranging from trends, content tips, success stories, staying safe and earning money, to guidelines on using the most recent tools and features.

By the end of 2022, we plan to invest over $1 billion in programs that give creators new ways to earn money for the content they create on Facebook and Instagram. This investment will include new bonus programs that pay eligible creators for hitting certain milestones when they use our creative and monetization tools.

We will also provide seed funding for creators to produce their content. Our goal is to help as many creators as possible find sustainable, long-term success on our apps.

Lastly, how does Instagram moderate and monitor content?

When we find content such as a post, comment or story that goes against our Community Guidelines, we remove it from Instagram. If the content does not go against our Community Guidelines but may be inappropriate, disrespectful or offensive, we may limit it from Explore, rather than removing it from Instagram.

Our Community Guidelines define what is and is not allowed on Instagram, and they apply all over the world. They are designed to encourage expression and create a safe environment on Instagram.

To find, review and take action on content that may go against Community Guidelines, we use technology and human reviewers. Artificial intelligence technology is central to our content review process. AI can detect and remove content that goes against our Community Guidelines before anyone reports it.

Other times, our technology sends content to human review teams to take a closer look and make a decision on it. These thousands of reviewers around the world focus on content that is most harmful to Instagram users.

Anime content creators in the Middle East

User: @artistsoosa https://www.instagram.com/artistsoosa/

About: Jeddah-born Samah Kamil was the first Arab artist to receive a master’s degree in the art of manga from the Arts & Designs faculty at King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia. As well as being an artist, she’s also the editor of Manga Arabia, and leads and facilitates workshops covering a variety of manga-related topics.

Her work, which she posts on Instagram, illustrates Saudi culture through contemporary anime drawings, reflecting meaningful plots with relatable characters and social messages.

User: 6th__kage https://www.instagram.com/6th__kage/

About: The Saudi-based content creator is an avid gamer who merges the worlds of gaming and anime. He often cosplays his favorite character Kakashi Hatake from the manga series Naruto.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Kakashi-Gaming (@6th__kage)

User: @Paris.ae https://www.instagram.com/paris.ae/

About: Taking cosplaying to the next level, @Paris.ae presents herself as an Emirati Kawaii doll bringing anime characters to life.

 

User: @Renberryart  https://www.instagram.com/renberryart/

About: 21-year-old Reem has combined her passion for all things anime and her artistic skills to create digital art that she posts and sells through her Instagram page.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by (@renberryart)

 


Saudi government’s digital activity comes under scrutiny in new report

Saudi government’s digital activity comes under scrutiny in new report
Updated 12 August 2022

Saudi government’s digital activity comes under scrutiny in new report

Saudi government’s digital activity comes under scrutiny in new report
  • Ministry of Health found to have ‘most engaging’ social media content
  • Education Ministry has ‘top-performing website’

DUBAI: The Kingdom’s health, education and sports ministries were among the government’s top social media performers in 2021, according to a report analyzing their digital activity.

The “State of Digital Government” report was put together by social media marketing company Emplifi in partnership with advertising network Extend.

“Social media is a valuable tool for government agencies to communicate with citizens and residents, to build and establish trust, share important information quickly and in real-time, answer questions and engage at a more personal level,” Christian Bechara, Emplifi’s vice-president for the Middle East and Africa, told Arab News.

“The world is increasingly social first, and public sector organizations compete with private sector brands for the same attention and awareness,” he added.

“Saudi Arabia recognizes that digitization and innovation in governmental services are necessary to provide capabilities at scale, to lead as a G20 country, and to keep up with the shift in information consumption.”

According to the report, the Ministry of Health had the top-performing social media accounts, while the Ministry of Education had the top-performing website and the Ministry of Sports ranked first in terms of “e-participation.”

It said also that the Ministry of Municipal Rural Affairs was the most active, the Ministry of Education the most mentioned and the Ministry of Health the most followed, as well as having the most engaging content, most new followers and most engaged users.

According to Bechara, the report analyzed the digital performance of 24 ministries across 81 social media accounts and 24 websites.

“In 2021, we saw exponential growth in followers across all ministerial social media accounts, and in particular, 7.1 million new followers,” he said.

In terms of the people talking about and engaging with Saudi ministries, the report found that about two-thirds were aged 18 to 35 and about 75 percent were male.

“Around 66 percent of social media users are Gen Z, which is no surprise — they’ve grown up with the internet and social networks at their fingertips. In their eyes, government agencies are another brand competing in the same space,” Bechara said.

When looking at the content, the report found that while 62 percent of all posts used photos, the most appealing format was video, which accounted for 42 percent of all engagements.

That picture was similar to what was happening in the private sector, Bechara said.

“Short-form video as a means to share information and updates, plus the use of influencers is a common strategy across all organizations and part of a successful marketing mix.”

 

Saudi Arabia’s young, highly connected population, coupled with the Kingdom’s digitization and modernization efforts has positioned social media as the ideal channel for the government to connect with its citizens.

Bechara advised ministries to “continue focusing on your audience, using data and metrics to tailor content.”

But he said governments should not use social media for all their messaging. Rather they should think about the relevancy and value of social media content “and how it will be perceived.”

“Lastly, always engage with your followers,” Bechara said. “Social media is very much here to stay, and it’s great to see government agencies pushing boundaries.”


Google plays smart with plan to stop answering ‘silly questions’

A Google sign is pictured outside the Google office in Berlin, Germany, August 31, 2021. (REUTERS)
A Google sign is pictured outside the Google office in Berlin, Germany, August 31, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 August 2022

Google plays smart with plan to stop answering ‘silly questions’

A Google sign is pictured outside the Google office in Berlin, Germany, August 31, 2021. (REUTERS)
  • Tech giant's revamped featured snippets service aims to provide more accurate answers to users

LONDON: In a move designed to improve its search engine’s “featured snippets” service, Google announced on Thursday that it will stop answering users’ “silly questions.”

A user who asks Google, “When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln?” for example, would receive a fairly detailed response, explaining the location, date and time of assassination, the target and even the type of attack.

However, while the information provided is correct, quite obviously the question makes no sense.

“This clearly isn’t the most helpful way to display this result,” Google’s head of search, Pandu Nayak, said in a statement.

“We’ve trained our systems to get better at detecting these sorts of false premises, which are not very common, but there are cases where it’s not helpful to show a featured snippet. We’ve reduced the triggering of featured snippets in these cases by 40 percent with this update,” he added.

The upgrade aims to address a problem that has long posed problems for Google.

In 2017, the tech giant came under fire for allegedly disseminating fake news after a highlighted snippet for the question “Is Obama planning a coup?” led to its voice assistant jokingly telling users: “Obama may, in fact, be preparing a communist coup d’etat at the end of his term in 2016.”

The snippet, which was automatically generated, was taken from a conspiracy theory website.

To avoid this kind of situation, Google’s search engine revamp is intended to improve replies’ accuracy and sidestep queries for which there is no clear-cut right or wrong response.

Google will also introduce an “about this result” option and alert users in case of low-quality data.

“This doesn’t mean that no helpful information is available, or that a particular result is low-quality,” Nayak said. “These notices provide context about the whole set of results on the page, and you can always see the results for your query, even when the advisory is present.”

So, next time you ask Google: “How do you get in touch with the Illuminati?” expect something more helpful than, “Want to get rich? Apply today and join the Illuminati!”


Meta tracks users across websites, research reveals

Meta tracks users across websites, research reveals
Updated 12 August 2022

Meta tracks users across websites, research reveals

Meta tracks users across websites, research reveals
  • Although there is no indication the tech giant uses the feature to collect sensitive data, it does not make this information known to users

LONDON: Meta is accused of altering website codes its users view, enabling the tech giant to follow them throughout the web after they click links in its apps, new research revealed on Thursday.

Felix Krause, a former Google employee who conducted the research, said that Meta exploits the “in-app browser” — a feature that allows Facebook and Instagram users to visit a third-party website without leaving the platform — to “inject” the tracking code.

“The iOS Instagram and Facebook app render all third-party links and ads within their app using a custom in-app browser. This causes various risks for the user, with the host app being able to track every single interaction with external websites, from all form inputs like passwords and addresses to every single tap,” Krause said.

“Injecting custom scripts into third-party websites allows them to monitor all user interactions, like every button & link tapped, text selections, screenshots, as well as any form inputs, like passwords, addresses and credit card numbers,” he added.

This practice of adding extra code to a webpage before it is displayed to a user is called “Javascript injection,” and in most cases is considered a type of malicious attack, Krause said.

His investigation concentrated on Facebook and Instagram for iOS, after he discovered the code injection by chance while developing a tool that could list all the extra commands added to a website by the browser.

Starting with iOS 14.5, Apple introduced App Monitoring Transparency, which enables users to choose whether or not to enable app tracking when they first open an app. The feature, according to Meta, could impact the company’s revenue by more than $10 billion.

Meta said that the injected tracking code respected users' preferences on ATT.

“The code allows us to aggregate user data before using it for targeted advertising or measurement purposes,” a spokesperson said.

“We do not add any pixels. Code is injected so that we can aggregate conversion events from pixels. For purchases made through the in-app browser, we seek user consent to save payment information for the purposes of autofill.”

Although there is no indication that Meta employed Javascript injection to gather sensitive data, the company does not make this information known to users. 

Krause also said that WhatsApp’s in-app browser does not have the code. As a result, he advised that Meta should do the same with Facebook and Instagram, or redirect users to another browser to open links.

“It’s what’s best for the user, and the right thing to do,” he said.


Russian journalist who staged anti-war protest placed under house arrest

Russian journalist who staged anti-war protest placed under house arrest
Updated 12 August 2022

Russian journalist who staged anti-war protest placed under house arrest

Russian journalist who staged anti-war protest placed under house arrest
  • Marina Ovsyannikova faces decade in prison if convicted over Kremlin demonstration
  • TV figure said last week that her fate was ‘unenviable,’ but would keep speaking out

LONDON: Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who staged a protest against the invasion of Ukraine on live TV in March, was placed under house arrest on Thursday after being charged with spreading false information.

However, her detention is related to a different incident that took place last month when the former Channel One journalist demonstrated alone near the Kremlin holding a placard which criticized the war and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ovsyannikova was detained on Wednesday after police raided her Moscow home. 

The journalist spent the night in pre-trial detention before appearing on Thursday in court, where she was charged with disseminating false information about Russian military forces. The court ordered Ovsyannikova to be placed under house arrest until Oct. 9, pending her trial.

“They scared my little daughter,” the 44-year-old said in a Telegram post. Ovsyannikova added that 10 officers from the Investigative Committee raided her house at 6 a.m. in the morning while she and her daughter were asleep.

“Over 350 children who died in Ukraine, are they fakes … How many children have to die before you stop?” She added.

Ovsyannikova could face 10 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

Her lawyer, Dmitry Zakhvatov, said on Wednesday that “a criminal case has been filed” and added that they were awaiting the decision of investigators on the journalist’s pre-trial measures.

During the court hearing, Ovsyannikova continued her protest, holding a sign that read “Let the dead children haunt you in your dreams.”

Notably, it is the second time that Ovsyannikova has been detained in relation to the charges. In July, Russian police detained and later released the journalist, charging her with “discrediting the actions of the army of Russia.” 

Due to rigid laws introduced by the government since the beginning of the war, the journalist’s actions expose her to criminal prosecution for “publishing false information” and “denigrating the army,” which can carry heavy prison sentences under Russian law.

In March, Ovsyannikova became famous worldwide for interrupting the set of Russia’s Channel One news program while holding a poster that said in Russian: “Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you.”

The stunt cost her a brief detention and a fine, prompting Russian opposition circles to question the validity of her actions.

“I was skeptical about what Channel One editor Marina Ovsyannikova had done — and it turns out I was wrong,” said anti-Kremlin satirist and radio host Viktor Shenderovich. “Today Marina pays a serious price for this, and deserves both respect and support.”

In the months following her protest, Ovsyannikova spent time abroad, including a brief period working for German newspaper Die Welt.

In early July, Ovsyannikova announced that she was returning to Russia to settle a dispute over the custody of her children.


Australian court orders Google to pay $43 mln for misleading users

Australian court orders Google to pay $43 mln for misleading users
Updated 12 August 2022

Australian court orders Google to pay $43 mln for misleading users

Australian court orders Google to pay $43 mln for misleading users
  • The court found Google misled some customers about personal location data collected through their Android mobile devices between January 2017 and December 2018

LONDON: Australia's competition watchdog said on Friday that Alphabet Inc's Google unit was ordered by the country's Federal Court to pay A$60 million ($42.7 million) in penalties for misleading users on collection of their personal location data.

The court found Google misled some customers about personal location data collected through their Android mobile devices between January 2017 and December 2018.

Google misled users into believing “location history” setting on their android phones was the only way location data could be collected by it, when a feature to monitor web and applications activity also allowed local data collection and storage, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) said.

The watchdog, which estimates that 1.3 million Google account users in Australia may have been affected, had started the proceedings against the company and its local unit in October 2019.

Google took remedial measures in 2018, the regulator said.

In an emailed statement, Google said it had settled the matter and added it has made location information simple to manage and easy to understand.

The search engine giant has been embroiled in legal action in Australia over the past year as the government mulled and passed a law to make Google and Meta Platforms' Facebook pay media companies for content on their platforms.