Philippine Nobel laureate to fight order to shut Rappler news site

Philippine Nobel laureate to fight order to shut Rappler news site
Maria Ressa gives a speech at the Cartooning Award Ceremony during the World Press Freedom Day in Geneva on May 3, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 29 June 2022

Philippine Nobel laureate to fight order to shut Rappler news site

Philippine Nobel laureate to fight order to shut Rappler news site
  • Co-founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, Rappler is known for its scrutiny of President Rodrigo Duterte
  • Shutdown order comes as Duterte set to complete presidential term on Thursday

MANILA: Philippine journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa vowed on Wednesday to fight a government order to shut down her online news site Rappler, known for its tough scrutiny of Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.

The order, issued by the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, affirmed the corporate regulator’s 2018 decision to revoke the certificates of incorporation of Rappler over what it said was a breach of the ban on foreign ownership of media outlets.

The ruling came as Duterte was set to complete his six-year presidential term on Thursday and hand over power to President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“We are entitled to appeal this decision and will do so,” Ressa said during a press conference. “We will continue to work. It is business as usual. We will follow the legal process; we’ll continue to stand up for our rights.”

Ressa, who last year became the first Nobel laureate from the Philippines — sharing the prize with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov — was recognized by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for efforts to safeguard freedom of expression and her work and criticism of the Duterte regime’s “controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign,” an antidrug policy that since 2016 has led to the deaths of thousands of Filipinos, mostly urban poor, and drawn international condemnation.

She told reporters the corporate regulator’s decision to shut down Rappler was “political tactics.”

“Over the last six years, we have been harassed,” she added. “We’re not going to voluntarily give up our rights. And we really shouldn’t. I continue to appeal for that. Because when you give up your rights, you’re never going to get them back.”

Ressa co-founded Rappler in 2012. Since Duterte took office in 2016, he has openly slammed journalists and publications criticizing him and his war on drugs campaign.

In 2018, the SEC ruled that Rappler violated foreign equity restrictions on domestic media when it sold depositary rights to a foreign entity.

Rappler argued the Omidyar Network, the philanthropic arm of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, was a silent investor. Omidyar later announced donating the depository receipts to Rappler’s staff to resolve foreign ownership issues.

The news outlet’s chief legal counsel, Francis Lim, said they had two weeks to file a petition for review of the shutdown decision before the Court of Appeals.

“There are powerful, factual, and legal grounds to reverse the SEC decision,” he told reporters. “It’s not the end of the world for us. There’s still a very long process to go.”

The shutdown announcement sparked an outcry among local journalists.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines called on its members to stand together against attempts to silence the media.

“Throughout the six years of the Duterte administration, we have seen lawsuits and regulatory processes used as tools to muzzle the press,” the union said in a statement. “It is clear now, if it had not been clear before, that the journalism community and the communities that we report about and for must stand together against government moves to harass, restrict, and silence any of us to keep the press free for all of us.”

The Philippines ranks 147th out of 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, after having dropped in the ranking each year from 133rd in 2018.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Rappler was “facing government retaliation for its fearless reporting about rights abuses.”

“This is an effort to shut up Nobel laureate Maria Ressa, and shut down Rappler, by hook or by crook,” HRW Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said. “It’s entirely predictable that the SEC would bend over backwards to interpret rules in a way that would enable them to take Rappler down while spuriously claiming that this is a normal regulatory action.”

FBI raid causes Trump’s social media app to surge in popularity

FBI raid causes Trump’s social media app to surge in popularity
Updated 1 min 39 sec ago

FBI raid causes Trump’s social media app to surge in popularity

FBI raid causes Trump’s social media app to surge in popularity
  • Since the raid, Truth Social enjoyed unexpected popularity, with users taking to the platform to express anti-FBI sentiments

LONDON: Donald Trump’s social media app Truth Social has picked up steam following the FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago estate.

In the days after the FBI search, the number of downloads of Truth Social spiked, taking the app from 66th to 15th place in the Apple App Store.

The download numbers are small compared to previous figures but have helped to revive the app.

The platform was officially launched this year on Feb. 21 amid intense criticisms on the App Store, but many users were put on a waiting list and were unable to sign up until later.

After a sluggish start, Truth Social has gained a small but devoted user base, most of whom are committed to Trump.

Trump founded Truth Social after being banned from Twitter for his comments made after the Jan 6. 2021 Capitol Hill attack, when his followers stormed the US seat of government in Washington DC.

Since Trump’s Twitter account was suspended, the former president has taken to Truth Social to share his thoughts, spread propaganda and promulgate misinformation, including about the FBI raid.

Earlier this month, the FBI burst into the former president’s home at Mar-a-Lago in Florida looking for classified documents the agency believes were taken after his time in office came to an end.

Many Truth Social fans have taken to the platform to express their anger about the FBI with some users — including one who is believed to have carried out an attack on a bureau office — issuing threats to FBI agents and to Judge Bruce Reinhart.

In the last few days, Trump continued to rage on Truth Social, claiming both that “Republicans could win many additional seats, both in the House and Senate, because of the strong backlash over the raid at Mar-a-Lago” and that the FBI “stole my three passports (one expired), along with everything else.

“This is an assault on a political opponent at a level never seen before in our Country. Third World!” he added.

According to Similarweb, a digital intelligence platform, both the Truth Social app and website have experienced an increase in popularity since the raid.

Anti-FBI sentiments have built among users, and hashtags like #FBIcorruption, #Truth, and #DefundTheFBI have been trending on the platform, which shares many of Twitter’s features, during the past 10 days.

Similar posts are widespread among Trump supporters on other free speech websites like Gab, Parler, and GETTR, as well as the secure messaging service Telegram, and are not exclusive to Truth Social.

Asset managers on alert after ‘WhatsApp’ crackdown on banks

Asset managers on alert after ‘WhatsApp’ crackdown on banks
Updated 18 August 2022

Asset managers on alert after ‘WhatsApp’ crackdown on banks

Asset managers on alert after ‘WhatsApp’ crackdown on banks
  • Demand for software to record, archive messaging on the rise
  • Continued remote working underscores risk of compliance missteps with banks paying hundreds of millions of dollars in regulatory fines

LONDON: Asset managers are tightening controls on personal communication tools such as WhatsApp as they join banks in trying to ensure employees play by the rules when they do business with clients remotely.
Regulators had already begun to clamp down on the use of unauthorized messaging tools to discuss potentially market-moving matters, but the issue gathered urgency when the pandemic forced more finance staff to work from home in 2020.
Most of the companies caught in communications and record-keeping probes by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have been banks — which have collectively been fined or have set aside more than $1 billion to cover regulatory penalties.
But fund firms with billions of dollars in assets are also increasing their scrutiny of how staff and clients interact.
“It is the hottest topic in the industry right now,” said one deals banker, who declined to be named in keeping with his employer’s rules on speaking to the media.
Reuters reported last year the SEC was looking into whether Wall Street banks had adequately documented employees’ work-related communications, and JPMorgan was fined $200 million in December for “widespread” failures.
German asset manager DWS said last month it had set aside 12 million euros ($12 million) to cover potential US fines linked to investigations into its employees’ use of unapproved devices and record-keeping requirements, joining a host of banks making similar provisions, including Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse.
Sources at several other investment firms — described in the financial community as the ‘buy-side’ — including Amundi, AXA Investment Management, BNP Paribas Asset Management and JPMorgan Asset Management, told Reuters they have deployed tools to keep all communications between staff and clients compliant.
Spokespeople for the SEC and CFTC declined to comment on whether their investigations could extend beyond the banks, but industry sources expect authorities to cast their nets wider across the finance industry and even into government.
Last month Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the country’s top data protection watchdog, called for a review of the use of WhatsApp, private emails and other messaging apps by government officials after an investigation found “inadequate data security” during the pandemic.
Regulations governing financial institutions have progressively been tightened since the global financial crisis of 2007-9 and companies have long recorded staff communications to and from office phones.
This practice is designed to deter and uncover infringements such as insider trading and “front-running,” or trading on information that is not yet public, as well as ensuring best practice in terms of treatment of customers.
But with thousands of finance workers and their clientele still working remotely after decamping from company offices at the start of the pandemic, some sensitive conversations that should be recorded remain at risk of being inadvertently held over informal or unauthorized channels.
Brad Levy, CEO of business messaging software firm Symphony, said concerns on managing that risk had driven a surge in interest for software upgrades that make conversations on popular messenging tools including Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp recordable.
“Most believe the breadth of these investigations will go wider as they go deeper,” Levy said.
“Many markets participants have retention and surveillance requirements so are likely to take a view, including being more proactive without being a direct target.”
He said Symphony’s user base has more than doubled since the pandemic to 600,000, spanning 1,000 financial institutions including JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs.
Symphony peer Movius also said its business lines specializing in making WhatsApp and other tools recordable have more than doubled in size in the space of a year, with sales to asset managers a growing component.
“Many on the buy-side have recognized that you can’t just rely on SMS and voice calls,” said Movius Chief Executive Ananth Siva, adding that the company was also seeking to work with other highly-regulated industries including health care.
Movius software integrates third-party communications tools such as email, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp into one system that can be recorded and archived as required, he said.
Amundi, AXA IM, BNPP AM and JPMorgan Asset Management all confirmed they had adopted Symphony software but declined to comment on the full breadth of services they used or when these had been rolled out.
Amundi and AXA IM both confirmed they used Symphony services for team communications, while AXA IM also said they used it for market information.
Amundi, BNPP AM and JP Morgan AM declined to comment on whether they thought regulators would seek to investigate record keeping at asset managers after enforcement actions against the banks were completed.
A spokesperson for BNPP AM said it had banned the use of WhatsApp for client communications due to compliance, legal and risk considerations including General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

TV viewership among UK youth slumps amid ‘generation gap,’ report finds

TV viewership among UK youth slumps amid ‘generation gap,’ report finds
Updated 17 August 2022

TV viewership among UK youth slumps amid ‘generation gap,’ report finds

TV viewership among UK youth slumps amid ‘generation gap,’ report finds
  • ‘Young, vibrant’ MENA population bucks trend with streaming surge

LONDON: A new Ofcom report released on Wednesday found that young people in the UK watch almost seven times less TV than people aged over 65.

The UK’s communications regulator said that the “generation gap” in the way media is consumed has reached an all-time high.

Brits aged 16-24 reportedly favor streaming platforms and social media over traditional broadcast TV and spend an average of 53 minutes per day watching TV — a decrease of two-thirds over the past decade.

“The streaming revolution is stretching the TV generation gap, creating a stark divide in the viewing habits of younger and older people,” said Ian Macrae, Ofcom director of market intelligence.

“Traditional broadcasters face tough competition from online streaming platforms, which they’re partly meeting through the popularity of their own on-demand player apps, while broadcast television is still the place to go for big events that bring the nation together, such as the Euros final or the Jubilee celebrations,” he added. 

However, the latest market study undertaken by Arabsat in conjunction with Ipsos in 2021 found that TV viewership in the Middle East and North Africa region “boasts a young, vibrant,and diverse community” with 45 percent of viewers aged under 30.

This trend, in stark contrast with the Ofcom report, illustrates “the strong sustainable relevance of satellite TV also amongst younger TV audiences in MENA.”

Ofcom attributed the decline in TV viewership among young people in the UK to the rise in popular streaming services and short-form video platforms.

In its report, the regulator said about one in five UK homes have a subscription to all three of the biggest streaming services: Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.

The regulator also warned that public sector broadcasters will continue to experience declines in viewership over the coming years.

MENA’s streaming industry has been “rapidly increasing,” according to an independent study by market research firm Dataxis. The region’s streaming platforms saw a 30 percent increase in subscribers between 2020 and 2021, reaching close to 10 million users in 18 countries.

By 2026 subscriptions in the region are expected to triple to close to 30 million.

However, the Arabsat report said: “Satellite TV continues to remain the strongest mode of content distribution in the region, with 93 percent total market share.”

Airbnb targets illegal get-togethers with ‘anti-party technology’

Airbnb targets illegal get-togethers with ‘anti-party technology’
Updated 17 August 2022

Airbnb targets illegal get-togethers with ‘anti-party technology’

Airbnb targets illegal get-togethers with ‘anti-party technology’
  • Move comes after property rental company made a ban on house parties permanent earlier this year

LONDON: Airbnb said on Tuesday that it will roll out “anti-party technology” as part of efforts to stop illegal partying in its listed properties.

The new system, which will be deployed initially in North America, will look at a range of factors to identify types of reservations that are likely to result in unlawful parties. These include “history of positive reviews (or lack of positive reviews), length of time the guest has been on Airbnb, length of the trip, distance to the listing, and weekend versus weekday.” 

Airbnb said in a statement that “the primary objective is attempting to reduce the ability of bad actors to throw unauthorized parties which negatively impact our hosts, neighbors and the communities we serve. 

“It’s integral to our commitment to our host community — who respect their neighbors and want no part of the property damage and other issues that may come with unauthorized or disruptive parties.”

The announcement comes after the company decided to make a ban on house parties permanent earlier this year.

Since October 2021, Airbnb has been trialling the technology in select areas of Australia, where it recorded a “35 percent drop in incidents of unauthorized parties,” the company said.

Similar initiatives were previously put in place by the peer-to-peer property rental platform. In July 2020, it introduced a system that prevented under-25s in North America from booking large houses close to where they live if they did not have a history of positive reviews.

“As we get more reservations and bookings, we look at how things are trending, how our metrics are trending,” said Naba Banerjee, Airbnb’s global head of product, operations, and strategy for trust and safety.

“We try to look at the rate of safety incidents, and we try to make sure that we are launching solutions that constantly try to work on that rate.”

Airbnb has long sought to crack down on illegal parties. The company announced in 2019 that “party homes” would be banned after five people were killed in a shooting at a Halloween gathering in an Airbnb property in Orinda, California, where over 100 people were reportedly present.

In 2020, the company began imposing stricter regulations around its “house party” policy amid the global pandemic. Both the “event friendly” search filter and “parties and events allowed” house rules were removed as it sought to counter a rise in house party bookings as bars and clubs were closed.

More than 6,600 guests and some hosts were suspended in 2021 for attempting to violate the party ban, the company said.

Airbnb also announced the introduction of a neighborhood support helpline to “facilitate direct communication with neighbors regarding potential parties in progress or concerns with any nearby listings.”

“We are, at the end of the day, an open marketplace, we are making real-world connections, and we are often a mirror of society. And no solution is 100 percent perfect,” Banerjee said.

TikTok to clamp down on paid political posts by influencers ahead of US midterms

TikTok to clamp down on paid political posts by influencers ahead of US midterms
Updated 17 August 2022

TikTok to clamp down on paid political posts by influencers ahead of US midterms

TikTok to clamp down on paid political posts by influencers ahead of US midterms
  • Critics and lawmakers accuse TikTok and rival social media companies of doing too little to stop political misinformation and divisive content from spreading on their apps

LONDON: TikTok will work to prevent content creators from posting paid political messages on the short-form video app, as part of its preparation for the US midterm election in November, the company said on Wednesday.
Critics and lawmakers accuse TikTok and rival social media companies including Meta Platforms and Twitter of doing too little to stop political misinformation and divisive content from spreading on their apps.
While TikTok has banned paid political ads since 2019, campaign strategists have skirted the ban by paying influencers to promote political issues.
The company seeks to close the loophole by hosting briefings with creators and talent agencies to remind them that posting paid political content is against TikTok’s policies, said Eric Han, TikTok’s head of US safety, during a briefing with reporters.
He added that internal teams, including those that work on trust and safety, will monitor for signs that creators are being paid to post political content, and the company will also rely on media reports and outside partners to find violating posts.
“We saw this as an issue in 2020,” Han said. “Once we find out about it ... we will remove it from our platform.”
TikTok broadcast its plan following similar updates from Meta and Twitter.
Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said Tuesday it will restrict political advertisers from running new ads a week before the election, an action it also took in 2020.
Last week, Twitter said it planned to revive previous strategies for the midterm election, including placing labels in front of some misleading tweets and inserting reliable information into timelines to debunk false claims before they spread further online. Civil and voting rights experts said the plan was not adequate to prepare for the election.