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.”


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

Airbnb targets illegal get-togethers with ‘anti-party technology’
Updated 14 sec ago

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.


Royal Jordanian set to sponsor Arab Influencers Forum

Royal Jordanian set to sponsor Arab Influencers Forum
Updated 17 August 2022

Royal Jordanian set to sponsor Arab Influencers Forum

Royal Jordanian set to sponsor Arab Influencers Forum
  • The airline’s CEO stated that the its sponsorship is in line with its vision to support all efforts promoting Jordan

AMMAN: Royal Jordanian Airlines is sponsoring the inaugural City Talk, a forum for Arab influencers due to take place in Jordan in early October, the Jordan News Agency reported on Tuesday. The airline said that it will also serve as official carrier for the forum’s guests from across the region.

The event is being organized by the Jordan Tourism Board and Omnes Media, a digital-media and communications platform based in Dubai.

Royal Jordanian CEO Samer Majali said the airline’s sponsorship of the event reflects its vision and desire to support all initiatives and events that promote Jordan.

He added that by attracting social media content creators and marketing industry professionals from across the Arab world, the forum will help to market the culture and heritage of Jordan and its tourism sector.

City Talk is scheduled to take place Oct. 2-5 at King Hussein bin Talal Convention Center near Sweimeh, on the Dead Sea shore. More than 500 Arab social media influencers and industry leaders are expected to attend.

The forum will explore and discuss recent advances in the marketing and advertising industry. The schedule includes six panel discussions and six workshops, along with daily meetings with influential Arab figures.


Netflix launches Because She Created writing program in Egypt

Netflix launches Because She Created writing program in Egypt
Updated 16 August 2022

Netflix launches Because She Created writing program in Egypt

Netflix launches Because She Created writing program in Egypt
  • The streamer will work with Sard, a regional hub for scriptwriters, to help local women develop their creative writing and storytelling skills
  • Netflix wants to create ‘more diverse content to ensure that women are represented both on screen and behind the camera,’ said Ahmed Sharkawi, its director of Arabic series

DUBAI: Netflix has partnered with Sard, a dedicated hub for scriptwriters in the Arab world, to coach women in creative writing and help them to develop their storytelling and creative-expression skills through the latest in a series of Because She Created programs.

It is the latest development in an initiative launched last year as a virtual panel discussion to give female Arab filmmakers a chance to talk about the evolving role of women in the regional film industry. Netflix then teamed up with the Cairo International Film Festival for a second Because She Created event, which was a fireside chat with renowned Tunisian actress Hend Sabry.

In July this year, the company used the platform to present a specially curated collection of 21 Arab films designed to shine a light on the work of Arab women in film. 

The writing program, which will take place in Cairo, is designed to provide an incubator for the untapped talents of 20 women from outside of the city and introduce them to the creative tools and industry insight they need to advance their creative and professional development.

“Sard believes that expressing oneself through writing is the first step to self-discovery and we’re proud to have discovered talent through this program that we feel will one day become the scriptwriters of the future,” said Mariam Naoum, the founder and CEO of Sard.

Although Egypt and the wider Arab world is “ripe with talent,” the region needs a “concerted effort and professional support” to help that local talent grow, she added.

“Women in the region, in particular, need this kind of incubation and technical support to gain access to opportunities that advance their professional growth in an industry where their presence is still limited,” said Naoum.

“Sard is trying to achieve this through the work we do and through partnerships with organizations like Netflix that help steer talent in the right direction.”

The five-day program will include storytelling classes, sessions on creative expression, and discussions and talks led by established professionals in the entertainment industry. It will also feature daily activities, including trips to the theater and cinema.

“At Netflix, we recognize that being part of the creative communities comes with responsibilities and that includes the need to develop the talent pipeline and give new voices a chance to be heard,” said Ahmed Sharkawi, director of Arabic series at the streaming service.

The company wants to create “more diverse content to ensure that women are represented both on screen and behind the camera,” he added, and “partnerships like this allow us to equip them with the skills they need to tell the best version of their stories.”

The Because She Created writing program is an initiative of the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity, which aims to create new opportunities for underrepresented communities within the entertainment industry through training and skills development.


Russia fines streaming site Twitch over 31-second ‘fake’ video — agencies

Russia fines streaming site Twitch over 31-second ‘fake’ video — agencies
Updated 16 August 2022

Russia fines streaming site Twitch over 31-second ‘fake’ video — agencies

Russia fines streaming site Twitch over 31-second ‘fake’ video — agencies
  • The court accused Twitch, a U.S.-based live-streaming service popular with video gamers, of failing to remove a 31-second clip of a girl from Bucha

LONDON: A court in Russia has fined streaming service Twitch 2 million roubles ($33,000) for hosting a short video containing what it calls “fake” information about alleged war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, Russian news agencies reported on Tuesday.
Russia has repeatedly threatened to fine sites — including Google, Twitter and Wikipedia — it accuses of hosting “fake” content related to its military campaign in Ukraine.
The court accused Twitch, a US-based live-streaming service popular with video gamers, of failing to remove a 31-second clip of a girl from the town of Bucha, the Kommersant newspaper reported. It did not specify the content of the video.
Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ukraine and its allies accuse Russian forces of committing atrocities in Bucha, a satellite town of Kyiv, after Moscow launched its invasion in February. Russia denies the charge.
Earlier, RIA reported that Telegram messenger was hit with two fines totalling 11 million roubles ($179,000) for refusing to delete channels which allegedly showed how to “sabotage” military vehicles and hosting “unreliable data” about Russia’s progress in what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.