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

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

Judge halts Twitter-Musk case, sets Oct. 28 deadline to close deal

Judge halts Twitter-Musk case, sets Oct. 28 deadline to close deal
Updated 07 October 2022

Judge halts Twitter-Musk case, sets Oct. 28 deadline to close deal

Judge halts Twitter-Musk case, sets Oct. 28 deadline to close deal
  • The trial was due to start on October 17

NEW YORK: A US judge on Thursday suspended litigation in the saga over Elon Musk’s proposed $44-billion takeover of Twitter, giving the parties until October 28 to finalize the on-again, off-again megadeal.
Delaware Judge Kathaleen McCormick, ruling on a Musk request to freeze the case that had drawn a biting retort from Twitter, said a trial originally scheduled to begin in 11 days could be rescheduled for next month if a deal is not finalized.
“If the transaction does not close by 5 p.m. on October 28, 2022, the parties are instructed to contact me by email that evening to obtain November 2022 trial dates,” McCormick said in the order.
The move buys time for a potential reconciliation between two parties that began squabbling as soon as Musk sealed an agreement in April to purchase the influential social media site for $54.20 per share.
With an October 17 trial date on Twitter’s breach-of-contract suits against Musk looming, the unpredictable Tesla boss did an about-face on Tuesday, reviving his $44-billion takeover plan on condition the Delaware court halt the lawsuit against him.
Twitter said Tuesday it expects to close the buyout deal at the $54.20 price in a statement that did not address Musk’s demands over freezing the litigation.
Legal briefs filed earlier Thursday shed further light on prickly proceedings characterized by mutual distrust.
“There is no need for an expedited trial to order Defendants to do what they are already doing and this action is now moot,” said a filing prepared by Musk’s attorneys that alluded to his latest offer.
“Yet, Twitter will not take yes for an answer. Astonishingly they have insisted on proceeding with this litigation, recklessly putting the deal at risk and gambling with their stockholders interests.”
The filing said Twitter had opposed a suspension on the “theoretical possibility” of lack of financing for the transaction, adding that Musk has access to financing to close the deal “on or around October 28.”

Twitter refuted those arguments, noting that Musk’s side had still not committed to a closing date and calling Musk’s latest appeal “an invitation to further mischief and delay,” Twitter attorneys said in a filing to the Delaware court.
“’Trust us,’ they say, ‘we mean it this time,’” Twitter lawyers said in a brief that described Musk as seeking an “indefinite” time frame to close the deal.
“The obstacle to terminating this litigation is not, as Defendants say, that Twitter is unwilling to take yes for an answer. The obstacle is that Defendants still refuse to accept their contractual obligations.
“Until Defendants commit to close as required, Twitter is entitled to its day in court to... prove Defendants’ breaches so as to ensure complete relief in the event the closing should for any reason not occur,” they said.
Analysts say the litigation provides leverage to Twitter against the risk of another shift by Musk.
US media have reported that the talks are stuck in part on Musk’s assertion that the deal is contingent on billions of dollars in debt financing by major banks.
Twitter “thought they had a deal before,” said Adam Badawi, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “So to actually accept something from (Musk), it’s going to have to be as ironclad as it possibly can.”
But experts were eyeing the latest court twist as beneficial for Musk.
“I think it’s definitely an advantage to him. I mean, he obviously very much wanted to delay this,” Ann Lipton, a law professor at Tulane University, told AFP.
But she noted the advantage would shift to Twitter should Musk not seal the deal by October 28.
“If somehow that doesn’t happen, I think that Twitter will have a stronger case that he’s been acting in bad faith all along, which... justifies whatever equitable remedies would be appropriate for that,” Lipton added.
A serial entrepreneur made rich through his success with Tesla electric cars, Musk began to step back from the Twitter deal soon after it was agreed.
Musk said in July he was canceling the purchase because he was misled by Twitter concerning the number of fake “bot” accounts, allegations rejected by the company.
Twitter, meanwhile, has sought to prove Musk was contriving excuses to walk away — simply because he changed his mind.
Musk’s potential stewardship of the influential social media site has sparked worry from activists who fear he could open the gates to more abusive and misinformative posts.
Shares of Twitter, which surged on Tuesday’s news of Musk’s reversal, fell 3.7 percent to $49.39.

Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 

Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 
Updated 07 October 2022

Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 

Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 
  • Leo Burnett Riyadh picks up 10 prizes for its work for client Ikea
  • Middle East region collects 36 awards at event to celebrate creativity in advertising and marketing

DUBAI: Leo Burnett Riyadh was the big winner at this year’s Cresta Awards ceremony, an annual event held to recognize creativity in advertising and marketing.

The agency collected five silver and five bronze awards in various categories — including Print Craft, Print and Out-of-Home, and The Media Magic Award — for its campaigns for client Ikea.

The Middle East region as a whole won 36 awards in the competition, which saw entries from more than 70 countries.

A total of 347 entries were shortlisted, of which 58 were from the Middle East.

The UAE was also a big winner thanks to its push toward digitization and innovation.

The UAE Government Media Office picked up two silver and seven bronze awards for its three campaigns: “The Donation Plate,” which promotes the “100 Million Meals” scheme, “The Warm Winter Livestream” tourism campaign and “The Visitor from the Future” for the Dubai Museum of the Future.

Advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi MEA won one gold, one silver and four bronze awards for its “Empty Plates” campaign for the UAE Government Media Office.

Horizon FCB Dubai picked up four gold, two silver and two bronze awards for its “Breakchains with Blockchain” campaign for the Children of Female Prisoners’ Association.

In Egypt, thousands of women are sent to prison every year for being unable to repay loans often worth only a few hundred dollars.

Working with global artists, Horizon FCB and the association created non-fungible tokens, each designed to tell the story of a woman sent to prison and priced at the amount it would cost to free her.

Among the other winners were Impact BBDO Dubai, which picked up a Grand Prix in the Print and OOH category and a gold award in the Ambient and Experiential category for its “The Elections Edition” campaign for Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar.

The Film House Doha won a bronze award in the Brand Content category for its “Unparalleled” campaign.

Saudi GCAM lists new Mawthooq advertising license rules 

Saudi GCAM lists new Mawthooq advertising license rules 
Updated 07 October 2022

Saudi GCAM lists new Mawthooq advertising license rules 

Saudi GCAM lists new Mawthooq advertising license rules 

LONDON: The Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM) on Thursday released new guidelines for obtaining “Mawthooq” (trustworthy) licenses to advertise in Saudi Arabia. 

Under the campaign name “Your ad is #Mawthooq,” GCAM revealed on its website a list of questions and answers to simplify the process of identifying which businesses need to obtain the license. 

For example, an individual promoting work on a personal social media account does not require a Mawthooq license, but working as a marketer in a bank and promoting personal loans as well as banking services on social media requires a license.

Working as a designer and promoting designs on personal social media accounts does not require a Mawthooq license. Similarly, those operating gift wrapping, non-commercial photography and workshop business and using personal social media accounts do not require a license. 

The news comes following an announcement by GCAM last August stating that from early October, every Saudi and non-Saudi content creator in the Kingdom who earns revenue through advertising on social media must first apply for an official permit. 

For a fee of SR15,000 ($4,000), content creators will receive a permit lasting three years, during which time they can work with as many private entities as they wish and promote any product or service, as long as it does not violate the Kingdom’s laws or values.

The new regulations are being touted as legal protections, both for influencers and businesses wishing to advertise with them, so that rates and contractual obligations are standardized across the industry.

Saudi influencers, whether based in the Kingdom or abroad, must apply for the permit if they wish to work with a brand — local or international. However, non-Saudi residents in the country must follow a different track.

After applying to the Ministry of Investment for a permit to work in the country, they can then apply for an influencer permit through GCAM. However, non-Saudi residents must be represented by specific advertising agencies.

Female Arab influencers star in new reality show from Warner Bros. Discovery and Intigral

Female Arab influencers star in new reality show from Warner Bros. Discovery and Intigral
Updated 07 October 2022

Female Arab influencers star in new reality show from Warner Bros. Discovery and Intigral

Female Arab influencers star in new reality show from Warner Bros. Discovery and Intigral
  • ‘Dare to take Risks,’ featuring Amy Roko, Hadeel Marei and Maha Jaafar, will begin streaming on Jawwy TV on Oct. 17
  • It will follow them as they travel across Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt participating in activities such as mountain climbing and diving

DUBAI: Warner Bros. Discovery has partnered with the Saudi Telecommunication Company’s TV service Intigral to launch a new reality show, “Dare to take Risks,” starring Arab influencers Amy Roko, Hadeel Marei and Maha Jaafar.

The six-episode series will follow the three friends as they embark on a journey across Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, participating along the way in activities such as mountain climbing and diving.

“This unique project is a landmark moment within our long-standing partnership with Intigral,” said Francesco Perta, vice-president of business development and distribution for MENA and Turkey at Warner Bros. Discovery.

“We are excited for viewers to be inspired by this new generation of Arab women, with their extraordinary creativity, zest and humor.”

The show was filmed in some of the region’s most historic and distinctive locations, including the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Hegra in Saudi and Aswan in Egypt, as well as at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in Dubai.

Peter Mrkic, Intigral’s chief commercial officer, said the partnership “marks a new milestone for digital entertainment in the region as it engages a group of talents from the Kingdom and the region, and the best production and broadcast technologies.

“It will also enhance the Kingdom’s position as a production powerhouse and a hub for the latest digital entertainment productions.”

The first episode of “Dare to take Risks” will be available to stream on Jawwy TV on Oct. 17, with new episodes released each week.

A Cup of Gahwa
The taste and traditions of Saudi coffee


More or Less? Facebook gives users greater control over their feeds

More or Less? Facebook gives users greater control over their feeds
Updated 06 October 2022

More or Less? Facebook gives users greater control over their feeds

More or Less? Facebook gives users greater control over their feeds
  • New buttons will allow people to customize what they see, company says
  • Move is part of wider effort to improve AI systems

LONDON: Facebook has introduced a new set of features to give users more control over what appears on their feeds.

The changes mean that on all posts from individuals and communities that a user is linked to, including recommended posts, there will be buttons offering the options to “Show more” or “Show less.”

“Today, we’re announcing new ways to customize what you see in your Facebook Feed so you can discover what’s most relevant to you,” the company said in a blog post.

Depending on which button is pressed, the algorithm will temporarily increase or decrease related content, it said.

Facebook said the move was part of its ongoing efforts to improve its artificial intelligence systems.

“By offering more ways to incorporate direct feedback into feed ranking, we’re making our artificial intelligence systems smarter and more responsive”, it said.

According to Tom Alison, the head of Facebook’s core app, the algorithm will record the preference for 30 to 60 days, a time frame decided after a study of users’ preferences.

“We are looking at it as a signal you are giving us that is a little more time-bound than liking a post,” Alison said.

Currently, users of Facebook and Instagram — both of which are owned by Meta Platforms Inc. — can hide posts from people they follow or have been suggested, but the new feature will encompass Facebook posts from friends and recommendations.

The company said also it was trialing new ways to help users customize how much content they see in their feeds from the friends and family, groups and other pages to which they are connected.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the changes were part of the company’s efforts to compete with the surge in popularity of Chinese rival TikTok, whose recommendation-based algorithm has proven a hit for the video-sharing app.

“Features like these can help you discover more of the content that’s valuable to you, so you can see more of what you want and less of what you don’t,” the company said.

“As with every product change we make, we’ll use direct feedback to continually refine our approach.”