Twitter survival at stake, Elon Musk warns as remote work ends

Twitter survival at stake, Elon Musk warns as remote work ends
The number of posts on Twitter containing racial slurs has soared since Elon Musk purchased the influential platform, new research shows. (AP Photo)
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Updated 11 November 2022
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Twitter survival at stake, Elon Musk warns as remote work ends

Twitter survival at stake, Elon Musk warns as remote work ends
  • A number of well-known brands have paused advertising on Twitter as they wait to see how Musk's proposals to relax content rules against hate and misinformation affect the tenor of the platform

Elon Musk is warning Twitter employees to brace for “difficult times ahead” that might end with the collapse of the social media platform if they can't find new ways of making money.
Workers who survived last week's mass layoffs are facing harsher work conditions and growing uncertainty about their ability to keep Twitter running safely as it continues to lose high-level leaders responsible for data privacy, cybersecurity and complying with regulations.
Musk’s first companywide message to employees came by email late Wednesday night and ordered them to stop working from home and show up in the office Thursday morning. He followed that with his first “all-hands" meeting Thursday answering workers' concerns. Before that, many were relying on the billionaire Tesla CEO's public tweets for clues about Twitter's future.
“Sorry that this is my first email to the whole company, but there is no way to sugarcoat the message," wrote Musk, before he described a dire economic climate for businesses like Twitter that rely almost entirely on advertising to make money.
“Without significant subscription revenue, there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn,” Musk said. “We need roughly half of our revenue to be subscription.”
At the staff meeting Thursday afternoon, Musk said some “exceptional” employees could seek an exemption from his return-to-work order but that others who didn’t like it could quit, according to an employee at the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity out of a concern for job security.
The employee also said Musk appeared to downplay employee concerns about how a pared-back Twitter workforce was handling its obligations to maintain privacy and data security standards, saying as CEO of Tesla he knew how that worked.
Musk’s memo and staff meeting echoed a livestreamed conversation trying to assuage major advertisers Wednesday, his most expansive public comments about Twitter’s direction since he closed a $44 billion deal to buy the social media platform late last month and dismissed its top executives. A number of well-known brands have paused advertising on Twitter as they wait to see how Musk's proposals to relax content rules against hate and misinformation affect the tenor of the platform.
Musk told employees the “priority over the past 10 days" was to develop and launch Twitter's new subscription service for $7.99 a month that includes a blue check mark next to the name of paid members — the mark was previously only for verified accounts. Musk's project has had a rocky rollout with an onslaught of newly bought fake accounts this week impersonating high-profile figures such as basketball star LeBron James, former U.S. President George W. Bush and the drug company Eli Lilly to post false information or offensive jokes.
In a second email to employees, Musk said the “absolute top priority" over the coming days is to suspend “bots/trolls/spam” exploiting the verified accounts. But Twitter now employs far fewer people to help him do that.
An executive last week said Twitter was cutting roughly 50% of its workforce, which numbered 7,500 earlier this year.
Musk had previously expressed distaste for Twitter's pandemic-era remote work policies that enabled team leaders to decide if employees had to show up in the office.
Musk told employees in the email that “remote work is no longer allowed" and the road ahead is “arduous and will require intense work to succeed" and they will need to be in the office at least 40 hours per week. He said he would personally review any request for an exception.
Twitter hasn’t disclosed the total number of layoffs across its global workforce but told local and state officials in the US that it was cutting 784 workers at its San Francisco headquarters, about 200 elsewhere in California, more than 400 in New York City, more than 200 in Seattle and about 80 in Atlanta.
The exodus at Twitter is ongoing, including the company's chief privacy officer, Damien Kieran, and chief information security officer Lea Kissner, who tweeted Thursday that “I’ve made the hard decision to leave Twitter.”
Cybersecurity expert Alex Stamos, a former Facebook security chief, tweeted Thursday that there is a “serious risk of a breach with drastically reduced staff” that could also put Twitter at odds with a 2011 order from the Federal Trade Commission that required it to address serious data security lapses.
“Twitter made huge strides towards a more rational internal security model and backsliding will put them in trouble with the FTC” and other regulators in the US and Europe, Stamos said.
The FTC said in a statement Thursday that it is “tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern."
“No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees," said the agency's statement. “Our revised consent order gives us new tools to ensure compliance, and we are prepared to use them.”
The FTC would not say whether it was investigating Twitter for potential violations. If it were, it is empowered to demand documents and depose employees.
Twitter paid a $150 million penalty in May for violating the 2011 consent order and its updated version established new procedures requiring the company to implement an enhanced privacy protection program as well as beefing up info security.
Those new procedures include an exhaustive list of disclosures Twitter must make to the FTC when introducing new products and services — particularly when they affect personal data collected on users.
Musk is, of course, fundamentally overhauling platform offerings, and it's not known if he is telling the FTC about it. Twitter, which gutted its communications department, didn't respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Musk has a history of tangling with regulators. “I do not respect the SEC,” Musk declared in a 2018 tweet.
The Securities and Exchange Commission recently examined for possible tardiness his disclosures to the agency of his purchases of Twitter stock to amass a major stake. In 2018, Musk and Tesla each agreed to pay $20 million in fines over Musk’s allegedly misleading tweets saying he’d secured the funding to take the electric car maker private for $420 a share. Musk has fought the SEC in court over compliance with the agreement.
The consequences for not meeting FTC's requirements can be severe — such as when Facebook had to pay $5 billion for privacy violations.
“If Twitter so much as sneezes, it has to do a privacy review beforehand,” tweeted Riana Pfefferkorn, a Stanford University researcher who said she previously provided Twitter outside legal counsel. “There are periodic outside audits, and the FTC can monitor compliance.”
Twitter was fined in May for the alleged commercial exploit of customers data — phone numbers and email addresses — that it had claimed it needed for security purposes, such as enabling multi-factor authentication.
 


Dubai’s Arab Media Forum wraps up with insights into AI-led future

Dubai’s Arab Media Forum wraps up with insights into AI-led future
Updated 27 September 2023
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Dubai’s Arab Media Forum wraps up with insights into AI-led future

Dubai’s Arab Media Forum wraps up with insights into AI-led future
  • Forum had two key themes: impact of artificial intelligence and influence of film and drama

DUBAI: The 21st edition of the Arab Media Forum wrapped up in Dubai on Wednesday, with leading media figures, ministers, heads of local Arab and international media organizations, as well as intellectuals and writers coming together to discuss the future of the industry.  

The two-day forum had two key themes: the impact of artificial intelligence on the media, and the influence of film and drama as sources of soft power.  

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammad Al-Maktoum highlighted the importance of culture in society, saying it is intertwined with creative economy, the basis for countries’ development.  

Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, spoke of the importance of finding common ground in the region in order to coexist peacefully.  

”This pillar is stability. This stability is not just for the UAE but for the entire region as this cannot be achieved in isolation. There is a need to calm the region and not focus on disagreements. Confrontation leads to a high price for all parties. So, the first pillar is stability, and this is an established fact. The second pillar is geo-economic more than a geo-strategic. Economic growth is important,” he said.

Most of the attendees and panelists shared the view that AI can be beneficial in terms of solving problems in a cost-effective and timely manner. However, some journalists warned of its dangers in terms of spreading fake, unverified news, as well as its possible impact on job losses in the media sector.  

Bahraini Minister of Information, Ramzan Abdulla Al-Nuaimi, and H.E. Karam Gabr, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation, discussed the differences between Arab media operations and their counterparts in West.

“Each country has a different set of laws, morals and culture; we Arabs have been stereotyped on how we handle our journalists and our media, but what the West fails to understand is that we live according to our values and not theirs,” Al-Nuaimi said.  

Both agreed there should be economic opportunities for the youth to express their creativity, and channel their opinions and frustrations in positive ways.  


Egyptian journalist warns of threat posed by AI to media sector

Egyptian journalist warns of threat posed by AI to media sector
Updated 27 September 2023
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Egyptian journalist warns of threat posed by AI to media sector

Egyptian journalist warns of threat posed by AI to media sector
  • 'We now live in a fake news era; times have changed, so did copyright laws,' said Adib at the Arab media Forum

DUBAI: Egyptian businessman and journalist Imad Eddine Adib has issued an ominous warning about the potential threat posed by artificial intelligence to the media industry.

Speaking at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai, the self-confessed “crazy pessimist” predicted that the future for the sector looked neither promising nor safe.

The veteran writer told delegates at a session, titled “The Truth in the AI Era,” that his opinions were based on facts and data.

He said: “We can use technology to serve humanity, but we need to note that humanity also has a good and bad side.”

Reiterating the views of many speakers at the annual media industry gathering, Adib pointed out how AI could have major technological benefits for businesses, saving time and money. But he noted how tech had infiltrated the lives of most people.

“All those walking with smart phones in their pockets must be aware that they are being supervised, their privacies invaded, and there is no program or software you can get to defend or fight against this supervision.

“We now live in a fake news era; times have changed, so did copyright laws. You can now hear (Egyptian singer) Umm Kulthum singing a carnival song,” he added.

Adib highlighted an example of a deepfake video sent to him by friends that falsely claimed former US President Donald Trump had been given a new heart belonging to a Muslim man and had converted to Islam.

Addressing the session, Dr. Maitha Buhumaid, director of the Dubai Press Club, said: “There will be coordination and relationship between robots; given each serves a purpose they will be exchanging data to complete their missions. We need a ceiling on this.

“Imagine the disastrous outcome if let’s say mobsters or ISIS (Daesh) got their hands on robots. Imagine the infiltration of trade, numbers on the stock market, and economic well-being of countries. That’ll have disastrous implications. These are all possible scenarios for the future.”


Dubai Media launches new corporate identity at 21st Arab Media Forum

Dubai Media launches new corporate identity at 21st Arab Media Forum
Updated 27 September 2023
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Dubai Media launches new corporate identity at 21st Arab Media Forum

Dubai Media launches new corporate identity at 21st Arab Media Forum
  • DMI aims to become the No. 1 media destination in the Middle East, says CEO Al-Mulla

LONDON: Dubai Media Inc. announced on Tuesday from Dubai the launch of its new corporate identity and strategy.

The announcement came on the sidelines of the 21st Arab Media Forum, during a dinner party held by DMI at Mina A’Salam Hotel to celebrate the strategy’s approval by Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, second deputy ruler of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Media Council.

DMI CEO Mohammed Al-Mulla said his company aimed to become the No. 1 media destination in the Middle East in the next few years, stressing the importance of the media economy.

DMI’s new vision aims to revolutionize the press sector, enhance Dubai’s role as a global economic hub and major gateway to world trade, promote Emirati culture, focus on local affairs, and cover developments in all sectors.

The new strategy includes the launch of several initiatives that will improve DMI’s position as a prominent Arab media brand and contribute to the development of Arab media.

These initiatives include the launch of the Dubai Media Academy; the Dubai Media Studios, a modern production company operating on a commercial basis; the Media Services Initiative, which will service other production companies; and the Arts Events Company.

DMI, the government of Dubai’s official media organization, signed on Monday an agreement with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority to collaborate ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, in accelerating sustainable development and contributing to achieving net zero.


Saudi data chiefs launch new training initiative in latest AI push

Saudi data chiefs launch new training initiative in latest AI push
Updated 27 September 2023
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Saudi data chiefs launch new training initiative in latest AI push

Saudi data chiefs launch new training initiative in latest AI push
  • Program will offer 32 training camps to 800 specialized tech graduates

LONDON: Saudi data chiefs have launched a series of technology training camps aimed at educating 800 graduates on the latest developments in the field of artificial intelligence.

Under the initiative, the Saudi Data and AI Authority will run 32 camps focused on large language model technology, a type of AI that can mimic human intelligence, Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Tuesday.

The training program — to be offered to recent graduates in technical specializations — has been designed to bolster the Kingdom’s efforts to nurture a new generation of LLM experts.

LLMs are AI systems with vast amounts of data that can generate human-like text, translate languages, write different kinds of creative content, and answer questions in an informative way.

The first camp will get underway on Oct. 8 and will be held virtually over four weeks, covering topics such as generative AI, neural networks, deep learning, and text data analysis.

At the end of each camp, trainees will be awarded certificates of completion and will be eligible to take professional certification exams related to LLMs.

Separately, the authority has also launched an Open Datathon competition for which registration closes on Sept. 30. Aimed at students, alumni, and entrepreneurs, it has been designed to develop skills in data science and stimulate innovation.

The datathon will be held over two days, and participants will be supervised by experts in the field of data science. On day three, competitors will present their solutions to a panel of judges.


Saudi-Iran rapprochement right move but still long way to go: Experts tell Arab Media Forum

Saudi-Iran rapprochement right move but still long way to go: Experts tell Arab Media Forum
Updated 27 September 2023
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Saudi-Iran rapprochement right move but still long way to go: Experts tell Arab Media Forum

Saudi-Iran rapprochement right move but still long way to go: Experts tell Arab Media Forum

DUBAI: The recent Chinese-brokered rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran was the right move, but there is still a long way to go, experts told the Arab Media Forum on Tuesday. 

“Iran continues to support armed groups that Saudi opposes,” Afshin Molavi senior fellow at Foreign Policy Institute in John Hopkins University, pointed out. 

Molavi’s comments came during session titled “The Middle East – A Region of Opportunities or Conflicts” alongside Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News.

Wondering if whether or not the deal will succeed, Abbas pointed out that the Kingdom, due to its continuous leadership, has over 40 years of experience in dealing with Iran.

“The best case scenario will be both countries putting in the leverage and work to cooperate and try to solve conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, of course with involvement of the local players. 

The worst case scenario will be a missed opportunity to make that happen and relations remain the same.”  Abbas said.

Abbas also explained why China was a better suited broker for the rapprochement deal detailing how it has leverage over Iran by investing billions of dollars in projects and there is no risk of the negotiations restarting under a different ideology every 4 years due to elections as could be the case in America. 

In his view, Molavi said China brokering the deal “comes with a grain of salt” as Washington believes China is its enemy but he believes the rapprochement is the right move for the region.  

The Arab view on China differs from the west, however. 

A recent YouGov study done by Arab News on Palestine shows how Palestinians see China as a more honest broker to handle their issue rather than the US.

Abbas said colonial powers such as France, the UK and the wars US were involved in are viewed negatively in comparison to China where its political and economical involvement in the region has been mostly positive “the Chinese do not come with that baggage.” 

On the issue of America, Molavi notes there is a shift in power and while Washington remains a powerful country, the world is witnessing a rise in other powers such as China and India.  

“Today, countries are proving that we now live in the world of multi strategic alignment, and I think Washington is beginning to understand that; it is no longer you’re either with us or against us.” 

Molavi continues: “this can also be seen in the Abraham Accords where on one hand the UAE has this historical relationship and alliance with Israel but then joins BRICS.  

Abbas described how exciting the dynamics are and spoke of the Saudi position on the matter where he mentions how the Saudi hand has been extended for 20 years provided that there will be a solution for Palestinians.  

“Biden needs a foreign policy legacy and this will be a winning ticket for him for the upcoming election.”  

 

 

Both speakers also discussed and highlighted the positive changes that Saudi and UAE have been making.   

Abbas noted Saudi Arabia’s remarkable achievements and how these stories should be celebrated and shared such as the launching of the female Saudi astronaut among other things. 

“Actions speak louder than words, Facts are stubborn things. No amount of negative stories can take those achievements away, Saudi is the fastest growing G20 economy in the world.”