LONDON: Iran’s state media outlet Fars was hit by a cyberattack, the agency reported on Saturday.
The incident seems to be part of a larger operation aimed at discrediting the outlet, which is managed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and exposing sensitive government information.
Fars said that its website had been disrupted late on Friday by a “complex hacking and cyberattack operation.”
“Removing possible bugs may cause problems for some agency services for a few days,” it said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel.
“Cyberattacks against Fars news agency are carried out almost daily from different countries, including the occupied territories (Israel),” it added.
Fars has been heavily criticized for what critics say is its distorted reporting of recent protests that have swept Iran since the death of Mahsa Amini in mid-September.
The 22-year-old was arrested for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code for women and died while in the custody of the country’s morality police.
Hackers appear to have targeted the Twitter account of one of Fars’ managers and published a video on his profile.
The hacker group Black Reward on Friday claimed to have breached the agency’s database, and said it had obtained confidential bulletins and directives sent by the news agency to the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Iran has been targeted by several anonymous hacker groups in recent years.
In October, Black Reward published documents from Iran’s nuclear program after the government ignored hackers’ demands to release all political prisoners and protesters arrested during recent demonstrations.
In past weeks, the group has also hacked the emails of state-affiliated press and TV managers and employees, obtaining personal information.
Also upheld was the board’s order that Tesla reinstate and provide back pay to an employee who was fired for union-organizing activity
Updated 01 April 2023
NEW ORLEANS: A 2018 Twitter post by Tesla CEO Elon Musk unlawfully threatened Tesla employees with the loss of stock options if they decided to be represented by a union, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a March 2021 order by the National Labor Relations Board, which ordered that the tweet be deleted. The case arose from United Auto Workers’ organizing efforts at a Tesla facility in Fremont, California.
Also upheld was the board’s order that Tesla reinstate and provide back pay to an employee who was fired for union-organizing activity.
Musk tweeted on May 20, 2018: “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets health care.”
The ruling said that “because stock options are part of Tesla’s employees’ compensation, and nothing in the tweet suggested that Tesla would be forced to end stock options or that the UAW would be the cause of giving up stock options, substantial evidence supports the NLRB’s conclusion that the tweet is as an implied threat to end stock options as retaliation for unionization.”
The UAW, and Richard Ortiz, the worker whose reinstatement was ordered, praised the ruling. “I look forward to returning to work at Tesla and working with my co-workers to finish the job of forming a Union,” Ortiz said in a UAW email.
“This a great victory for workers who have the courage to stand up and organize in a system that is currently stacked heavily in favor of employers like Tesla who have no qualms about violating the law,” said UAW Region 6 Director Mike Miller.
Tesla had not responded to emailed requests for comment Friday afternoon.
‘Only journalism can save journalism,’ FII Priority panel told
News subscriptions grew by nearly 58 percent between 2019 and 2020
Social media platforms have grown up and are now being held responsible by governments and regulators, panel discusses
Updated 01 April 2023
MIAMI: Trust in news has fallen in almost half of 46 countries surveyed by the Reuters Institute. Other studies show that only 8 percent of people in the US trust what they read, see and hear.
These numbers do not surprise Faisal Abbas, the editor-in-chief of Arab News. Speaking at the FII Priority conference, he said: “We’re living in an era where we are bombarded by information left, right and center so for people to distrust the information that they are receiving is not unusual.”
Abbas said there was a silver lining in this situation, which is the increase in subscriptions.
“People, for the first time since the expansion of the internet, are willing to actually pay money for professional, quality journalism.”
There was a median increase of nearly 58 percent in active subscribers between 2019 and 2020, according to data from analytics firm Piano.
Given anyone now has the “ability to disseminate and receive information unfiltered instantly,” professional quality journalism is more important than ever.
Justin Smith, former CEO of Bloomberg Media and current CEO and co-founder of global news platform, Semafor, who moderated the panel, said that Semafor believes the best way of “attacking trust is to rethink the actual format”.
Semafor’s articles are therefore broken down into sections featuring the news, analysis, different perspectives on the topic, and other articles on the topic.
In the Middle East, unlike America, there isn’t a first amendment that protects the free speech of the press and people. However, and particularly in Saudi Arabia, “we’re living in a positive climate of reforms,” said Abbas.
While he acknowledged “we’re not there yet,” he added that since “the whole vision is focused on setting targets, KPIs, and transparency for government officials and bodies, it is unthinkable that we will not get there in the end.”
Arab News itself has seen 500 percent growth in traffic and audience and a large rise in newsletter subscriptions, so “we must be doing something right,” he added.
Moreover, when it comes to quality journalism, Saudi media continues to dominate the media scene, Abbas said.
This is, in part at least, due to the diligence and responsibility of media outlets to maintain editorial integrity, which “can’t be promised or pledged, it has to be proven with every story.
“Reputation arrives on foot and leaves on horseback, so it only takes one mistake. It’s not a responsibility we take lightly and neither does our management.”
Abbas pressed on how social media is impacting the truth and discussed the recent pressure social media companies are facing from governments and regulators.
He likened social media platforms to someone entering their teenage years — “whatever they did before was cute,” or “they were too young to know what they’re doing,” Abbas said.
But now, regulation is catching up and platforms are being held accountable, and treated as publishers who are liable for the content on their sites, he added.
Beyond news dissemination, Abbas drew attention to the problem of commercialization.
“We’re a victim of a situation whereby you are penalized to do professional journalism, and rewarded if you do lazy fake news.”
News media organizations incur multiple costs from commissioning a story, to legal reviews, to copyediting. They then end up sharing revenue with social platforms or Google, which is unfair, Abbas said.
Often, fake news stories go viral on social media platforms garnering millions of clicks, “and that is just a classic model of how easy it is and how social media will reward you if you are publishing fake news.”
It is important to remember that “big tech companies weren’t founded by journalists or publishers; they were founded by engineers who didn’t quite understand the impact that fake news has,” Abbas said.
Ultimately, he concluded, “it’s up to us, only journalism can save journalism.”
Nobel-winning Russian editor: “I know Gershkovich, he’s no spy“
Dmitry Muratov told Reuters the case against Gershkovich was part of a wider trend to make journalism a "dangerous profession" in Russia
More than 260 publications have been closed, blocked or de-registered since then, he said
Updated 31 March 2023
MOSCOW: A Nobel prize-winning Russian journalist said on Friday he did not believe that arrested American reporter Evan Gershkovich was a spy, and that he hoped diplomacy could bring about his quick release.
Dmitry Muratov told Reuters the case against Gershkovich — a Wall Street Journal reporter facing espionage charges that carry up to 20 years in jail — was part of a wider trend to make journalism a “dangerous profession” in Russia.
“I know Gershkovich. I’ve met him two or three times over the last year. I know the practice exists of using journalists as spies, intelligence officers and ‘illegals’ (undeclared spies) — this is not that kind of case,” Muratov said.
“He was no kind of so-called deep-cover operative — using being a journalist and his journalist’s accreditation as a cover for espionage ... Gershkovich was not a spy,” said Muratov, a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for his efforts to defend press freedom in Russia.
He was speaking outside a closed court hearing in Moscow on Friday in the case of Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opposition politician facing charges including state treason and spreading false information about the armed forces.
Muratov also cited the case of Ivan Safronov, a former journalist sentenced to 22 years in jail for treason last year.
“At every turn, we’re being charged with espionage and treason. It’s a trend — to show that journalism is a dangerous profession ... both for Russian and other journalists.”
Muratov was editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which has seen several of its reporters killed in the last two decades, and had its registration revoked last year after Russia went to war in Ukraine. More than 260 publications have been closed, blocked or de-registered since then, he said.
“I don’t really understand how, given that trend and the lack of media competition, you can hold the elections that President Vladimir Putin announced for 2024,” he said.
“Does it mean they’ll go ahead without difficult topics, discussions, candidate programs? I’m starting not to understand how that can work.”
Muratov said he was aware of the “popular theory” that Gershkovich had been seized as a bargaining chip for Moscow to use in a prisoner exchange with the United States, though he did not say if he believed that himself.
He said he very much hoped that “through back-channel diplomacy,” Gershkovich would soon be freed.
Meta rolls out long-sought tools to separate ads from harmful content
System offers advertisers three risk levels they can select for their ad placements
Updated 31 March 2023
LONDON: Meta Platforms Inc. said on Thursday it is now rolling out a long-promised system for advertisers to determine where their ads are shown, responding to their demands to distance their marketing from controversial posts on Facebook and Instagram.
The system offers advertisers three risk levels they can select for their ad placements, with the most conservative option excluding placements above or below posts with sensitive content like weapons depictions, sexual innuendo and political debates.
Meta also will provide a report via advertising measurement firm Zefr showing Facebook advertisers the precise content that appeared near their ads and how it was categorized.
Marketers have long advocated for greater control over where their ads appear online, complaining that big social media companies do too little to prevent ads from showing alongside hate speech, fake news and other offensive content.
The issue came to a head in July 2020, when thousands of brands joined a boycott of Facebook amid anti-racism protests in the United States.
Under a deal brokered several months later, the company, now called Meta, agreed to develop tools to “better manage advertising adjacency,” among other concessions.
Samantha Stetson, Meta’s vice president for Client Council and Industry Trade Relations, said she expected Meta to introduce more granular controls over time so advertisers could specify their preferences around different social issues.
Stetson also said early tests showed no significant change in performance or price for ads placed using more restrictive settings, adding that those involved in the tests were “pleasantly surprised.”
However, she cautioned that the pricing dynamic could change, given the auction-based nature of Meta’s ads system and the reduction in inventory associated with any restrictions.
The controls will be available initially in English- and Spanish-speaking markets, with plans to expand them to other regions — and to the company’s Reels, Stories and video ad formats — later this year.
Italy data protection agency opens ChatGPT probe on privacy concerns
ChatGPT is accused of failing to verify user age
Updated 31 March 2023
MILAN: Italy's data protection agency said on Friday it had opened a probe into OpenAI's ChatGPT chatbot over a suspected breach of data collection rules.
The agency also accused ChatGPT of failing to check the age of its users, which should be reserved to people aged 13 and above.
It said it had provisionally restricted chatbot's use of Italian users' personal data.