DUBAI: Twitter Inc. on Friday suspended Kanye West’s account again, just two months after it was reinstated, after its owner Elon Musk said he had violated the platform’s rules prohibiting incitement to violence.
Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, had welcomed the return of the rapper, now known as Ye, to the platform in October.
“I tried my best. Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended,” Musk tweeted late on Thursday.
West’s account was suspended within an hour of Musk’s post, made in a reply to a Twitter user who had said “Elon Fix Kanye Please.” Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Before suspending Ye’s account, which had over 30 million followers, Twitter had restricted one of his tweets. Reuters could not independently verify the contents of the post.
The social media platform restored the rapper’s account before the completion of its $44 billion takeover by Musk. Musk later clarified that he had had no role in bringing Ye back on Twitter.
Ye on Thursday tweeted a photo of Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel spraying water at the back of Musk’s head with a hose. He captioned the picture “Let’s always remember this as my final tweet #ye24,” before the account was suspended.
Musk responded that Ye’s account was suspended for incitement to violence, and not for posting “an unflattering pic of me being hosed by Ari.”
In November, Twitter reinstated some controversial accounts that had been banned or suspended, including satirical website Babylon Bee and comedian Kathy Griffin.
Musk also decided to reinstate former US President Donald Trump’s account after a majority of Twitter users voted in favor in a poll to bring back Trump.
Sara Balghonaim’s short film starts international festival tour next month
Updated 21 March 2023
DUBAI: Saudi film “Me & Aydarous” is set to kickstart its international festival tour at the Aspen Film Festival’s Shortsfest next month.
Written and directed by Sara Balghonaim, the film is set in the early 2000s in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh. It tells the story of a young woman who sneaks off for a date only to butt heads with her chaperoning chauffeur.
Balghonaim, a Saudi filmmaker who is based between Riyadh and New York, is currently in her thesis year at New York University’s graduate Film & Television MFA program in directing and writing.
Her writing workshops inspired the concept for the movie with Balghonaim penning the script in the second year of the program.
Students from different backgrounds shared their experiences of growing up during the early 2000s in different cultures during a workshop.
“Looking at my own past, I found that most of my memories from this time period featured my chauffeur in Riyadh,” Balghonaim told Arab News. “This is what inspired me to write this story: Me and every girl who grew up during this period have similar memories of their live-in chauffeurs knowing everything about their personal lives.”
Although the events of the film are not based on her personal life, “the dynamic between the protagonist and her driver, is my experience and the experience of most Saudi women,” she said.
Live-in chauffeurs were a common feature in Riyadh households, who knew everything about the young women they drove around from their taste in music to their relationship with their parents, Balghonaim said.
“And, if you are a girl in Saudi Arabia in the early 2000s, he (the chauffeur) knows a whole lot about your romantic life . . . or lack thereof.”
As she grew up, she saw young couples become more creative in navigating the strict rules in order to date with many meeting in cars more frequently.
“For women, that meant their chauffeurs were chaperoning these dates,” she said.
The making of the film was almost as challenging as dating in the Kingdom — from funding to casting. Production began two years ago when there was no year-round state funding for Saudi short films, Balghonaim said.
“So, despite the lack of funding from organizations, we managed to pool together money for this project, along with the support of our family and friends who loaned us their cars, and houses, and contributed their time to helping us where they could.”
The filming itself was a challenge too since the entire film takes place inside a cramped van.
“A challenge my director of photography Khalid Alsudairy and I faced was figuring out how to fit the camera and cast in this closed space whilst creating a dynamic visual language,” she said.
The biggest challenge, however, was casting, with the team auditioning many actresses before deciding on Ida Alkusay, who Balghonaim described as “extremely skilled and fearless.”
“Many of them were afraid of participating in a story that is still considered taboo,” said Balghonaim, who had to personally reassure their fathers that there would be no physical intimacy in any of the scenes between the protagonist and her boyfriend.
Since then, Saudi Arabia has come a long way both in terms of investment in the local film industry as well as changes in culture and society.
“The film speaks to a time that is different to where we are now — the GenZ in Saudi are growing up in a time with massive cultural changes, with more freedom to exercise normal day-to-day life,” she said.
With this film, Balghonaim wants to share the experiences of many Saudi women of her generation with a global audience. “I want people to question, to reminisce, and to laugh at the creative lengths we go to when it comes to getting what we want; to exercising our basic need for intimacy and connection,” she said.
“Me & Aydarous” marks Balghonaim’s debut as a director. She has worked with Haifa Al-Mansour as an assistant director on “The Perfect Candidate,” starred in “Dunya’s Day,” winner of the Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival, and recently produced “Sweet Refuge,” which won the Directors Guild of America Student Award.
Balghonaim is currently working on a feature-length film.
“The stories I’m writing center on women breaking the status quo, and touch on societal behavior and limitations,” she said.
“Me & Aydarous,” which won the Wasserman Award last year, is produced by Raed Alsemari and Salman Almusaad, and associate produced by Khalid Alsudairy, starring Ida Alkusay and Ballah Mohammad Alfadhel.
CineWaves Films owns the film distribution rights in the Arab world and Africa.
BBC urged staff to remove TikTok from work devices
Decision follows concerns raised by government authorities worldwide regarding data privacy and security
BBC is second media company in the world to issue guidance
Updated 20 March 2023
LONDON: The BBC has urged its staff to delete TikTok from their work devices.
“We don’t recommend installing TikTok on a BBC corporate device unless there is a justified business reason. If you do not need TikTok for business reasons, TikTok should be deleted,” said the broadcaster in a note sent to staff on Sunday.
Use of the app for editorial and marketing purposes is still permitted, a spokesperson said, adding that the network would continue to monitor and assess the situation, issuing further guidance if necessary.
Explaining the move, the BBC said: “The decision is based on concerns raised by government authorities worldwide regarding data privacy and security.”
It added that employees who use TikTok on personal or business devices should contact the security team to discuss “the type of BBC information that you are working with.”
Commenting on the news, TikTok said it was “disappointed” by the decision but “(welcomed) the fact TikTok can still be used as part of editorial, marketing and reporting purposes.”
In a statement, the Chinese video platform said: “We believe these bans have been based on fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics. We remain in close dialogue with the BBC and are committed to working with them to address any concerns they have.”
The BBC has a strong presence on the platform, with 1.2 million people following the BBC News account and over 4 million following a second BBC account that shares the broadcaster’s program clips.
The BBC seems to be the first UK media organization to issue the guidance and only the second in the world after Denmark’s public service broadcaster, which announced a similar guidance earlier this month.
The news comes a few days after the UK government announced that ministers and civil servants would be barred from having the TikTok app installed on official devices amid fears that sensitive data could be accessed by the Chinese government.
In recent months, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has been at the center of intense criticisms after Western governments grew increasingly skeptical of its relationship with the Chinese government.
TikTok has strived to reassure Western officials over its handling of user data, but several officials have moved to ban the video app from work devices.
ByteDance said the decision was politically motivated and based on “fundamentally wrong information.”
Western social networks including Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, which TikTok says gather similar data on their users, are officially blocked in China.
China has accused the US of spreading disinformation and suppressing TikTok after President Joe Biden threatened to ban the app entirely if its Chinese owners do not divest their stakes in it.
Surveillance nation: India spies on world’s largest population
Across the country, the use of CCTV and facial recognition is increasing in schools, airports, train stations, prisons and streets as authorities roll out a nationwide system to curb crime and identify missing children
Updated 20 March 2023
NEW DELHI: Khadeer Khan was arrested in the south Indian city of Hyderabad in January after police claimed to have identified him from CCTV footage as a suspect in a chain snatching incident. He was released a few days later, and died while being treated for injuries he allegedly sustained while in custody.
The police said Khan was arrested because he looked like the man seen in the CCTV footage.
“When it was ruled out that Khadeer was not the one who had committed the crime, he was released. Everything was done as per procedure,” said K. Saidulu, a deputy superintendent of police.
But human rights activists say the 36-year-old was clearly misidentified — a growing risk with the widespread use of CCTV in Telangana state, which has among the highest concentrations of the surveillance technology in the country.
“We have been warning for many years that CCTV and facial recognition technology can be misused for harassment, and that they can misidentify people,” said S.Q. Masood, a human rights activist who filed a lawsuit in 2021 challenging the use of facial recognition in Telangana that is still ongoing.
• India poised to become world's most populous nation
• Increased digitisation of services has led to greater surveillance, activists say
• Authorities say surveillance needed to curb crime
“This case has exposed just how harmful it can be,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Across the country, the use of CCTV and facial recognition is increasing in schools, airports, train stations, prisons and streets as authorities roll out a nationwide system to curb crime and identify missing children.
It’s not the only form of surveillance in the country.
The biometric national ID Aadhaar, with some 1.3 billion IDs issued, is linked to dozens of databases including bank accounts, vehicle registrations, SIM cards and voters’ lists, while the National Intelligence Grid aims to link nearly two dozen databases of government agencies for citizen profiles.
Meanwhile, policing of the Internet has also grown, with greater monitoring of social media, and the most frequent Internet shutdowns in the world.
Authorities say they are needed to improve governance and bolster security in a severely under-policed country. But technology experts say there is little correlation to crime, and that they violate privacy and target vulnerable people.
“Everything’s being digitised, so there’s a lot of information about a person being generated that is accessible to the government and to private entities without adequate safeguards,” said Anushka Jain, legal counsel at Internet Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group in Delhi.
“At a time when people are attacked for their religion, language and sexual identity, the easy availability of these data can be very harmful. It can also result in individuals losing access to welfare schemes, to public transport or the right to protest whenever the government deems it necessary.”
BIRTH TO DEATH
India is poised to become the world’s most populous country in April, overtaking China with more than 1.43 billion people, according to estimates by the United Nations.
The government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has prioritized the Digital India program to improve efficiency and streamline welfare schemes by digitising everything from land titles to health records to payments.
Aadhaar — the world’s largest biometric database — underpins many of these initiatives, and is mandatory for welfare, pension and employment schemes, despite a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that it cannot be a requirement for welfare programs.
Yet despite its wide adoption, millions face difficulties with their Aadhaar IDs because of inaccurate details or fingerprints that don’t match, and are denied vital services.
“The government claims linking to Aadhaar brings better governance, but it will lead to a totalitarian society because the government knows every individual’s profile,” said Srinivas Kodali at Free Software Movement of India, an advocacy group.
“The goal is to track everyone from birth to death. Anything linked to Aadhaar eventually ends up with the ministry of home affairs, and the policing and surveillance agencies, so dissent against the government becomes very difficult,” he added.
The ministry of home affairs did not respond to a request for comment.
The latest iteration of digitization is Digi Yatra, which was rolled out at the Delhi, Bengaluru and Varanasi airports in December. It allows passengers to use their Aadhaar ID and facial recognition for check-ins at airports.
The ministry of civil aviation has said Digi Yatra leads to “reduced wait time and makes the boarding process faster and more seamless,” with dedicated lanes for those using the app.
But those who choose to not use Digi Yatra may be viewed with suspicion and subject to additional checks, said Kodali.
The data — including travel details — can also be shared with other government agencies, and may be used to put people on no-fly lists, and stop activists, journalists and dissenters from traveling, as is already happening, said Kodali.
The ministry of civil aviation did not respond to a request for comment.
Some of the lowest-paid public-sector workers in India bear the brunt of the government’s surveillance mechanisms.
Municipal workers across the country are required to wear GPS-enabled watches that are equipped with a camera that takes snapshots, and a microphone that can listen in on conversations.
The watches feed a stream of data to a central control room, where officials monitor the movements of each employee, and link the data to performance and salaries.
Authorities have said the goal is to improve efficiency. Workers across the country have protested the surveillance.
In January, the federal government said that the National Mobile Monitoring Software (NMMS) app would be mandatory for all workers under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), after having rolled it out in several states last year.
Women make up nearly 60 percent of the more than 20 million beneficiaries nationwide who get 100 days of work in a year, and are paid a daily wage of up to 331 rupees ($4).
The new system requires the supervising officer, called a mate, to upload pictures of the laborers when they start work and when they finish, as proof of their attendance, which was marked in manual logs earlier.
But this requires the mate — usually a woman — to have a smartphone and a stable Internet connection twice a day, which is near impossible in many rural areas, said Rakshita Swamy, a researcher with the non-profit Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee.
“If the pictures don’t get uploaded, the workers are considered absent, and they don’t get paid for the work,” she said.
“There is also hesitation among the women about having their pictures taken. There is no transparency about what happens to these photographs — it’s highly likely that they are being used to train facial recognition algorithms,” she added.
Hundreds of NREGS workers are holding a protest in Delhi, calling for payment of back wages and doing away with the app.
The ministry of rural development has said the app would lead to “more transparency and ensure proper monitoring” of workers, without addressing surveillance concerns.
A long-delayed data protection law, which is awaiting passage in parliament, would offer little recourse as it gives sweeping exceptions to government agencies, say privacy experts.
In Rajasthan state, which has among the highest number of Internet shutdowns in the country, Kamla Devi, a mate in Ajmer district, has struggled with the NMMS app for several months.
“On many days, there’s no network, and I tell the workers to go home. There’s no point if they work because they won’t get paid,” she said.
“This app is ruining livelihoods. It was better when we had a manual attendance log.”
BBC criticized for labelling Afghan footballer refugees as ‘false’
‘Newsnight’ report claimed female players who fled Taliban rule to UK did not play for teams they named
Updated 19 March 2023
LONDON: The BBC was at the center of another scandal after being accused of calling a group of Afghan female football players who escaped to the UK “false footballers.”
In a “Newsnight” report aired on Friday, of the 35 women and their families that fled to the UK through Pakistan in November 2021, 13 were claimed to have lied on their evacuation forms regarding the teams they played for.
Many social media users found the terminology condescending and belittling and argued that it detracted from the players’ bravery and accomplishments in escaping the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021.
One of the players Mozhdah Howaida, posted a video on Twitter describing how she was approached by a BBC reporter, and “thought it was a joke.”
She said: “I came here all alone. I lost my family, my friends, my old ones behind to pursue my education to just play the game which I love.”
Howaida added that she was still dealing with “trauma and nightmares every single night.”
In a tweet, another player Zeynab Mozaffri, said: “I am one of the players you wrote about. It’s sad to read this. I have a question: How come the BBC chose to interview the male coach who left us behind and didn’t fight for us? We as women were at risk, and now he is saying we don’t deserve to be safe?”
In response to the criticism, the BBC issued an apology for any offense caused, emphasizing that it had not intended to diminish the players or their achievements.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We were initially contacted by the former women footballers still in Afghanistan who were unhappy they had been left behind and who had seen others claiming to be top-tier sportspeople granted refugee status. We investigated their claims.
“The BBC has taken care not to identify anyone who hasn’t previously been identified in other media but we will always carefully consider representations from those involved in stories.”
BBC football commentator Lineker returns after suspension for criticizing government
BBC managers reversed their decision to suspend Lineker, the broadcaster's highest-paid presenter
"It was a really difficult situation for everyone concerned," Lineker's co-presenter Alan Shearer said in a short statement
Updated 20 March 2023
LONDON: Former England football captain Gary Lineker returned to host the BBC’s flagship football show on Saturday, a week after his suspension for criticizing government immigration policy caused a row over the broadcaster’s impartiality rules.
BBC managers reversed their decision to suspend Lineker, the broadcaster’s highest-paid presenter, after his colleagues refused to work in solidarity last weekend, forcing it to air football matches without normal commentary.
The controversy shook the public broadcaster, which is funded by a levy on nearly all British households with televisions, and which often faces accusations of bias from across the political spectrum.
“It was a really difficult situation for everyone concerned,” Lineker’s co-presenter Alan Shearer said in a short statement to viewers before the start of the BBC’s broadcast of an FA Cup quarter-final game between Burnley and Manchester City.
“And through no fault of their own, some really great people on TV and in radio were put in an impossible situation, and that wasn’t fair. So it’s good to get back to some sort of normality and be talking about football again,” Shearer said.
Lineker said: “I absolutely echo those sentiments.”
Lineker, who has hosted refugees in his home, had been suspended on March 10 for a tweet that called government policy on migration “immeasurably cruel” and compared language used to support it to “that used by Germany in the 30s.”
BBC news reporters and current affairs presenters are required to avoid making politically partisan statements, though those guidelines do not generally apply to other staff or to presenters on freelance contracts such as Lineker.
He refused to apologize for his tweet and the opposition Labour Party accused the broadcaster of caving in to government pressure by suspending him. After reinstating Lineker, the BBC said it would review how its impartiality guidelines applied to freelance presenters’ use of social media.
Reducing illegal migration is one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s top policy goals for 2023.
More than 45,000 people — mostly young men from Albania, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq — crossed the Channel in small boats last year, preferring to seek asylum in Britain rather than other countries they had traveled through in Europe.
Interior minister Suella Braverman has described these arrivals as an “invasion” and is seeking to deport thousands of migrants to Rwanda.