Etidal, Telegram remove 15m items of extremist online content

Etidal, Telegram remove 15m items of extremist online content
The Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology can be seen in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 January 2023

Etidal, Telegram remove 15m items of extremist online content

Etidal, Telegram remove 15m items of extremist online content
  • Joint team closed 6,824 channels in 2022

RIYADH: The Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, and messaging platform Telegram, removed more than 15 million online items of content and closed down 6,824 channels in 2022.

The center, known as Etidal and based in Riyadh, has been collaborating with Telegram on preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism by reviewing online content posted in Arabic.

Both organizations have agreed to expand their coordination to detect and remove material glorifying terrorism. 

The joint team monitored and removed about 8.5 million items of extreme content by the three terrorist organizations, Al-Qaeda, Daesh, and Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, from September to December last year, broadcast through 3,616 channels.

Almost 4.2 million items of Daesh content were removed and 2,654 channels closed; Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham saw 3.7 million items removed through 703 channels; and Al-Qaeda lost 625,337 items through 259 channels.

On Feb. 21, 2022, Etidal and Telegram announced a deal to step up their joint cooperation on tackling the issue.

The items of content that were removed and channels closed amounted to more than 7.6 million items and 1,676 channels created by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham; 5.4 million items and 4,359 by Daesh; and 1.9 million items and 789 channels by Al-Qaeda.

Among items referred were media files — PDFs, videos, and audio — uploaded by groups on Telegram and public Telegram channels hosting the material.

The cooperation agreement aims to protect the platform’s users from extremist content, ideological influences, and attempts to exploit the space in trading content.

The UN Office of Counter-Terrorism hailed Etidal’s efforts in combating certain ideologies in August, saying that the global center had practical insights into various extremist groups.

Mansour Al-Shammari, secretary-general of Etidal, recently received a high-level delegation in the Saudi capital from the UN.

The two sides discussed ways to develop cooperation in preventing and combating terrorism and violent extremism.

The visiting delegation was briefed on the center’s efforts in defeating extremist ideology, and its societal initiatives.

Probe by rights groups, wire services finds Israeli attack on journalists in Lebanon was likely to have been intentional

Probe by rights groups, wire services finds Israeli attack on journalists in Lebanon was likely to have been intentional
Updated 08 December 2023

Probe by rights groups, wire services finds Israeli attack on journalists in Lebanon was likely to have been intentional

Probe by rights groups, wire services finds Israeli attack on journalists in Lebanon was likely to have been intentional
  • Evidence suggests that the military had knowledge that the individuals were civilians
  • Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime

LONDON: Investigations by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse have found that an Israeli attack on Oct. 13 was likely to have been a deliberate assault by the Israel Defense Forces on civilians, which is a war crime.

The attack killed journalist Issam Abdallah, from Reuters, and injured six others including Carmen Joukhadar and Elie Brakhya from Al Jazeera; Dylan Collins and Christina Assi from AFP; and Thaer al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh from Reuters. 

The reports include witness testimony and are based on analysis of videos, audio, munition remnants, and satellite imagery verified by the organizations, as well as multiple interviews with officials and civilians.

Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “Our investigation into the incident uncovers chilling evidence pointing to an attack on a group of international journalists who were carrying out their work by reporting on hostilities.

“Direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks are absolutely prohibited by international humanitarian law and can amount to war crimes.”

The findings are in line with the Committee to Protect Journalists’ report “Deadly Pattern,” published in May, which showed lethal force by the Israel Defense Forces had left 20 journalists dead over the last 22 years, without any accountability.

The CPJ said it welcomed the four reports and “reiterates its call for an immediate, independent, and transparent investigation that holds the perpetrators to account.”

Ramzi Kaiss, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “This is not the first time that Israeli forces have apparently deliberately attacked journalists, with deadly and devastating results.”

The attack on Oct. 13 occurred at around 6 p.m. The group of journalists had gathered as early as 4:45 p.m. in a clearing on a hilltop in Alma Al-Shaab, to film ongoing fighting on Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.

Journalists from Al Jazeera had conducted two live TV reports, the first at 4:55 p.m. and the second at 5:24 p.m., from the same location. 

Live transmissions by Reuters and AFP were also broadcast on air by several television stations during that period. 

The journalists had remained stationary for over 75 minutes before they were hit, and none of the evidence indicated the presence of any military target near the journalists.

All seven journalists were wearing helmets and blue ballistic vests with labels that said “PRESS,” and were clearly identifiable as journalists.

Footage also shows the group wearing the clearly marked vests and helmets in the same area, near a car marked with “TV” in large letters on its hood.

Five cameras belonging to journalists indirectly captured the attack and its aftermath, shedding light on how the attack was carried out and from where.

Evidence reviewed by the organizations indicates that the Israeli military knew or should have known that the people they were firing on were civilians.

The journalists interviewed said that the first attack struck Abdallah, killing him instantly, and badly injuring photojournalist Assi. 

Just 37 seconds later, the car owned by Al Jazeera was engulfed in flames and destroyed by a second attack, resulting in more injuries to journalists.  

Majzoub said: “Under international humanitarian law, parties to a conflict have a clear obligation to protect civilians, including journalists, and must at all times distinguish between civilians and civilian objects on one hand and fighters and military objectives on the other.”

HRW asserted that “warring parties are obligated to take all feasible precautions to avoid harm to civilians” and must “verify that targets are military objectives.”

It also suggested that Israel’s key allies, Germany, Canada, the US and the UK, “should suspend military assistance and arms sales to Israel, given the real risk that they will be used to commit grave abuses.”

Kaiss said: “The evidence strongly suggests that Israeli forces knew or should have known that the group that they were attacking were journalists.

“This was an unlawful and apparently deliberate attack on a very visible group of journalists.”

Google set to overtake ChatGPT with launch of AI model, Gemini

Google set to overtake ChatGPT with launch of AI model, Gemini
Updated 08 December 2023

Google set to overtake ChatGPT with launch of AI model, Gemini

Google set to overtake ChatGPT with launch of AI model, Gemini
  • The multimodal Gemini model is optimized for three sizes

DUBAI: Google announced the launch on Wednesday of its multimodal AI model, Gemini, which will power its chatbot Bard.

Gemini has been optimized for three sizes — Ultra, Pro and Nano — “which means it’s able to run on everything from mobile devices to large-scale data centers,” said Eli Collins, vice president of product at Google DeepMind, during a press briefing. 

The most advanced version, Ultra, outperforms on 30 of the 32 academic benchmarks used in large language model research and development, Collins said. 

He explained that Gemini was designed to be “natively multimodal” unlike some AI models, which means that it was trained on different formats from the beginning, enabling it to “understand nuanced information (such as) text, images, audio and code,” and “answer questions relating to complicated topics and reason in math and physics.”

“With Gemini, Bard is getting its biggest and best upgrade yet,” said El-Sisie Hsiao, vice president and general manager of Bard and Assistant. 

“A specifically tuned version of Gemini Pro” that has “more advanced reasoning, planning, understanding and other capabilities” is now integrated into Google’s chatbot Bard, she said.

Google will integrate the AI model into other Google products such as search and adverts in the future, and next year launch Bard Advanced, “which is our largest and most capable model, and it’s designed for highly complex tasks,” Hsiao said.

Google is strengthening its foothold in the field of AI nearly eight years into its journey as an “AI-first company,” wrote Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai in a blog post. 

He wrote: “We’re approaching this work boldly and responsibly. That means being ambitious in our research and pursuing the capabilities that will bring enormous benefits to people and society, while building in safeguards and working collaboratively with governments and experts to address risks as AI becomes more capable.”  

Gemini has a score of 90 percent on the MMLU (massive multitask language understanding) test and is the first model to outperform human experts (89.8 percent), as well as GPT-4 (86.4 percent) in various tasks across 57 subjects including maths, physics, history, law, medicine and ethics.

Gemini Nano is currently available to developers, while Gemini Pro will be available to enterprise and Vertex AI customers as well as developers in AI Studio from Dec. 13. Gemini Ultra will be rolled out in 2024.

Meta to start fully encrypting messages on Facebook and Messenger

Meta to start fully encrypting messages on Facebook and Messenger
Updated 07 December 2023

Meta to start fully encrypting messages on Facebook and Messenger

Meta to start fully encrypting messages on Facebook and Messenger
  • End-to-end encryption will help keeping user safe from hackers, fraudsters
  • Meta also announced plan do add invisible watermark to AI-generated product

LONDON: Meta Platforms said on Wednesday it has started to roll out end-to-end encryption for all personal chats and calls on Messenger and Facebook.

The end-to-end encryption feature will be available for use immediately, the social media giant said, but it may take some time for all Messenger accounts to be updated with default end-to-end encryption.

Messenger previously had the option to turn on end-to-end encryption, allowing a message to be read only by the sender and its recipients, but with this change messages would be encrypted by default, Meta said.

Meta, whose WhatsApp platform already encrypts messages, has said encryption can help keep users safe from hackers, fraudsters and criminals.

End-to-end encryption has been a bone of contention between companies and governments. The British government had urged Meta in September not to roll out encryption on Instagram and Facebook Messenger without safety measures to protect children from sexual abuse.

Meta is also adding two new features. Users can now edit a Facebook Messenger message within 15 minutes of sending it. Additionally, the app is integrating “Disappearing Messages,” a mode where messages automatically vanish after 24 hours, This mode is only available for conversations with end-to-end encryption turned on.

On Wednesday, the tech giant also revealed its its plan to incorporate invisible watermarking to its text-to-image generation product imagine with Meta AI chatbot in the coming weeks.

The watermark, embedded in its code, is designed to withstand common image manipulations such as cropping and screenshots.

This initiative aligns with broader efforts by major tech companies to improve transparency and curb the proliferation of fake AI-generated products.

With Reuters

Meta oversight board to examine Israel-Hamas war content

Meta oversight board to examine Israel-Hamas war content
Updated 07 December 2023

Meta oversight board to examine Israel-Hamas war content

Meta oversight board to examine Israel-Hamas war content
  • Oversight board to review two specific cases
  • New expedited review mechanism ensures that the decision’s outcome will be announced within 30 days

NEW YORK: Meta’s independent Oversight Board said on Thursday it will review how the company has handled violent content on its social media platforms in two cases involving hostage-taking and bombing in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The cases will be the first to use a new expedited review mechanism announced earlier this year that requires the board to make decisions within 30 days. The board usually deliberates for several months on its cases. The board’s decision to take on the cases comes as social media platforms have been flooded with violent, hateful and misleading content in the two-month-old war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement in Gaza which carried out the Oct. 7 attack on Israeli towns that set off the conflict.
After that attack, Meta temporarily lowered its threshold for removing potentially harmful content, including posts that clearly identified hostages taken by Hamas. The company has also faced accusations that it was suppressing expressions of support for Palestinians living under Israel’s military response in Gaza.
In one case to be reviewed by the board, Meta took down a video on Instagram showing the aftermath of an explosion at the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, including injured and dead children, the board said.
A caption on the video claimed the hospital had been targeted by the “usurping occupation,” an apparent reference to the Israeli army, it said. The hospital, the biggest medical facility in the Palestinian Territories, has been at the center of accusations of war crimes on both sides of the conflict. Human Rights Watch last month said its investigation found the explosion at the hospital was likely caused by a rocket commonly used by Palestinian armed groups.
Meta restored the content with a warning screen after the board selected the case for review.
The other case involves a video on Facebook showing a woman begging her kidnappers not to kill her as she is driven away on a motorbike. A caption urges people to raise awareness of what happened on Oct. 7, the board said.
Meta initially took down the video, but reversed its decision weeks later in response to trends around how hostage kidnapping videos were being shared, according to the board.
As with the video in the first case, it was restored with a warning screen, the board said.
In a statement, Meta said it welcomed the Oversight Board’s review and pledged to implement its decision in each case.

TikTok launches $1M campaign to tackle climate misinformation at COP28

TikTok launches $1M campaign to tackle climate misinformation at COP28
Updated 07 December 2023

TikTok launches $1M campaign to tackle climate misinformation at COP28

TikTok launches $1M campaign to tackle climate misinformation at COP28
  • The platform revealed its commitment to sustainability and climate literacy

LONDON: TikTok launched the 2023 #ClimateAction campaign with new initiatives and programming, as part of the ongoing commitment to tackling misinformation and coinciding with the COP28 UN Climate Change Conference.

The platform announced a new $1 million initiative to tackle climate misinformation in support of “Verified for Climate,” a collaborative initiative between the UN and Purpose.

The campaign will bring together a group of “Verified Champions” who will assist TikTok creators in creating educational content to combat false and misleading information about climate change, while also promoting climate action within the TikTok community.

In a statement, Helena Lersch, vice president of public policy for emerging markets and global head of corporate social responsibility, said: “At TikTok, we are continuously finding ways to empower our community with authoritative information on topics that matter to them, including climate literacy.

“Through this new initiative, we’re looking forward to partnering with a team of experts to further inform and inspire our global community, bound by our shared goal of raising awareness around important climate topics and finding sustainable solutions.”

Echoing Lersch’s words, Melissa Fleming, UN under-secretary-general for global communications, highlighted the importance of having accurate, science- based information, especially given the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.

“With creative content that focuses on solutions and inspires action, the ‘Verified Champions’ will help turn the tide on denialism, doomism and delay,” she argued.

As part of the global #ClimateAction campaign this year, TikTok launched “Nature Diaries,” an exclusive video series aimed at promoting climate action and enhancing climate literacy.

Additionally, TikTok LIVE is extending its partnership with Emirates Nature-WWF to spearhead impactful environmental initiatives.

Creators and participants will take part in a “plant a tree” event, dedicated to restoring the terrestrial ecosystem Masfout Village in Ajman, as part of a collaboration between TikTok LIVE and Emirates Nature-WWF.

Coinciding with the COP28 conference, six creators joined non-profit partners to discuss and explore best practices of using authentic sustainability content to drive positive impact.

In April, TikTok collaborated with the UN to introduce a search tool that provides credible information to users searching for climate-related subjects.

TikTok has emerged as a hub for communities worldwide that are affected by climate change, providing them with valuable information and facilitating discussions on crucial climate-related matters and potential solutions.

Similarly, earlier this year, TikTok has launched a mental-health awareness campaign called #aGoodCollective.

The initiative provides themed hashtags, specialized tools, and access to an array of resources to help address common misconceptions about mental well-being and extend support to those seeking help.