X social media to test $1 annual subscription for basic features

Bots have been a contentious issue for Elon Musk who acquired the company last year. (AFP/File)
Bots have been a contentious issue for Elon Musk who acquired the company last year. (AFP/File)
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Updated 18 October 2023
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X social media to test $1 annual subscription for basic features

X social media to test $1 annual subscription for basic features
  • “Not A Bot” subsciption aims to tackle spam accounts
  • New method to be first available for users in New Zealand and Philippines

LONDON: Social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, said on Tuesday it will test a new subscription model under which it will charge $1 annual fee for basic features.
The new subscription termed as “Not A Bot” will charge users for likes, reposts or quoting other accounts’ posts, and bookmarking posts on the web version of the platform.
The purpose of introducing the new subscription model is to combat bots and spammers, X said, adding that the fee will vary from country to country based on the exchange rate.
X said the new method will be first available for users in New Zealand and Philippines.
Within this test, existing users are not affected. But new users who would not wish to subscribe will only be able to view and read posts, watch videos and follow accounts.
Bots have been a contentious issue for Elon Musk who acquired the company last year. In July, X had introduced a limit on viewing tweets, “to ensure the authenticity” of its user base.
Earlier this month, Reuters had reported citing a source that X CEO Linda Yaccarino met with X’s lenders, in which she had said the company would test three tiers of its subscription service based on the number of ads shown to the user.


Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says

Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says
Updated 57 min 42 sec ago
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Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says

Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says
  • Ministry accuses X of failing to address its concerns, says ban was in ‘interest of upholding national security’
  • X has been blocked since country election in February, with activities critizing ban aims to stifle democratic accountability

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interior ministry said on Wednesday it had blocked access to social media platform X around the time of February’s election on national security concerns, confirming a long-suspected shutdown.
Users in Pakistan have reported problems using X, formerly known as Twitter, since mid-February, but the government had made no official announcement on the matter until now.
The interior ministry mentioned the shutdown in a written submission to Islamabad High Court on Wednesday. Another court has told the government to reconsider the ban within a week, said Abdul Moiz Jafri, a petitioner and advocate.
“It is very pertinent to mention here that the failure of Twitter/X to adhere to the lawful directives of the government of Pakistan and address concerns regarding the misuse of its platform necessitated the imposition of a ban,” the ministry said in its court submission, which was seen by Reuters.
It said X had been reluctant to resolve the issue. X did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Wednesday.
“The decision to impose a ban on Twitter/X in Pakistan was made in the interest of upholding national security, maintaining public order, and preserving the integrity of our nation,” the ministry report said.
Access to X has remained limited since the Feb. 8 national election, which the party of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan says was rigged.

KHAN’S PARTY IS BIG USER OF X
Among Pakistan’s political parties, Khan’s party is the most prolific user of social media platforms, particularly after the country’s traditional media began censoring news about the ex-cricket star and his party ahead of the polls. Khan has over 20 million followers on X, making him the most followed Pakistani.
Khan says Pakistan’s military was behind his ouster as prime minister in 2022 and that it helped his opponents form the current government, despite candidates backed by his party winning most seats in February’s election. The military denies this charge.
He remains in jail on a number of convictions, most of which came days before the election.
Many government officials in Pakistan, notably Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, continue to use X — most likely through VPN software that bypasses the blocks.
The decision to temporarily block X was taken after considering confidential reports from Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies, the ministry report said.
It said “hostile elements operating on Twitter/X have nefarious intentions to create an environment of chaos and instability, with the ultimate goal of destabilising the country and plunging it into some form of anarchy.”
Rights groups and marketing advertisers have raised concerns.
Digital rights activist Usama Khilji said the block on X seemed designed to hinder the democratic accountability which he said a platform with instant updates of real-time information enables, especially amid the allegations and evidence of rigging which surfaced following the election.
Marketing consultant Saif Ali said: “It has become nearly impossible to convince Pakistani advertisers to invest in Twitter for brand communications, due to the platform being throttled by governmental authorities.”


Palestinian journalists urge US media to boycott correspondents’ dinner with Biden

Palestinian journalists urge US media to boycott correspondents’ dinner with Biden
Updated 17 April 2024
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Palestinian journalists urge US media to boycott correspondents’ dinner with Biden

Palestinian journalists urge US media to boycott correspondents’ dinner with Biden
  • Appeal issued due to administration’s involvement in Israel’s actions in Gaza

LONDON: Palestinian journalists are urging their US counterparts to boycott the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner over the Biden administration’s involvement in Israel’s actions in Gaza.

The appeal, which has been endorsed by 25 Palestinian journalists from Gaza and from other countries, was officially issued on Tuesday after endorsement campaigns lasting a couple of weeks.

The letter said: “As Palestinian journalists, we urgently appeal to you, our colleagues globally, with a demand for immediate and unwavering action against the Biden administration’s ongoing complicity in the systematic slaughter and persecution of journalists in Gaza.

“For Palestinian journalists in Gaza, the blue press vest does not offer us protection, but rather functions as a red target.”

Media watchdogs have reported that at least 97 journalists and media workers have been among the more than 34,000 killed since the conflict began on Oct. 7.

Many others are missing or being detained by the Israeli military “for merely fulfilling our journalistic duties.”

Some 25 journalists have signed the letter, although some have chosen to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by the Israeli army.

The letter includes signatures from renowned Gaza-based journalists such as Bisan Owda and photojournalists Mohamed Almasri, Ali Jadallah, Hosam Salem, and Mohammed Zaanoun.

The appeal has also been supported by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and Palestinian reporters working outside Gaza, including Mariam Barghouti, Mohammed El-Kurd, and Said Arikat, the Washington bureau chief for Al-Quds newspaper.

The letter criticizes the annual event — scheduled for April 27 — as an attempt by the US administration to manipulate the media by sacrificing journalistic ethics for access.

The letter added: “For journalists to fraternize at an event with President Biden and Vice President Harris would be to normalize, sanitize, and whitewash the administration’s role in genocide.

“The press plays an integral role in standing up against injustice by illuminating the truth and holding power to account.

“Journalists in Gaza cannot continue to bear the burden of doing so alone. It is past time journalists take action for journalists in Gaza.”


Dubai-based Telegram platform to hit 1 bln users within year, founder says

Dubai-based Telegram platform to hit 1 bln users within year, founder says
Updated 17 April 2024
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Dubai-based Telegram platform to hit 1 bln users within year, founder says

Dubai-based Telegram platform to hit 1 bln users within year, founder says
  • Goal is to remain neutral and not a “player in geopolitics,” Pavel Durov said in interview

LONDON: The Telegram messaging app, one of the most popular social media platforms in Ukraine and Russia, will likely cross 1 billion active monthly users within a year, its founder said in remarks published on Tuesday.
In a rare interview, Pavel Durov told US journalist Tucker Carlson that the Dubai-based free cloud-based app that allows users to send and receive messages, calls and other files, is spreading like a “forest fire.”
“We’ll probably cross 1 billion monthly active users within a year now,” Durov, who fully owns Telegram, told Tucker, according to the video interview posted on Tucker’s account on the X social media platform.
The goal of the app, which has now 900 million active users, is to remain a “neutral platform” and not a “player in geopolitics,” Durov said. The Russia-born entrepreneur said he had fled Russia in 2014 citing government interference in a company he founded.
One of Telegram’s main rivals, Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp, has more than 2 billion monthly active users. The Financial Times reported in March that Telegram would likely aim for a US listing once the company had reached profitability.
After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Telegram has become an instrumental tool for both governments and a go-to place for posting and accessing unfiltered information about the war.
Almost all major media, government entities and public figures in both Russia and Ukraine operate content channels on Telegram.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky posts his daily video addresses on the app, while his armed forces warn of air raids and document battlefield developments. The Kremlin announces President Vladimir Putin’s activities on Telegram, while Russia’s opposition rallies for support.
But the app, critics said, has also become a tool of misinformation and manipulation. A bill submitted to the Ukrainian parliament in March looks at stricter regulation of Telegram and other social networks.
The Kremlin told Durov to be more attentive after the messaging application was allegedly used to help recruit the gunmen who attacked a concert hall outside Moscow in March.


TikTok launches awards scheme for best ad campaigns on the platform in Middle East

TikTok launches awards scheme for best ad campaigns on the platform in Middle East
Updated 16 April 2024
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TikTok launches awards scheme for best ad campaigns on the platform in Middle East

TikTok launches awards scheme for best ad campaigns on the platform in Middle East
  • The awards cover six categories designed to recognize different aspects of campaigns
  • The winners will be announced during a ceremony in November

DUBAI: Short-form video app TikTok has launched an inaugural awards program to recognize and honor the best advertising campaigns on the platform in the Middle East, Turkey, South Africa and Pakistan, based on their creativity and performance.

“We have seen how creative talents from different backgrounds leverage digital platforms such as TikTok to push creative boundaries and set new benchmarks for advertising,” said Shadi Kandil, the company’s general manager of global business solutions in the Middle East, Turkey, Africa, Central and South Asia.

“This is exactly why it is important to celebrate the role brands and agencies play in promoting this dynamism. Through the TikTok Ad Awards, we aim to not only recognize their innovative efforts but also amplify the unique cultural narratives of communities within this region.”

Similar TikTok awards programs are already established in other markets but this year marks the first time they have been open to advertisers in the four listed territories. They cover six categories designed to recognize different aspects of ad campaigns.

“It’s the Creative for Me” celebrates campaigns with strong ideas and strategies specifically designed for the platform, while “Bougie on a Budget” honors those crafted on modest budgets that combine paid and organic content.

“The Trendsetter” category aims to recognize brands and agencies that harness the platform’s advertising products in innovative and effective ways.

Music and audio effects, and the influencers who operate in related spaces, are pivotal for TikTok. With that in mind, the “Sound On Please!” category will reward campaigns in which sound is a key element.

“Community Core” is for advertisers that leverage the talent of TikTok creators, while the audience at the awards ceremony in November will vote on the finalists in all the categories to choose a “People’s Choice” winner.

The TikTok Ad Awards are now open to submissions from brands and agencies in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa and Pakistan. The deadline is Sept. 6.


BBC urges UN experts to condemn Iran’s ‘harassment’ of its journalists

BBC urges UN experts to condemn Iran’s ‘harassment’ of its journalists
Updated 16 April 2024
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BBC urges UN experts to condemn Iran’s ‘harassment’ of its journalists

BBC urges UN experts to condemn Iran’s ‘harassment’ of its journalists
  • Tehran has convicted some of the broadcater’s Persian journalist of “propaganda” against the state

LONDON: The BBC on Tuesday urged United Nations experts to condemn the “ongoing targeting and harassment” of some of its Persian language journalists after Tehran convicted some for “propaganda” against the state.
According to the broadcaster, documents published in February by a hacking group appear to reveal that a number of current and former BBC News Persian journalists were convicted in absentia by an Iranian court in February 2022 for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic.”
A complaint was submitted by lawyers on behalf of the BBC to five special rapporteurs, it said in a statement.
The rapporteurs are independent experts in areas such freedom of expression and human rights and summary or arbitrary executions, who do not speak for the UN but report their findings to it.
“Recent developments have amplified the severe situation facing our BBC News Persian staff on a daily basis. They are being penalized for their journalism and professionalism,” said BBC World Service director Liliane Landor.
“We are urging UN experts to robustly condemn the Iranian authorities’ harassment and to hold the regime to account,” she added.
Lawyers Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Jennifer Robinson, who are acting for the BBC, accused Iran of abusing “national security and counter-terrorism laws against the BBC.”
They said “convictions in absentia for BBC News Persian journalists for ‘propaganda’ against the state for their independent reporting on Iran are designed to intimidate and silence the BBC’s journalism about Iran.”
“We call on the UN to denounce these unlawful actions in the strongest possible terms,” the pair added.
The BBC said the “targeting and intimidation” of staff had “escalated dramatically” since September 2022 following mass protests in Iran.
The appeal follows an earlier joint statement by four UN experts in 2020 in which they voiced their “alarm” at the treatment of BBC journalists and their families.
Last month, Pouria Zeraati, a UK-based presenter for Persian-language Iran International, sustained injuries to his leg after being stabbed by two assailants outside his London home.
Counter terrorism detectives are probing the assault and say his attackers went straight to Heathrow airport and left the country within hours.
A 2024 survey of BBC News Persian staff found half of the respondents said they had received online threats or been harassed online for working for the BBC.