Meta to start fully encrypting messages on Facebook and Messenger

End-to-end encryption has been a bone of contention between companies and governments. (AFP/File)
End-to-end encryption has been a bone of contention between companies and governments. (AFP/File)
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Updated 07 December 2023
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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


‘Fascist Modi’ response by Google’s Gemini AI sparks diplomatic row

‘Fascist Modi’ response by Google’s Gemini AI sparks diplomatic row
Updated 26 February 2024
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‘Fascist Modi’ response by Google’s Gemini AI sparks diplomatic row

‘Fascist Modi’ response by Google’s Gemini AI sparks diplomatic row
  • Google AI model response said some of Modi’s policies were ‘characterized as fascist’ by experts
  • ‘Google’s response breached India’s law,” junior information tech minister said

LONDON: Google’s artificial intelligence model, Gemini, has sparked a diplomatic row with its response describing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government policies as “fascist.”

The controversy arose when Indian author and journalist Arnab Ray queried Gemini about Modi’s ideology, to which the bot responded that Modi was “accused of implementing policies some experts have characterized as fascist.”

This answer contrasted with responses to similar questions about former US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who received more benign replies.

The controversial response sparked an immediate backlash in India, with accusations of bias and malice leveled against Google and its AI model.

Junior Information Technology Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar raised the issue, accusing Google of violating the country’s digital technology rules and various provisions of India’s criminal laws.

He emphasized that the unreliability of AI platforms could not be used as an excuse to exempt them from Indian laws.

“The Government has said this before — I repeat for attention of @GoogleIndia … Our Digital Nagriks (citizens) are NOT to be experimented on with ‘unreliable’ platforms/algos/model … ‘Sorry Unreliable’ does not exempt from the law,” he wrote on X.

Google responded by stating that it had addressed the problem and was working to improve the system, clarifying that “Gemini is built as a creativity and productivity tool and may not always be reliable.”

This incident comes after Google had to issue an apology and suspend some of Gemini’s tasks last week when the model depicted specific white figures, such as the US Founding Fathers, or groups like Nazi-era German soldiers, as people of color.

This move was seen by experts as an overcorrection to long-standing racial bias problems in AI, prompting fresh concerns about the issue.

In a similar incident earlier this month, social media platform X stated that the Indian government had ordered it to take down posts expressing support for farmers in north India demanding higher crop prices.

While complying with the orders, X expressed disagreement, citing concerns about curtailed freedom of expression.


Netflix-AFAC’s Women in Film training program deemed big success

Netflix-AFAC’s Women in Film training program deemed big success
Updated 26 February 2024
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Netflix-AFAC’s Women in Film training program deemed big success

Netflix-AFAC’s Women in Film training program deemed big success
  • ‘Truly inspiring’ initiative concluded with visit to production facility in Madrid
  • 37 women took part in project that aims to support development of industry

LONDON: The inaugural film industry training program launched by Netflix for young Arab women has garnered praise as a “truly inspiring” success.

In collaboration with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, the Women in Film: Introduction to the Creative Process initiative concluded with a visit to Netflix’s production hub in Tres Cantos, Madrid, following a series of workshops across the Middle East region.

“The program was a great experience not only for the quality of information being taught, but also for meeting influential women from different areas in this industry and providing an interactive and fun experience,” said Maha Hani, a participant from Saudi Arabia, who was among 37 women recently concluding the initiative in Madrid.

“Seeing the drive and initiative by Netflix and AFAC to provide opportunities for great stories by talented women all over the world is truly inspiring,” she added.

The program began in November with three-day workshops held in Dubai, Jeddah, and Cairo, offering participants mentorship from established female directors in various aspects of filmmaking, including scriptwriting.

Participants visited Netflix’s content hub during the final leg, expanding their network through engagements with industry professionals and talks with prominent organizations and government bodies.

The participants also had the opportunity to have mentoring sessions with producer Emma Lustres (“Cell 211,” “Retribution”), and showrunner Gema R. Neira (“Nacho,” “High Seas,” “Farina”).

Netflix collaborated with AFAC to support aspiring female directors aged 21 to 27 as part of its broader commitment to promoting gender equality in the Arab cinema industry through its Because She Created initiatives.

Announced in August, the program welcomed candidates from the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait.

Rima Mismar, AFAC’s executive director, spoke of the organization’s ongoing commitment to breaking stereotypes and championing women’s voices across the Arab region.

She said: “We are extremely pleased with this renewed partnership with Netflix, through which we can build on this commitment and instill technical capacities in young women talents of the region.”

Nuha El Tayeb, Netflix’s content director for Turkey, the Middle East, and Africa, highlighted the program’s role in developing talents and supporting the growth of the industry’s next generation, adding: “We are proud of the impactful work we’re delivering with long-standing partners like AFAC, who have experience creating tangible opportunities for underrepresented voices and making the industry more inclusive and accessible.”


French journalist detained in Ethiopia

French journalist detained in Ethiopia
Updated 26 February 2024
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French journalist detained in Ethiopia

French journalist detained in Ethiopia
  • Antoine Galindo has been accused of conspiring “to create chaos” after travelling to Ethiopia to cover the African Union summit
  • Galindo was arrested while meeting an official from the opposition Oromo Liberation Front party

ADDIS ABABA: A French journalist has been arrested and detained in Ethiopia since February 22 on suspicion of conspiring “to create chaos” in the country, his employer announced on Monday.
Antoine Galindo had traveled to Ethiopia to cover the African Union summit earlier this month for the specialist publication Africa Intelligence.
Following his arrest on Thursday, he was brought before a judge on Saturday, who ordered his detention be extended until March 1, Africa Intelligence said, condemning the “unjustified arrest.”
“These spurious accusations are not based on any tangible evidence that might justify this extended deprivation of liberty,” it said, pointing out that Galindo had informed the Ethiopian authorities of his assignment and had a visa authorizing him to work there as a journalist.
The 36-year-old journalist, who heads the publication’s East Africa section, lived in Ethiopia between 2013 and 2017 and was “known to the Ethiopia Media Authority,” which oversees media accreditations in the country.
According to a source close to the case who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, Galindo was arrested on Thursday afternoon at a hotel in Addis Ababa while meeting an official from the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) party.
He has since been held at a police station in Ethiopia’s capital, the publication said, calling for his immediate release.
Ethiopian authorities did not respond to AFP requests for comment.
An OLF spokesman told AFP that a party official was arrested in Addis Ababa on Thursday but could not confirm if Galindo had met the official.


The Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday that it was “outraged that a journalist on a legitimate reporting trip is targeted in this way.”
Galindo’s “unjust arrest highlights the atrocious environment for the press in general in Ethiopia,” the CPJ’s Africa branch said on its website.
According to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, as of January 1 this year, 15 journalists were in prison in Ethiopia.
In 2023, Ethiopia ranked 130th in the world in terms of press freedom, down 16 places compared to 2022, according to the NGO.
The government imposed a state of emergency in Ethiopia’s second most populous region Amhara in August after fighting erupted between federal authorities and a regional “self-defense” militia named Fano.
The decree, which was extended earlier this month, allows the authorities to declare curfews and for suspects to be searched and held without a warrant.
Federal forces in Oromia — Ethiopia’s most populous region — have been battling the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebel group since 2018, after it split from the OLF when the latter renounced armed struggle.


The fighting in Amhara reignited concerns about Ethiopia’s stability, just a few months after a peace deal ended a brutal two-year conflict in the northernmost region of Tigray between Tigrayan rebel authorities and forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Abiy was hailed as a reformer when he came to power in 2018 after decades of authoritarian rule, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his rapprochement with neighboring Eritrea.
But his reputation has taken a hit in recent years, with UN investigators accusing his government of crimes against humanity in Tigray — claims rejected by the authorities.
Ethiopia has expelled several foreign journalists since the end of 2020.
“The surge in abuses against journalists seen since the start of the war in Tigray in November 2020 is not abating. Several journalists have been killed under unclear circumstances,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Hostility toward foreign media was seen again in early 2023, when the authorities suspended around 15 foreign TV channels for allegedly operating without a license,” it added.
Prior to Galindo’s detention, Ethiopian authorities had not arrested a foreign journalist in more than three years.
In July 2020, a Kenyan journalist was detained for more than a month in Addis Ababa, despite an Ethiopian court ordering his release on bail.


Mexico president lambastes YouTube after company edits video revealing NYT journalist’s number

Mexico president lambastes YouTube after company edits video revealing NYT journalist’s number
Updated 26 February 2024
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Mexico president lambastes YouTube after company edits video revealing NYT journalist’s number

Mexico president lambastes YouTube after company edits video revealing NYT journalist’s number
  • Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador revealed the private telephone number of the New York Times’ Mexico bureau chief during news conference
  • Mexican president criticized the platform of censorship and and authoritarian attitude after the video was removed for violating privacy policies

MEXICO CITY: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador criticized YouTube on Sunday night after the tech company removed the video of a news conference in which the leader revealed the private telephone number of the New York Times’ Mexico bureau chief.
The platform said the video had violated their policies on harassment and cyberbullying. It later republished an edited version without the reporter’s private information.
In response, Lopez Obrador accused the platform of censorship and said it was acting with an overbearing and authoritarian attitude.
The message was accompanied by a picture of the Statue of Liberty, which he said had become a “empty symbol.” YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Thursday, Lopez Obrador read aloud a letter from the Times requesting comment on a story reporters were preparing about a shelved US government investigation into allegations that his allies met with and took millions of dollars from drug cartels after he took office in 2018.
Then he read the phone number of Times’ bureau chief. The same day, Mexico’s freedom of information body INAI said it was initiating an investigation into his revealing the number.
After the news conference, the Times issued a statement that called it “a troubling and unacceptable tactic from a world leader.”
Making public a journalist’s private phone number is particularly worrisome in Mexico, one of the most dangerous countries in the world for reporters outside of war zones, especially for Mexican journalists investigating criminal gangs and widespread corruption.
Lopez Obrador frequently attacks the news media during his daily press conferences.
“She is slandering us and if she is very worried, then she should change her phone number,” Lopez Obrador told reporters after the video was released. “Above the personal data protection law, there is the dignity of the president.”
In the days that followed, social media users published the private numbers of one of Lopez Obrador’s sons and both candidates for the country’s June presidential race, Claudia Sheinbaum from the president’s MORENA party and rival Xochitl Galvez.
Galvez said that she had gotten a flood of messages since her number was published — both critical and supporting — and that she would not change it.
MORENA’s New York committee protested outside the Times’ office in New York City on Sunday afternoon.
The New York Times story in question, published just after Lopez Obrador revealed the reporter’s phone number, noted that the United States never opened a formal investigation and that officials ultimately shelved the inquiry.
Lopez Obrador denied all accusations and said it was “completely false.”
That story came on the heels of other recent reporting from other media outlets about a different US investigation into possible collusion between a drug cartel and Lopez Obrador associates to accept money for his 2006 presidential campaign in exchange for leniency.
Lopez Obrador has denied those accusations, calling them slander, and responded by saying the journalist who broke the story was a “mercenary in the service” of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, which carried out the investigation.
Concerns about media safety have remained consistent throughout Lopez Obrador’s presidency. In January, the theft of the personal data of hundreds of journalists in Mexico, including addresses and copies of voter ID cards and passports, raised fresh worries.
International free-speech organization Article 19 has documented 163 journalist murders in Mexico since 2000.


Media leaders discuss content, entertainment, news at FII Priority Summit

Media leaders discuss content, entertainment, news at FII Priority Summit
Updated 23 February 2024
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Media leaders discuss content, entertainment, news at FII Priority Summit

Media leaders discuss content, entertainment, news at FII Priority Summit

MIAMI: The Future Investment Initiative Priority Summit in Miami brought together experts from various facets of the media industry on Friday for a panel discussion titled “Captivated by Content: How Brands are Adapting to Trends in Media Consumption.”

The key for any media owner is knowing their audience, but that audience is constantly evolving.

Sam Englebardt, founding general partner of Galaxy Interactive who has been a key investor in the gaming industry, said: “It used to be that we were catering to younger males … and now it’s pretty much the whole world.”

One of the problems with understanding audiences is doing so through data, said Bob Pittman, chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia.

“We’re entering this era of tyranny of the data,” he said, adding that the idea that if you cannot measure something it does not exist is a delusion.

As technology has become more pervasive, said Englebardt, “it’s now more possible than ever to really be everywhere they (audiences) are on whichever platform they have, so what are you going to make that people are going to care about, and how do you build a world that they want to spend conceivably all of their time in?”

However, it can be detrimental if people spend more time in virtual worlds than in the real one.

John Hanke, founder and CEO of mobile apps firm Niantic, is focused on building immersive experiences powered by augmented reality.

As a parent of three, he has struggled with determining how much screen time is acceptable for them, he said.

“It was the thing that motivated me to start thinking about video games that can take place out in the world,” he added.

“It’s up to us to think about how we evolve that technology to help us be better humans and be out in the world interacting with one another, and thankfully, technology is headed in that direction with augmented reality wearable devices.”

The worlds of media and entertainment are starting to exist outside screens, and brands, of course, want a spot.

Before streaming services launched, brands would have 30-second spots between shows and movies, but now they want to be part of the “content conversation where they want to subsidize and really have an engagement that goes beyond what a 30-second spot would be,” said Brent Montgomery, founder and CEO of Wheelhouse.

However, technology does not necessarily have to reinvent or create new business models, said Englebardt. “It’s just (about) how technology can enable what we know works to be applied,” he added.

The emergence of these technologies has also transformed news media, where non-traditional platforms such as user-generated content on Instagram and X have become news sources.

The fundamental change, Pittman said, is consumer convenience. “What people want today is have the information find me. I don’t want to go find the information,” he added.

While that can be both good and bad, media companies have to think about “chasing the consumer, as opposed to expecting them to come to you,” Pittman said.

It is becoming harder to distinguish between real and fake content, leading to a point where audiences will have to presume that everything they watch and hear is fake, said Englebardt.

That, however, is the advantage of news brands, because they are well-trusted and audiences can rely on them to vet the information and present genuine news, said Pittman.

In order to maintain that trust, news brands “will have to forego the clickbait business model and opportunity to monetize fake news,” said Englebardt. 

Pittman said: “Clickbait is directly related to lack of trust. The more clickbait, the less trusted.” As such, businesses have to choose whether they want to get more clicks and be less trusted, or have fewer clicks and be more trusted, he concluded.