Step boss says AI regulation is critical but cautions against over-regulation

Step boss says AI regulation is critical but cautions against over-regulation
The newly added AI track covered topics such as large-language models, advanced neural nets, and co-pilot systems. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 February 2024
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Step boss says AI regulation is critical but cautions against over-regulation

Step boss says AI regulation is critical but cautions against over-regulation
  • Ray Dargham, the CEO of the tech-focused new media company, tells Arab News Saudi Arabia and the UAE are leading the way in AI advances and regulation
  • Annual Step Conference in Dubai last week added an AI track reflecting the growth of the technology globally and regionally

DUBAI: Tech-focused new media company Step held its 12th annual conference and exhibition in Dubai last week, which attracted about 350 startups, 150 venture capital firms and more than 8,000 delegates.

Ray Dargham, the co-founder and CEO of Step, said during the opening ceremony that the business, which has already expanded to include a conference in Saudi Arabia, now plans to go global through a partner-hosting model.

The event in Dubai featured six tracks: Start, covering startups, growth and venture capital; Fintech, covering ecommerce; Digital, devoted to media, adtech and creators; Wellness, covering health, lifestyle and femtech; Earth, for greentech and sustainability; and Artificial Intelligence, covering machine learning, data and automation.

The newly added AI track covered topics such as large-language models, advanced neural nets, and co-pilot systems, which were discussed by industry experts such as Brittany McDonough of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office; Maitha Alsuwaidi, chief operating officer of Microsoft UAE; Google Cloud’s Ahmad El-Sayed; and Google Deepmind’s head of product, Mehdi-Ghissassi.

Although AI has been around for a while, “it hadn’t actually reached a critical mass until about a year ago,” Dargham told Arab News. “For a long time, AGI or artificial general intelligence, was mostly limited to labs.”

More recently, ChatGPT has played a critical role in helping AI reach a mass audience, allowing everyone to “experience the power behind the technology,” he added.

The AI sessions at the Step Conference, which covered several topics, including regulatory frameworks and deep learning, were “designed to provide startups with invaluable insights into the ethical, regulatory and technological advancement of AI, equipping them to navigate and capitalize on the dynamic and fast-moving landscape of AI-driven innovation.”

The company is adapting to become an “AI conference” because, Dargham said, “most of what we consider ‘tech’ today will become AI-powered or have an AI component to it over the next few years.”

All of the other tracks during Step events will be affected by the development and utilization of AI to such a significant degree that Dargham believes the technology “will become bigger than software and the internet itself. Hence, theoretically speaking, our conference will become an AI conference instead of being a tech conference.”

Much of the innovation and development in AI has been global but Dargham said that in particular, Step was “noticing a significant shift in the Middle East region toward a growing interest and adoption of generative AI technologies.”

As evidence of this he cited the UAE’s strategy on AI, which aims to ensure the country is at the forefront of innovation in the technology by 2031, and Saudi Arabia’s national agenda for data and AI, which aims to position the Kingdom as a global leader in data-driven economies, allowing it to leverage the power of AI for economic and social development.

The region is already receiving greater international attention and investment related to AI. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, for example, is reportedly in talks with investors, including in the UAE, to raise funding — said to be as much as between $5 trillion and $7 trillion — for a tech initiative to boost international chip-building capacity and expand its ability to power AI, among other things.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE “are leading a groundbreaking wave of AI investment, spearheaded by entities like (AI development company) G42,” said Dargham.

“The adoption rates are skyrocketing across sectors, from healthcare to finance, highlighting a strategic shift towards AI-driven innovation” but it isn’t “just about numbers,” he added.

“It’s about crafting a narrative of ambition and progress that’s reshaping the region’s technological landscape.”

The national strategies of the countries and their investments are encouraging interest from private entities that “are increasingly investing in AI research and development, with a particular focus on generative AI,” which includes “endeavors to pioneer advanced algorithms, models, and applications customized to address regional needs and challenges,” said Dargham.

AI innovation is particularly evident in the startup landscape, with businesses “exploring diverse applications of generative AI in areas such as natural language processing, computer vision and creative AI.”

The advancement of AI is not without its challenges as global concerns grow about data privacy and security.

“Ensuring the protection of sensitive information and compliance with data-protection regulations are imperative for instilling trust and confidence in GenAI technologies among stakeholders,” said Dargham.

He added that “a significant hurdle” is the shortage of skilled AI professionals.

“Without an adequate talent pool equipped with the necessary expertise, organizations struggle to effectively implement GenAI solutions” resulting in a “pressing need to invest in AI education and training programs,” he said.

The rapid development of AI also brings with it ethical considerations.

“From deepfakes to misinformation, the ethical implications of GenAI demand robust guidelines and frameworks for responsible use,” Dargham said.

Step is committed to playing its part in this space, he added, through sessions designed to address the ethics, safety and societal impacts of AI. It is also exploring collaborations between governments and international organizations “to develop policies that foster innovation while addressing concerns related to data privacy, bias, transparency and responsibility.”

While regulation is critical, Dargham cautioned against over-regulation.

“Collaboration with policymakers, industry leaders, and ethical experts is essential in establishing clear guidelines that promote the ethical deployment of GenAI technologies, fostering trust and accountability within the ecosystem,” he said.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have “made significant progress in crafting frameworks for AI governance and ethics,” accompanied by national strategies and programs “aimed at advancing AI technologies while addressing pertinent regulatory concerns,” Dargham added.

“I think regulation for AI is crucial, but I’m also concerned about over-regulation globally; the EU tends to overregulate.”


Vanity Fair France apologizes for removing Palestinian pin from image of Guy Pearce at Cannes

Vanity Fair France apologizes for removing Palestinian pin from image of Guy Pearce at Cannes
Updated 27 May 2024
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Vanity Fair France apologizes for removing Palestinian pin from image of Guy Pearce at Cannes

Vanity Fair France apologizes for removing Palestinian pin from image of Guy Pearce at Cannes
  • Magazine faced backlash on social media for appeared attempt to censor pro-Palestinian solidarity

LONDON: Vanity Fair France was forced to issue an apology for digitally removing a Palestinian pin worn by actor Guy Pearce at the Cannes Film Festival.

On May 21, Vanity Fair published an article featuring several photographs of celebrities attending the festival. Among these was a portrait of Pearce wearing a black Yves Saint Laurent tuxedo.

Social media users quickly noticed that a pin of the Palestinian flag seen on his left lapel in other images had been removed.

Journalist Ahmed Hathout was one of the first to highlight the alteration, tweeting: “So Guy Pearce showed solidarity with Palestine at Cannes by wearing a pin and Vanity Fair decided to photoshop it out. Little did they know the bracelet was also of the Palestinian flag colors.”

The French subsidiary of the American magazine faced significant backlash on social media for what appeared to be an attempt to censor pro-Palestinian solidarity.

One user, @DarkSkyLady, tweeted: “Can we finally admit many of these outlets are propaganda-mouthpieces for colonialism and white supremacy?”

Another user, @Joey_Oey89, commented: “Reminder to unfollow and mute Vanity Fair. They smear celebs who take a stand against genocide and have made their stance clear.”

Responding to the criticism, Vanity Fair France posted an apology under Hathout’s tweet: “Good evening. We mistakenly published a modified version of this photo on the website. The original version was published on Instagram on the same day. We have rectified our error and apologize.”

The article on the magazine’s website now displays the unaltered image.

Pearce was among many celebrities at the prestigious festival who expressed solidarity with Palestine amid Israel’s brutal assault and seige on Gaza.

Other notable figures included actors Cate Blanchett and Pascale Kann, supermodel Bella Hadid, Indian actress Kani Kusrut, French actress Leila Bekhti, and Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El-Moudir.
 


Online anger following The Atlantic’s ‘possible to kill children legally’ in Gaza article

Online anger following The Atlantic’s ‘possible to kill children legally’ in Gaza article
Updated 27 May 2024
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Online anger following The Atlantic’s ‘possible to kill children legally’ in Gaza article

Online anger following The Atlantic’s ‘possible to kill children legally’ in Gaza article
  • The Atlantic’s writer Graeme Wood suggested that in certain scenarios killing of children can be legally justifiable
  • Campaign group condemned the piece, calling the The Atlantic’s stance on the issue ‘egregious’

LONDON: The Atlantic has ignited a wave of online criticism after publishing an article arguing that “it is possible to kill children legally” in Gaza.

Titled “The UN’s Gaza Statistics Make No Sense,” the opinion piece by staff writer Graeme Wood questioned the accuracy of the UN’s civilian death toll numbers from the Israeli war on Gaza.

Wood suggested that the UN’s statistics were unreliable, claiming they are sourced from Hamas.

“The UN numbers changed because the UN has little idea how many children have been killed in Gaza, beyond ‘a lot.’ It gets its statistics from Hamas,” the piece read.

Wood, known for his skeptical stance toward Hamas and Palestine since the conflict erupted last October, controversially suggested that in certain scenarios, the killing of children can be legally justifiable.

Despite acknowledging that “even when conducted legally, war is ugly,” Wood argued, “It is possible to kill children legally, if for example one is being attacked by an enemy who hides behind them. But the sight of a legally killed child is no less disturbing than the sight of a murdered one,” he wrote.

The article sparked a significant online backlash, with the campaign group Writers Against the War on Gaza (WAWOG) condemning The Atlantic for the article.

“Eight months into the genocide and western media is still manufacturing consent for Zionism,” the group wrote in a post on X on Sunday.

“Defending child murder is egregious; but @TheAtlantic has historically defended imperial bloodshed,” WAWOG added.

Users took to social media to express their frustration over the article, with some questioning the legality of Wood’s claim and calling his choice of words “disgusting.”

“‘A legally killed child’ is a phrase I never imagined I would read in my lifetime,” wrote Lebanese political activist and musician Peter Daou on X.

Others have also called for canceling their subscriptions to The Atlantic.

The backlash comes as Israeli airstrikes killed at least 45 people on Sunday, hitting tents for displaced people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, with reports that people were “burning alive.”

These attacks came two days after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah, described by the UNRWA as “horrifying.”

According to Gaza’s health ministry, the death toll in Gaza has neared 36,000 people, with the vast majority being children and women.


Bahrain’s youth rep taps into Kennedy with speech to Arab youth at Dubai media forum

Bahrain’s youth rep taps into Kennedy with speech to Arab youth at Dubai media forum
Updated 27 May 2024
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Bahrain’s youth rep taps into Kennedy with speech to Arab youth at Dubai media forum

Bahrain’s youth rep taps into Kennedy with speech to Arab youth at Dubai media forum
  • Youth ‘can craft a better future for us all,’ says Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa
  • Praises Gulf leaders ‘who are focused on the next generation rather than the next election’

DUBAI: Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s representative for humanitarian work and youth affairs, delivered a sharply defined message to Arab youth and their custodians.

In a speech at the Arab Media Summit, Al-Khalifa echoed the words of former US President John F. Kennedy, saying: “For a better world and a prosperous country, one must ask themselves what I can do for my country rather than what can my country do for me.

“The youth, which make up over 60 percent of our citizens today, is very different than previous generations. They have become the driving force behind certain industries and have taken to adopting certain causes that will craft a better future for us all.

“They are engaged in political and civil societies more than ever before throughout history. They have even managed to become successful in sectors such as journalism, social media in forms of content, podcasts and also showing sharp wit in investments and trade.”

Al-Khalifa, who served in a military academy, said he carries the academy’s message of “in order to serve, you must lead” throughout his life and policies.

 “While challenges can occur, as it did during the COVID pandemic, which affected not only economies but personal lives as well, it was a lesson to be learned. We came out of it, and we are at a better place now.

“Challenges are opportunities. Some folk lost a lot during the pandemic, while others progressed, and the difference between the two is that one seized the opportunity to create and further themselves. while others remained still.”

On the subject of open borders and one being a “global citizen,” Al-Khalifa urged the youth and their elders to continue to strive, travel, experience and learn, but to maintain a “moral direction that connects and centers you to who you are: an Arab.”

He added: “We are an Arab ummah, and what does that mean? It is a legacy, it is victories, accomplishments, values that we have carried and learned from our forefathers that we continue to build on today. To take on Western concepts such as ‘global citizen,’ one can be lost. Our identity is Arab first and foremost.

“Our religion, Islam, urged us to read, learn and engage. And that is what we do with other countries as we both compete and cooperate with them.

“Know who you are and where your roots lie. Some societies have become fragmented due to their abandonment of their values. Nowadays, we have Westerners who are enrolling their children in our schools to keep them centered and away from social and moral confusion.

“While it is valid and important to ride the new wave in terms of technology and progress of open borders to make our countries better, I urge fathers and mothers to continue to stress on an upbringing that focuses identity and positive moral values.

“We want to invest in our youth. It is important that they feel seen, valued, trusted and supported and wanted. If we do that, then their stock will never plummet. They are half of our present and all of our future.”

He concluded his speech by saying how blessed the Gulf is to have leaders “who are focused on the next generation rather than the next election,” and offered a prayer to the lives lost in Gaza.


Arab Media Forum opens in Dubai with focus on youth

Arab Media Forum opens in Dubai with focus on youth
Updated 27 May 2024
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Arab Media Forum opens in Dubai with focus on youth

Arab Media Forum opens in Dubai with focus on youth

DUBAI: The annual Arab Media Forum launched in Dubai on Monday for a three-day summit involving media leaders and executives from across the region.

This year’s forum is geared toward youth, focusing on arming the next generation of journalists and media professionals with the tools and know-how to thrive in the ever-growing industry in the Arab world.

For the past two decades, the forum has brought together regional and international speakers to discuss the industry’s challenges and impact on Arab societies.

More than 1,000 creative and media students are expected to attend, along with prominent Arab personalities, content creators and global media industry leaders taking part in a range of panel discussions and master classes.

Notable speakers include Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the king’s representative for humanitarian work and youth affairs in Bahrain; and Dr. Sultan Al-Neyadi, the UAE’s minister of state for youth affairs.

Monday’s schedule includes master classes on Meta, tools for storytelling, interactive media, as well as building personal brands.

Panels and discussions on the opening day cover sports media, the art of directing and redefining storytelling.

Tuesday and Wednesday will feature discussions on key political, economic and technological developments by media personalities, editors in chief, writers and experts from the region and around the world.

The forum will close with an awards ceremony recognizing content creators and journalists in a range of categories.


Over 300 million children a year face sexual abuse online: study

Over 300 million children a year face sexual abuse online: study
Updated 27 May 2024
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Over 300 million children a year face sexual abuse online: study

Over 300 million children a year face sexual abuse online: study
  • One in eight of the world’s children have been victims of non-consensual taking, sharing and exposure to sexual images and video
  • Grim trend on the rise with US worst offender, University of Edinburgh’s researchers says

LONDON: More than 300 million children a year are victims of online sexual exploitation and abuse, according to the first global estimate of the scale of the problem published on Monday.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that one in eight of the world’s children have been victims of non-consensual taking, sharing and exposure to sexual images and video in the past 12 months.
That amounts to about 302 million young people, said the university’s Childlight Global Child Safety Institute, which carried out the study.
There have been a similar number of cases of solicitation, such as unwanted sexting and requests for sexual acts by adults and other youths, according to the report.
Offences range from so-called sextortion, where predators demand money from victims to keep images private, to the abuse of AI technology to create deepfake videos and pictures.
The problem is worldwide but the research suggests the United States is a particularly high-risk area, with one in nine men there admitting to online offending against children at some point.
“Child abuse material is so prevalent that files are on average reported to watchdog and policing organizations once every second,” said Childlight chief executive Paul Stanfield.
“This is a global health pandemic that has remained hidden for far too long. It occurs in every country, it’s growing exponentially, and it requires a global response,” he added.
The report comes after UK police warned last month about criminal gangs in West Africa and Southeast Asia targeting British teenagers in sextortion scams online.
Cases — particularly against teenage boys — are soaring worldwide, according to non-governmental organizations and police.
Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) issued an alert to hundreds of thousands of teachers telling them to be aware of the threat their pupils might face.
The scammers often pose as another young person, making contact on social media before moving to encrypted messaging apps and encouraging the victim to share intimate images.
They often make their blackmail demands within an hour of making contact and are motivated by extorting as much money as possible rather than sexual gratification, the NCA said.