TikTok CEO to fight US ban law

TikTok CEO to fight US ban law
US President Joe Biden that he said would ban the popular short video app used by 170 million Americans. (AFP/File)
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Updated 24 April 2024
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TikTok CEO to fight US ban law

TikTok CEO to fight US ban law

WASHINGTON: TikTok’s chief executive said on Wednesday that the company expects to win a legal challenge to block legislation signed into law by US President Joe Biden that he said would ban the popular short video app used by 170 million Americans.

“Rest assured — we aren’t going anywhere,” CEO Shou Zi Chew said in a video posted moments after Biden signed the bill that gives China-based ByteDance 270 days to divest TikTok’s US assets or face a ban. “The facts and the Constitution are on our side and we expect to prevail again.”

Biden’s signing sets a Jan. 19 deadline for a sale — one day before his term is set to expire — but he could extend the deadline by three months if he determines ByteDance is making progress. Biden is seeking a second term against former President Donald Trump.

In 2020, Trump was blocked by the courts in his bid to ban TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat, a unit of Tencent, in the United States.

Chew added: “Make no mistake — this is a ban on TikTok.” He emphasized that TikTok would continue to operate as the company challenges the restrictions.

Driven by widespread worries among US lawmakers that China could access Americans’ data or surveil them with the app, the bill was overwhelmingly passed late on Tuesday by the US Senate. The US House of Representatives approved it on Saturday.

The four-year battle over TikTok is a significant front in a war over the internet and technology between Washington and Beijing. Last week, Apple said China had ordered it to remove Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China over Chinese national security concerns.

TikTok is set to challenge the bill on First Amendment grounds and TikTok users are also expected to again take legal action. A US judge in Montana in November blocked a state ban on TikTok, citing free-speech grounds.

The American Civil Liberties Union said banning or requiring divestiture of TikTok would “set an alarming global precedent for excessive government control over social media platforms.”

However, the new legislation is likely to give the Biden administration a stronger legal footing to ban TikTok if ByteDance fails to divest the app, experts say.

If ByteDance failed to divest TikTok, app stores operated by Apple, Alphabet’s Google and others could not legally offer TikTok or provide web hosting services to ByteDance-controlled applications or TikTok’s website.

The bill would also give the White House new tools to ban or force the sale of other foreign-owned apps it deems to be security threats.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said he was concerned the bill “provides broad authority that could be abused by a future administration to violate Americans’ First Amendment rights.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Monday that President Joe Biden was “pushing” for a ban on TikTok and would be the one responsible if a ban were imposed, urging voters to take notice.

Biden’s re-election campaign plans to continue using TikTok, a campaign official said on Wednesday. Trump’s campaign has not joined TikTok.

Biden signed legislation in late 2022 that barred US government employees from using TikTok on government phones.


Palestinian detainees ‘tortured’ in Israeli hospitals, BBC investigation finds

Palestinian detainees ‘tortured’ in Israeli hospitals, BBC investigation finds
Updated 21 May 2024
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Palestinian detainees ‘tortured’ in Israeli hospitals, BBC investigation finds

Palestinian detainees ‘tortured’ in Israeli hospitals, BBC investigation finds
  • Patients are kept shackled to hospital beds, blindfolded, naked, forced to wear diapers
  • Probe recalls report alleging violation of detainees’ health rights as act of revenge

LONDON: A BBC investigation has revealed that Palestinian detainees from Gaza are “routinely tortured” in Israeli hospitals.

According to medical workers and whistleblowers interviewed by the broadcaster, detainees are kept shackled to hospital beds, blindfolded, sometimes naked, and forced to wear diapers.

Some in need of surgery and other medical procedures are denied painkillers, causing “an unacceptable amount of pain.”

Testimonies indicated that critically-ill patients held in makeshift military facilities are denied proper treatment due to public hospitals’ reluctance to transfer and treat them.

The Israeli army has denied the allegations, asserting that detainees at the facility in question were treated “appropriately and carefully.”

Yossi Walfisch, the head of the country’s Medical Ethics Board, said in a letter: “Terrorists are given proper medical treatment with the aim of keeping restraints to a minimum, and while maintaining the safety of the treating staff.”

The investigation detailed various episodes of mistreatment, which were described in some testimonies as “a deliberate act of revenge.”

In one instance, a detainee had his leg amputated after being denied treatment for an infected wound.

In another, a doctor refused to administer painkillers to an elderly patient while treating an infected amputation wound.

Senior anesthesiologist Yoel Donchin confirmed that patients at Sde Teiman hospital were kept blindfolded and permanently shackled to their beds, while forced to wear diapers instead of being allowed to use toilets.

Donchin argued that the practice could cause long-term nerve damage and admitted to performing surgical procedures on handcuffed patients due to a lack of alternatives.

Despite complaints from medical staff, only minor changes have been implemented.

An army spokesperson said that violence against detainees was “absolutely prohibited” and promised to investigate the allegations.

The revelations recall a report in February by Physicians for Human Rights Israel, which described Israel’s civilian and military prisons as “an apparatus of retribution and revenge,” violating detainees’ human rights, particularly their right to health.

In March, following a similar BBC investigation into alleged abuse and torture by the Israeli army at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, the UK government called for an “investigation and explanation” into the allegations.

The children in Israel’s prisons
Ongoing hostage-for-prisoners exchange opens the world’s eyes to arrests, interrogations, and even abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities
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Israeli officials seize AP equipment and take down live shot of northern Gaza, citing new media law

Israeli officials seize AP equipment and take down live shot of northern Gaza, citing new media law
Updated 21 May 2024
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Israeli officials seize AP equipment and take down live shot of northern Gaza, citing new media law

Israeli officials seize AP equipment and take down live shot of northern Gaza, citing new media law
  • Authorities accuse AP of providing images to Al Jazeera
  • The seizure followed a verbal order Thursday to cease the live transmission, which the news organization refused to do

JERUSALEM: Israeli officials seized a camera and broadcasting equipment belonging to The Associated Press in southern Israel on Tuesday, accusing the news organization of violating a new media law by providing images to Al Jazeera.
The Qatari satellite channel is among thousands of clients that receive live video feeds from the AP and other news organizations. The AP denounced the move.
“The Associated Press decries in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government to shut down our longstanding live feed showing a view into Gaza and seize AP equipment,” said Lauren Easton, vice president of corporate communications at the news organization. “The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but rather an abusive use by the Israeli government of the country’s new foreign broadcaster law. We urge the Israeli authorities to return our equipment and enable us to reinstate our live feed immediately so we can continue to provide this important visual journalism to thousands of media outlets around the world.”
Officials from the Communications Ministry arrived at the AP location in the southern town of Sderot on Tuesday afternoon and seized the equipment. They handed the AP a piece of paper, signed by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, alleging it was violating the country’s foreign broadcaster law.
Shortly before the equipment was seized, it was broadcasting a general view of northern Gaza. The AP complies with Israel’s military censorship rules, which prohibit broadcasts of details like troops movements that could endanger soldiers. The live shot has generally shown smoke rising over the territory.
The seizure followed a verbal order Thursday to cease the live transmission — which the news organization refused to do.
“In accordance with the government decision and the instruction of the communications minister, the communications ministry will continue to take whatever enforcement action is required to limit broadcasts that harm the security of the state,” the ministry said in a statement.
Israeli officials used the law to close down the offices of the Qatar-based broadcaster on May 5 as well as confiscating the channel’s equipment, banning its broadcasts, and blocking its websites.
Israel has long had a rocky relationship with Al Jazeera, accusing it of bias against the country. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called it a “terror channel” that spreads incitement.
Al Jazeera is one of the few international news outlets that has remained in Gaza throughout the war, broadcasting scenes of airstrikes and overcrowded hospitals and accusing Israel of massacres.
The war in Gaza began with a Hamas attack in Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw 250 others taken hostage. More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed since then, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count.


Media watchdog ‘welcomes’ arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders

Media watchdog ‘welcomes’ arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders
Updated 21 May 2024
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Media watchdog ‘welcomes’ arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders

Media watchdog ‘welcomes’ arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders
  • ICC’s action is a promise to end impunity for the deaths of journalists, says Committee to Protect Journalists

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed the International Criminal Court’s announcement on Monday that it was seeking arrest warrants for leaders of both Hamas and Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, and Ismail Haniyeh might face prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The ICC’s application for arrest warrants for crimes against humanity in Israel and Palestine recognizes atrocities committed against civilians,” said CPJ CEO Jodie Ginsberg.

“The civilian deaths include an unprecedented number of journalists killed since Oct. 7. The ICC’s action is a promise for an end to the impunity that has historically plagued the killing and persecution of those who write the first draft of history.”

Over 100 journalists and media workers have been killed since the beginning of the conflict last October, the vast majority of them in Gaza by Israeli forces.

CPJ reported that the conflict has claimed the lives of more journalists in three months than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year since record-keeping began, underscoring the tragic toll this war has had on journalists.

The watchdog, along with corroborating investigations by Reuters, AFP, and Human Rights Watch, has documented at least three instances of journalists killed by Israeli forces that involved deliberate targeting.

An additional 10 cases may also involve deliberate targeting, which, according to international law, could constitute war crimes.

CPJ has urged the ICC to investigate these killings and called on Israel to grant investigators unrestricted access to Gaza, highlighting a disturbing pattern of systematic killings of Palestinian journalists that have consistently gone unpunished.

The announcement of potential arrest warrants for Netanyahu was met with strong reactions.

Netanyahu called the decision “a moral outrage of historic proportions,” while US President Joe Biden rejected the ICC’s application altogether, adding that “there’s no equivalence between Israel and Hamas.”


Meta Oversight Board set to rule on ‘genocide’ video case, two others

Meta Oversight Board set to rule on ‘genocide’ video case, two others
Updated 21 May 2024
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Meta Oversight Board set to rule on ‘genocide’ video case, two others

Meta Oversight Board set to rule on ‘genocide’ video case, two others
  • Meta submitted cases as part of goal to create policy on criminal allegations based on nationality
  • Decision to help Meta better navigate critical questions at a crucial time, board spokesperson told Arab News

LONDON: The Meta Oversight Board announced on Tuesday that it is reviewing three cases, including one involving a user accusing Israel of committing “genocide” and another concerning a Facebook comment in Arabic.

Meta, which submitted the cases as part of its review system aimed at creating a policy on criminal allegations based on nationality, said it removed the posts for breaching its Hate Speech Community Standards.

The first case involves a user’s reply on Threads, featuring a video that includes accusations of “genocide” and claims that “Israelis are criminals.”

The other two cases involve a December speech in which a user called all Russians and Americans “criminals” and a recent post in which a user stated that “all Indians are rapists.”

An Oversight Board spokesperson told Arab News: “Tensions in the region, and increasingly around the world, are dominating the discussion online.

“It’s vitally important that when looking at these issues, Meta gets the balance right and works to protect safety, without unduly limiting the ability of people to speak out about the abuses they see or the frustration they experience.”

The spokesperson added that while the board cannot review every appeal, it selects those of critical importance to public discourse “to help Meta better navigate these critical questions at a crucial time.”

Meta said the three posts were removed after human review for “targeting people with criminal allegations based on nationality.”

Despite its decision, Meta referred the cases to the Oversight Board to address the challenge of handling criminal allegations directed at people based on their nationality, as they might be interpreted as attacks on a nation’s policies.

The board’s decision to review these cases comes as social media platforms have seen an uptick in violent, hateful, and misleading content since the start of Israel’s war on Gaza last October.

The Oversight Board reported a nearly 2,000 percent increase in appeals from the region in the first three weeks after Oct. 7, with many complaints about content inciting violence and promoting hate speech.

The moderators have called for public comments addressing the platform’s hate speech policy in relation to users’ ability to speak out against state actions during times of conflict and Meta’s human rights responsibilities in relation to content targeting users based on nationality.

They also requested insights into potential criteria for determining whether a user is targeting a concept or institution rather than people based on nationality.

In the coming weeks, the board members will deliberate on the cases.

Facebook and its parent company Meta have previously been accused of deliberately censoring pro-Palestine content. Human Rights Watch stated last December that Meta routinely engages in “six key patterns of undue censorship” of pro-Palestine posts.

Recently, the board introduced a new 30-day expedited review mechanism and will rule on whether the pro-Palestinian phrase “from the river to the sea” is considered “acceptable” speech.

In April, the board overturned Meta’s decision to leave up a Facebook post claiming that Hamas originated from the population of Gaza, comparing them to a “savage horde,” leading Meta to take the post down.


Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India

Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India
Updated 20 May 2024
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Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India

Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India
  • ICWI and Eko found Meta’s system failed to detect prohibited content in most cases
  • Indian election sees surge in anti-Muslim, Hindu supremacist sentiment

LONDON: Tech giant Meta approved political advertisements on its platforms inciting violence and hate speech during India’s general election, a report released on Monday revealed.

The investigation, conducted by non-sectarian diasporic organization India Civil Watch International and corporate watchdog Eko, found that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, allowed AI-manipulated political ads that spread disinformation and incited religious violence, particularly targeting Muslims.

The report found that Meta’s system failed to prohibit a series of inflammatory ads designed to mimic real-life scenarios, uploaded by ICWI and Eko.

The ads, submitted to Meta’s ad library, contained slurs towards Muslims in India, such as “let’s burn this vermin” and “Hindu blood is spilling, these invaders must be burned.”

Another ad featured Hindu supremacist language and false claims about political leaders, including an opposition leader allegedly wanting to “erase Hindus from India” and calling for their execution.

According to the report, all of the adverts “were created based upon real hate speech and disinformation prevalent in India, underscoring the capacity of social media platforms to amplify existing harmful narratives.”

Out of 22 ads submitted in English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati and Kannada, 14 were approved by Meta, while a further three were approved after minor tweaks that did not alter the overall provocative messaging.

Only five ads were rejected for violating Meta’s community standards on hate speech and violence.

The ads, which largely targeted Muslims, were immediately removed after approval by ICWI and Eko.

The organizations accused Meta of profiting from hate speech and failing to uphold its pledge to prevent AI-generated or manipulated content from spreading on its platforms during the Indian election.

Campaign spending for India’s elections, the largest and longest in the world, is estimated to reach $16 billion.

The report also claims that the approved ads violated India’s election rules, which ban election-related content 48 hours before polling begins and during voting.

Meta, which requires vetting approval for accounts running political ads, had already faced controversy during this year’s Indian elections.

A previous report by ICWI and Eko found that surrogate or “shadow” accounts aligned with political parties paid vast sums of money to disseminate unauthorized political ads on platforms.

Some approved accounts for running political ads were even up for sale in public Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members.

Many of these real ads endorsed Islamophobic tropes and Hindu supremacist narratives.

The tech giant has struggled for years with the spread of Islamophobic content on its platforms, raising concerns about Meta’s ability to enforce its policies and control the situation amid rising anti-Muslim sentiment in India.