Pope Francis to weigh in on ‘ethical’ AI at G7 summit

Pope Francis to weigh in on ‘ethical’ AI at G7 summit
Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on June 12, 2024. (Ciro De Luca photo via REUTERS)
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Updated 13 June 2024
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Pope Francis to weigh in on ‘ethical’ AI at G7 summit

Pope Francis to weigh in on ‘ethical’ AI at G7 summit
  • While welcoming AI's potential to boost everything from medical research to economic and social wellbeing, Francis also warned of risks including disinformation and interference in elections, and that unequal access could increase social and economic ineq

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will address G7 leaders on Friday on artificial intelligence, an unprecedented appearance that reflects the Vatican’s growing interest in the new technology, its risks and rewards.

The 87-year-old will become the first head of the Catholic Church to address a G7 summit when he speaks on the second day of the Puglia meeting, to an audience including US President Joe Biden and France’s Emmanuel Macron.
The aging head of a 2,000-year-old institution is not perhaps the most obvious candidate to make a presentation on cutting-edge technology, but the pontiff sees AI as a key challenge for humanity.
“The Church always looks to humans as the center of its mission,” said Paolo Benanti, a Franciscan university professor and member of the UN’s AI advisory body, who directly advises the pope.
“From this perspective it is clear that the AI that interests the Church is not the technical tool, but how the tool can impact on the life of man,” he told AFP.
AI was the theme of the Church’s World Day of Peace on January 1, for which the pontiff published a six-page document.
In it, he welcomed advances in science and technology that have reduced human suffering — and Benanti said AI could act as a “multiplier,” boosting everything from medical research to economic and social wellbeing.
But the pope also warned of risks including disinformation and interference in elections, and that unequal access could increase social and economic inequalities.
Francis — who has himself been the subject of several AI-generated images, including a viral imagine showing him wearing a huge white puffer coat and a large crucifix — called for a binding international treaty to regulate the development and use of AI.
The goal would be to prevent harm and share good practice.




Pope Francis has cautioned that AI offers new freedoms but also the risk of a “technological dictatorship.” (AP/File)

Since the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot, whose capabilities range from digesting complex text to writing poems and computer code, governments have been scrambling to respond to the rapid growth of AI.
The European Union — which attends G7 summits as an unofficial eighth member — earlier this year approved the world’s first comprehensive rules to govern AI.
At a global level, G7 leaders in Japan last year announced a working group on AI’s “responsible” use, tackling issues from copyright to disinformation.
Hosts Italy have made AI a key issue of this year’s summit, which will focus on a “human-centered approach,” particularly its potential impact on jobs, according to a government source.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in April that the pope’s presence would “make a decisive contribution to defining a regulatory, ethical and cultural framework.”
The Vatican has brought in a range of experts to help its understanding, including Demis Hassabis, head of Google DeepMind, whom it named to its scientific academy in March.
In 2020, it also initiated the Call for AI Ethics, backed by tech firms Microsoft and IBM and later Cisco as well as numerous universities and the UN, designed to promote an ethical approach.

The pope’s address on Friday is likely to call for “attention to be paid to the most vulnerable,” said Eric Salobir, a French priest and head of the executive committee of the Human Technology Foundation.
It would be a call to G7 leaders to take “into account the risks and (draw up) regulation without being alarmist,” he told AFP.

Francis, who has championed the poorest and most marginalized people in society since taking office in 2013, has cautioned that AI offers new freedoms but also the risk of a “technological dictatorship.”
He warned about the dangers of using AI to make important decisions — from social security payments to where to aim autonomous weapons — for which responsibility becomes blurred.
“The pope seems to have a sort of antenna that allows him to perceive where humanity experiences the situations of greatest challenge to itself,” Benanti said.

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But will the G7 leaders listen to the pope?
Salobir, author of a book “God and Silicon Valley,” says that besides his influence as a spiritual leader, the pope has power as a neutral observer.
“The fact that there is no ‘Vatican Tech’ is an asset in terms of neutrality — the Church has no hidden agenda, no digital economy, no ‘start-up nation’ to launch, or investments to attract,” he said.
As a result, when the Vatican talks about AI, “it is for the technology itself, what it can do for humans,” he said.
“It may be one of the only states in this situation.”
 


Saudi Ad School aims to educate women in Kingdom’s advertising sector through new program

Saudi Ad School aims to educate women in Kingdom’s advertising sector through new program
Updated 25 July 2024
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Saudi Ad School aims to educate women in Kingdom’s advertising sector through new program

Saudi Ad School aims to educate women in Kingdom’s advertising sector through new program
  • ‘The Name Behind Her Talent’ program is in partnership with Publicis Groupe Middle East
  • Yearlong program begins in September

DUBAI: Saudi Ad School, a Saudi-based educational institute specializing in advertising courses, has partnered with marketing and communications network Publicis Groupe Middle East to launch “The Name Behind Her Talent,” a women’s empowerment program in the Kingdom.

The program aims to educate female talent involved in Saudi’s advertising industry through initiatives such as scholarships, educational courses, talks and mentorship sessions, workshops, and industry salons.

The latter are initiatives focused on “empowering women within the advertising field,” with each salon featuring up to three women who will “share their experiences, insights, and expertise with our students,” said Enas Rashwan, founder and president of Saudi Ad School.

“The Name Behind Her Talent” is for now exclusively focused on the Kingdom.

Rashwan told Arab News: “We want to establish a strong foundation here before considering expansion to other countries.”

The yearlong program begins in September. Saudi Ad School has developed an eligibility application with a scoring system that will be available on its website and distributed at industry events for the program’s scholarships, which include the institute’s courses, master classes and workshops, Rashwan added.

Other activities within the program will be open and free for all women, she said.

Bassel Kakish, CEO of Publicis Groupe, Middle East and Turkiye, said that the partnership “underscores our dedication to fostering talent development while contributing to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals.”

He told Arab News: “Women’s empowerment is a specific area Publicis Groupe Middle East has been driving across the region, and this collaboration allows us to explore new opportunities with the future generation of leaders.

“Recognizing the immense potential of Saudi’s talent pool, it was a natural next step to combine our efforts for greater impact.”

Rashwan said that Publicis Groupe’s efforts in supporting women in advertising and its vision to foster talent in the Kingdom made the partnership a “natural fit.”

However, she added that the Saudi Ad School intended to “broaden its scope by forming partnerships with other prominent advertising networks.”

Rashwan has been running the Cairo Ad School in Egypt for nearly 12 years, and its success, “combined with strong demand from the Saudi market,” resulted in her decision to launch the Saudi Ad School last year, she said.

She added that the advertising sector in Saudi Arabia “is becoming more dynamic with a strong focus on digital transformation, creativity, and innovation, and we are seeing a shift towards content that resonates with Saudi culture and values, opening up exciting opportunities for advertisers.”

This evolution of the sector had created a demand for talent, making it an “opportune moment to introduce a program that equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to meet industry demands and contribute to the nation’s vision,” Rashwan said.

The program also aims to address some of the challenges women in Saudi face in the ad industry, she added, such as limited access to professional development opportunities; the need for more inclusive workplaces; and to have their “voices heard, and their opinions valued without hesitation or doubt, whether interacting with clients or within their teams.”

She said: “Saudi women are exceptionally driven and eager for achievements more than ever.

“By creating additional programs and opportunities, we aim to support their ambitions and enhance their contributions to the industry.”


Al Arabiya launches new podcast hub, Mazeej

Al Arabiya launches new podcast hub, Mazeej
Updated 25 July 2024
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Al Arabiya launches new podcast hub, Mazeej

Al Arabiya launches new podcast hub, Mazeej
  • New podcasts aim to cater to global Arab audience

DUBAI: Al Arabiya Network has launched a new podcast hub, Mazeej, featuring shows on various topics including business, politics, arts and culture, health and wellness, and sport.

The podcasts are tailored to cater to Arab listeners of all ages around the world, according to a company statement.  

The hub features contributions from Al Arabiya journalists and presenters, such as Nicole Tannoury, Layal Alekhtiar, Islam Al-Najjar, and Hanan Al-Masri.

In “Sasat,” Tannoury discusses political events with prominent politicians and experts and in “Wa Ma’a Ba’ad,” Alekhtiar analyzes current news stories.

“Heewar Teejari” with Al-Najjar features founders of major commercial brands sharing their experiences and learnings; and “Khalf Al-Jidar” with Al-Masri aims to spotlight the evolving Palestinian experience through interviews and testimonies.

Going beyond business and politics, “Masha’er” with Dr. Osama Al-Jamaa explores the human psyche, and “Jareema” with crime analyst Mohammed Alshaibani breaks down complex criminal cases.

In a bid to to cater to all Arab listeners, “Umm Al-Qossas” with Amro Zaki focuses on Egyptian society featuring interviews with inspiring figures from the country while “Yeman” with Ahad Yaseen chronicles the stories of Yemenis.

Mazeej is available on all major podcast platforms and YouTube.


Murdoch engaged in legal battle with children over succession, NYT reports

Murdoch engaged in legal battle with children over succession, NYT reports
Updated 25 July 2024
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Murdoch engaged in legal battle with children over succession, NYT reports

Murdoch engaged in legal battle with children over succession, NYT reports
  • Murdoch is trying to expand Lachlan Murdoch’s voting power in the Murdoch Family Trust to secure a majority and ensure that he cannot be challenged by the siblings, says report

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is engaged in a legal battle against three of his children to ensure that his eldest son and chosen successor, Lachlan Murdoch, will remain in charge of his media empire, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
Murdoch is trying to expand Lachlan Murdoch’s voting power in the Murdoch Family Trust to secure a majority and ensure that he cannot be challenged by the siblings, the report said, citing a sealed court document.
The Reno, Nevada-based family trust holds the family’s shares in Murdoch’s vast collection of television networks and newspapers through the companies News Corp. and Fox Corp. .
Lachlan Murdoch is chairman of News Corp, whose publications include the Wall Street Journal and the Sun, and chair and chief executive of Fox Corp.

Lachlan Murdoch, CEO of Fox Corporation and co-chairman of News Corp. (Getty Images via AFP/File photo)

The trust currently has eight votes: four controlled by Murdoch, and the remaining four controlled by the four children from his first two marriages. Murdoch’s youngest daughters, Chloe and Grace, from his third wife, Wendi Deng, do not have voting rights in the trust.
In court, Murdoch is arguing that having Lachlan Murdoch run the company without interference from his more politically moderate siblings — James, Elisabeth and Prudence Murdoch — will help preserve its conservative editorial stance, thus protecting the commercial value for all his heirs, the report said.
Fox Corp, News Corp, and Murdoch’s lawyer did not respond to Reuters requests for comment while the lawyer for the three children involved in the legal battle could not immediately be reached.
Fox News continues to be the number one US cable news network, playing an influential role in US politics, particularly among Republicans who prize Fox’s conservative-leaning audience.
Murdoch was that worried that a “lack of consensus” among his four children “would impact the strategic direction at both companies including a potential reorientation of editorial policy and content,” the report said, adding that he also wishes to hand Lachlan Murdoch “permanent” and “exclusive” control over the company, citing the court’s decision.


Global media watchdogs, human rights groups call on Biden to pressure Netanyahu regarding rising journalist deaths in Gaza

Global media watchdogs, human rights groups call on Biden to pressure Netanyahu regarding rising journalist deaths in Gaza
Updated 23 July 2024
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Global media watchdogs, human rights groups call on Biden to pressure Netanyahu regarding rising journalist deaths in Gaza

Global media watchdogs, human rights groups call on Biden to pressure Netanyahu regarding rising journalist deaths in Gaza
  • CPJ CEO Jodie Ginsberg: Nine months into the war in Gaza, journalists … continue to pay an astonishing toll
  • Ginsberg: More than 100 journalists have been killed. An unprecedented number of journalists and media workers have been arrested, often without charge

In letters signed by the Committee to Protect Journalists and seven other human rights and press freedom organizations, President Joe Biden is being urged to press Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the rising number of journalists killed in the Gaza Strip and the near total ban on international media entering the enclave.

The letters call on Washington to “ensure that Israel ceases the killing of journalists, allows immediate and independent media access to the occupied Gaza Strip, and takes urgent steps to enable the press to report freely throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories,” while also detailing the number of grave press freedom violations and the response of total impunity.

The letters were signed by Amnesty International USA, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Knight First Amendment Institute, the National Press Club, PEN America, Reporters Without Borders, and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

The Israeli PM is expected to meet with Biden on Tuesday and is scheduled to attend a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war last October, the Israeli government’s actions have created what the letter describes as a “censorship regime.”

In a video message to Netanyahu last week, CPJ CEO Jodie Ginsberg said: “Nine months into the war in Gaza, journalists … continue to pay an astonishing toll.

“More than 100 journalists have been killed. An unprecedented number of journalists and media workers have been arrested, often without charge. They have been mistreated and tortured.”

Israel’s persistent impunity in attacks on journalists has also affected the rights and safety of two American journalists: Shireen Abu Akleh, who was murdered in 2022, and Dylan Collins, who was injured in an Oct. 13 strike by Israel on journalists covering the conflict in south Lebanon. The strike killed Reuters photographer Issam Abdullah and wounded others who were visibly wearing press insignia.

Investigations conducted by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, AFP and Reuters found the attack was more than likely targeted.

On Sunday in Vincennes, France, Collins joined his AFP colleague Christina Assi who lost her right leg in the same attack as she carried the Olympic flame in honor of journalists killed.

CPJ, which continues to urge decisive action by the US government on journalist safety and media access to Gaza, called on Biden to guarantee in his meeting with Netanyahu that the Israeli government take the following steps:

— Lift its blockade on international, Israeli, and Palestinian journalists from independently accessing Gaza.

— Revoke legislation permitting the government to shut down foreign outlets and refrain from any further legal or regulatory curtailment of media operations.

— Release all Palestinian journalists from administrative detention or who are otherwise held without charge, including those forcibly disappeared.

— Abjure the indiscriminate and deliberate killing of journalists.

— Guarantee the safety of all journalists and allow the delivery of
newsgathering and safety equipment to reporters in Gaza and the West Bank.

— Allow all journalists seeking to evacuate from Gaza to do so.

— Transparently reform its procedures to ensure that all investigations into alleged war crimes, criminal conduct, or violations of human rights are swift, thorough, effective, transparent, independent, and in line with internationally accepted practices, such as the Minnesota Protocol. Investigations into abuses against journalists must then be promptly conducted in accordance with these procedures.

— Allow international investigators and human rights organizations, including UN special rapporteurs and the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, unrestricted access to Israel and the Occupied Territories to investigate suspected violations of international law by all parties. 

The letter was also sent to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Mike Johnson.


US-Russian journalist convicted in a rapid, secret trial, gets 6 1/2 years in prison, court says

US-Russian journalist convicted in a rapid, secret trial, gets 6 1/2 years in prison, court says
Updated 23 July 2024
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US-Russian journalist convicted in a rapid, secret trial, gets 6 1/2 years in prison, court says

US-Russian journalist convicted in a rapid, secret trial, gets 6 1/2 years in prison, court says
  • The swift and secretive trials of Kurmasheva and Gershkovich in Russia’s highly politicized legal system raised hopes for a possible prisoner swap between Moscow and Washington

A court has convicted Alsu Kurmasheva, a Russian-American journalist for the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, of spreading false information about the Russian army and sentenced her to 6½ years in prison after a secret trial, court records and officials said Monday.
Kurmasheva’s family, her employer and the US government have rejected the charges against her and have called for her release.
The conviction in Kazan, the capital of Russia’s central region of Tatarstan, came on Friday, the same day a court in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg convicted Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in prison in a case that the US called politically motivated.
Kurmasheva, a 47-year-old editor for RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir language service, was convicted of “spreading false information” about the military after a trial that lasted just two days, according to the website of the Supreme Court of Tatarstan. Court spokesperson Natalya Loseva confirmed Kurmasheva’s conviction and revealed the sentence to The Associated Press by phone in the case classified as secret.
Kurmasheva was ordered to serve the sentence in a medium-security penal colony, Loseva said.
“My daughters and I know Alsu has done nothing wrong. And the world knows it too. We need her home,” Kurmasheva’s husband, Pavel Butorin, said in a post Monday on X.
He had said last year the charges stemmed from a book the Tatar-Bashkir service released in 2022 called “No to War” — “a collection of short stories of Russians who don’t want their country to be at war with Ukraine.” Butorin had said the book doesn’t contain any “false information.”
Matthew Miller, the US State Department spokesman, said Kurmasheva is being “targeted by Russian authorities for her uncompromising commitment to speaking the truth and her principled reporting.”
“We continue to make very clear that she should be released,” Miller added.
Asked about the case, RFE/RL President and CEO Stephen Capus denounced the trial and conviction of Kurmasheva as “a mockery of justice.” “The only just outcome is for Alsu to be immediately released from prison by her Russian captors,” he said in a statement to the AP.
“It’s beyond time for this American citizen, our dear colleague, to be reunited with her loving family,” Capus said.
Kurmasheva, who holds US and Russian citizenship and lives in Prague with her husband and two daughters, was taken into custody in October 2023 and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent while collecting information about the Russian military.
Later, she was also charged with spreading “false information” about the Russian military under legislation that effectively criminalized any public expression about the war in Ukraine that deviates from the Kremlin line. The legislation was adopted in March 2022, just days after the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine, and has since been used to target Kremlin critics at home and abroad, implicating scores of people in criminal cases and sending dozens to prison.
Kurmasheva was initially stopped in June 2023 at Kazan International Airport after traveling to Russia the previous month to visit her ailing elderly mother. Officials confiscated her US and Russian passports and fined her for failing to register her US passport. She was waiting for her passports to be returned when she was arrested on new charges in October that year. RFE/RL has repeatedly called for her release.
RFE/RL was told by Russian authorities in 2017 to register as a foreign agent, but it has challenged Moscow’s use of foreign agent laws in the European Court of Human Rights. The organization has been fined millions of dollars by Russia.
The organization Reporters Without Borders said Kurmasheva’s conviction “illustrates the unprecedented level of despotism permeating a Russian judiciary that takes orders from the Kremlin.”
It called for Kurmasheva’s immediate release and said the purpose of the sentence was to dissuade journalists from traveling to Russia and put pressure on the United States.
In February, RFE/RL was outlawed in Russia as an undesirable organization. Its Tatar-Bashkir service is the only major international news provider reporting in those languages, in addition to Russian, to audiences in the multi-ethnic, Muslim-majority Volga-Urals region.
The swift and secretive trials of Kurmasheva and Gershkovich in Russia’s highly politicized legal system raised hopes for a possible prisoner swap between Moscow and Washington. Russia has previously signaled a possible exchange involving Gershkovich, but said a verdict in his case must come first.
Arrests of Americans are increasingly common in Russia, with nine US citizens known to be detained there as tensions between the two countries have escalated over fighting in Ukraine.
Gershkovich, 32, was arrested March 29, 2023, while on a reporting trip to the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. Authorities claimed, without offering any evidence, that he was gathering secret information for the US
He has been behind bars since his arrest, time that will be counted as part of his sentence. Most of that was in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison — a czarist-era lockup used during Josef Stalin’s purges, when executions were carried out in its basement. He was transferred to Yekaterinburg for the trial.
Gershkovich was the first US journalist arrested on espionage charges since Nicholas Daniloff in 1986, at the height of the Cold War. Foreign journalists in Russia were shocked by Gershkovich’s arrest, even though the country has enacted increasingly repressive laws on freedom of speech after sending troops into Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden said after his conviction that Gershkovich “was targeted by the Russian government because he is a journalist and an American.”
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield accused Moscow last week of treating “human beings as bargaining chips.” She singled out Gershkovich and ex-Marine Paul Whelan, 53, a corporate security director from Michigan, who is serving a 16-year sentence after being convicted on spying charges that he and the US denied.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that when it comes to Gershkovich, Whelan and other Americans wrongfully detained in Russia and elsewhere, the US is working on the cases “quite literally every day.”
Sam Greene of the Center for European Policy Analysis said the conviction and sentencing of Kurmasheva and Gershkovich on the same day “suggests — but does not prove — that the Kremlin is preparing a deal. More likely, they are preparing to offer up a negotiating table that Washington will find it difficult to ignore.”
In a series of posts on X, Greene stressed that “the availability of a negotiating table shouldn’t be confused with the availability of a deal,” and that Moscow has no interest in releasing its prisoners — but it is likely to “seek the highest possible price for its bargaining chips, and to seek additional concessions along the way just to keep the talks going.”
Washington “should obviously do what it can” to get Gershkovich, Kurmasheva, imprisoned opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza and other political prisoners out, he said, adding: “But if Moscow demands what it really wants — the abandonment of Ukraine — what then?”