FAKE MEDIA WATCH: Unhealthy rumors put to rest, ministerial misquotes rejected

A weekly round-up of bogus reports and phony facts in the mainstream and social media - this week, Egypt and Palestine. (Shutterstock)
Updated 14 May 2019

FAKE MEDIA WATCH: Unhealthy rumors put to rest, ministerial misquotes rejected

LONDON: A weekly round-up of bogus reports and phony facts in the mainstream and social media.

Egypt health ministry puts record straight
Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population has denied rumors that claimed a presidential initiative launched last year to eliminate waiting lists for patients with critical conditions has been annulled.
The rumor claimed that ministry will cancel the waiting list initiative “due to the lack of preparedness of hospitals.”
The ministry stressed that the initiative has been in force since its launch in July 2018, and has continued for three years, in a bid to eliminate waiting lists for patients in critical conditions as soon as possible.

Palestinian minister ‘misquoted’
Palestinian Culture Minister Atef Abu Saif denied “misquoted statements” attributed to him by some Palestinian news outlets from an interview he did with a German newspaper.
Abu Saif released a press statement to Palestinian news outlets in which he clarified that his remarks were taken out of the context in the dialogue.
Reports accused the minister of making remarks that supported relinquishing certain historical Palestinian territory.
Abu Seif said nothing in the interview indicated that, a statement published on news website Donia Al-Watan said.
He also pointed out that some websites “irresponsibly” misquoted statements he made in the interview on Gaza.
“Some of the statements were cut off, and others were taken out of context,” he said in the press release.


Why the world needs to take deepfakes seriously

Updated 06 March 2021

Why the world needs to take deepfakes seriously

  • Report highlights danger Artificial Intelligence can pose; warns of danger to politics, media 

LONDON: In 1938, American filmmaker Orson Welles’ narration of H.G. Wells’ alien invasion novel “The War of the Worlds” caused panic and pandemonium for listeners in the US who believed the tale to be a public broadcast by the government.

The next day, headlines across newspapers read “Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War Drama as Fact.” Historical research, however, suggested that the actual panic itself was overstated by the media, as the broadcast itself had few listeners.
Fast-forward to 2021 with the long arms of social media and the internet, what would happen if a video showing US President Joe Biden sitting in the Oval Office announcing that he will be striking Iran imminently were to appear? Or if a video showing French President Emmanuel Macron crassly insulting Muslims surfaced?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, called deep learning, which generates images of fake events, known as deepfakes, allows for the creation of a moving image that looks and sounds exactly like Biden or Macron, but isn’t them, to speak and say whatever the creator wants, with most observers unable to tell if it is fake.

“Even before deep fakes, social media has platforms, and the different services have led to some threats on users in our region, especially women and other vulnerable communities,” Mohamed Najem, executive director of SMEX, a digital-rights organization focusing on Arabic-speaking countries, told Arab News.
“Deep fakes bring more serious threats to the aforementioned groups, especially if (criminals) want to destroy someone’s reputation — women, especially, are at risk, with them having gained more freedom within different conservative communities, which could see them suffer real damage” he added.

Recently, a series of very convincing TikTok videos showing Actor Tom Cruise doing multiple activities has left millions confused as to whether or not it really is the famous actor. Other known deepfakes show former US President Barack Obama calling his successor Donald Trump a “dipsh*t” and Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking about stealing users’ private data.
According to a report published last year by University College London (UCL), deepfakes rank as the most serious AI crime threat.
“As the capabilities of AI-based technologies expand, so too has their potential for criminal exploitation. To adequately prepare for possible AI threats, we need to identify what these threats might be, and how they may impact our lives,” author Lewis Griffin stated in the report.

Crimes in the digital realm can be easily shared, repeated, and even sold, allowing criminal techniques to be marketed.

Among the most serious concerns posed by fake content such as deepfakes is that, as they are so difficult to identify, they could be used for all manner of dubious purposes, ranging from discrediting a politician or a public figure to blackmail.
“Unlike many traditional crimes, crimes in the digital realm can be easily shared, repeated, and even sold, allowing criminal techniques to be marketed and for crime to be provided as a service. This means criminals may be able to outsource the more challenging aspects of their AI-based crime,” co-author Dr. Matthew Caldwell stated in the report.
To make matters worse, the rise in convincing deepfakes could in turn play a major role in discrediting major news institutions.
“If even a small fraction of visual evidence is proven to be convincing fakes, it becomes much easier to discredit genuine evidence, undermining criminal investigation and the credibility of political and social institutions that rely on trustworthy communications,” the report stated.
“Social media platforms need to understand the threats and act on them. Unfortunately there is no trust in governments in our region to do the right thing; my assumption is that they will use this to restrict more speech and criminalize it, which will lead to more closure of civic spaces,” Najem said.
The UCL report goes on to note that awareness and changes in people’s behaviors toward the spread and creation of these videos might be the only effective line of defense. While so far many of the videos popping up on social media are fun — of politicians singing and dancing, say, or Nicholas Cage’s face on Wonder Woman’s body — things may take a sharper, darker turn soon.


YouTube cancels Myanmar military-run channels, pulls videos

Updated 05 March 2021

YouTube cancels Myanmar military-run channels, pulls videos

  • The company said it was monitoring the situation for any content that might violate its rules
  • YouTube said it had terminated around 20 channels and removed over 160 videos in the past couple months

BANGKOK: YouTube has removed five channels run by Myanmar’s military for violating its community guidelines and terms of service.
The company said Friday that it terminated channels of broadcasters Myawaddy Media, MRTV, WD Online Broadcasting, MWD Variety and MWD Myanmar. The decision follows a Feb. 1 military coup that ousted the country’s elected government, provoking massive public protests.
“We have terminated a number of channels and removed several videos from YouTube in accordance with our community guidelines and applicable laws,” YouTube said in an emailed statement.
The company said it was monitoring the situation for any content that might violate its rules.
YouTube said it had terminated around 20 channels and removed over 160 videos in the past couple months for violating its policies regarding hate speech and harassment, spam and deceptive practices, violent or graphic content policy and violations of its terms of service.
In December, it pulled 34 channels as part of an investigation into content uploaded in a coordinated influence campaign. That campaign uploaded content about elections in Myanmar, regional conflicts and news related to the US, China and Malaysia, the company said.
The decision by YouTube followed Facebook’s earlier announcement that it had removed all Myanmar military-linked pages from its site and from Instagram, which it also owns.


Daily Mail owner snaps up New Scientist magazine for $97.8 million

Updated 03 March 2021

Daily Mail owner snaps up New Scientist magazine for $97.8 million

  • The purchase comes soon after the British firm agreed to sell its EdTech business, Hobsons

The owner of Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper acquired science and technology magazine New Scientist for $97.80 million in cash, as it looks to build out its subscriptions and digital offerings.
Daily Mail and General Trust said on Wednesday its consumer media division bought the publication from a consortium of investors led by New Scientist owner Bernard Gray.
“New Scientist is a world-renowned publication loved by its readers ... We are very much looking forward to supporting their exciting plans to grow as the go-to publication for anyone interested in the scientific world around us,” DMGT Chairman Jonathan Harmsworth said.
The purchase comes soon after the British firm agreed to sell its EdTech business, Hobsons, in an effort to narrow its focus on a handful of businesses.
New Scientist, founded in 1956, is expected to post an operating profit of about 7 million pounds in 2021, with revenue likely to exceed 20 million pounds, DMGT said.
The publication has a weekly circulation of about 120,000, of which just over half are based in the UK, and gets about 75 percent of its revenue from subscriptions.


Kayleigh McEnany signs on as Fox News contributor

Updated 02 March 2021

Kayleigh McEnany signs on as Fox News contributor

  • McEnany, former President Donald Trump’s final press secretary, didn’t speak about her new role
  • While at the White House, McEnany frequently appeared on Fox News programs for interviews

NEW YORK: As widely anticipated, Fox News said Tuesday that it had signed former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany as a contributor to offer commentary on various network programs.
McEnany, former President Donald Trump’s final press secretary, didn’t speak about her new role during an interview with Fox’s Harris Faulkner that aired Tuesday.
It was reported in January that McEnany had disclosed to the US Office of Government Ethics while still in office that she would work for Fox after leaving the White House. Fox said at the time that it had been in discussions with McEnany but had paused them.
Before working for Trump, McEnany was a commentator at CNN.
While at the White House, McEnany frequently appeared on Fox News programs for interviews.
She said Tuesday that her biggest regret at the White House was not being able to hold a briefing outlining all the accomplishments of the Trump administration.
“But after Jan. 6, it just was not tenable,” she said.
She said that “everyone in the administration was horrified” by the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, led by a mob of Trump supporters, but she insisted that it did not represent the former president’s backers.
Asked if she believed Trump bore any responsibility for the riot, she said, “No, I don’t.”
Trump was impeached by the House on a charge of incitement of insurrection over the insurrection but acquitted by the House. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell voted to acquit Trump, citing the fact that the former president was out of office by the time the Senate trial began, but McConnell said Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the riot.


OSN celebrates International Women’s Day with all-female line-up

Updated 02 March 2021

OSN celebrates International Women’s Day with all-female line-up

  • New channel offers tailored content ‘to engage with women of the region’

DUBAI: In celebration of International Women’s Day, entertainment network OSN is planning to launch its first-ever content lineup dedicated to women in the region.

The OSN Woman content will be launched on March 8 and will be available as a standalone channel through any OSN box, as we well as on-demand and on the OSN streaming app.

“OSN Woman was born from the desire to provide women of the region with a tailored content offering. This is the start of a new chapter for OSN, as we launch new content offering that caters to the needs of women of the region and engages with them in a truly relevant way,” Rolla Karam, interim chief content officer at OSN, told Arab News.

Rolla Karam, interim chief content officer at OSN

Fashion, health, parenting, relationships and reality topics will feature in the new channel.

The content, which has been chosen by female programming specialists at OSN, includes “Framing Britney Spears,” “A Perfect 14,” which explores the world of plus size modeling; and “Public Figure,” which looks at the psychological effect of social media use on influencers.

The campaign to promote OSN Woman is also created by an all-women team led by director Danielle Arden and Nayla Chacra, regional executive content producer at production company Prodigious.

“This is the outcome of serious efforts led by talented women at OSN, who invested all their knowledge and understanding of the region in coming up with this unique line-up,” said Karam.