Google adds visual search features in shopping, video push

Users will be able to run reverse-image searches when surfing on the Google iOS app or the Chrome desktop browser. (File/AFP)
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Updated 30 September 2021

Google adds visual search features in shopping, video push

  • Google adds visual search feature to its search queries which will unveil within months

LONDON: Google users can soon combine images and text in search queries, a feature unveiled on Wednesday that could help the Alphabet Inc. unit expand its role in e-commerce and dominance in online video.
The new feature will arrive within months through its Google Lens search tool, the company said in its livestreamed Search On conference. Google said in May that advances in artificial intelligence software would make this possible.
“With this new capability, you can tap on the Lens icon when you’re looking at a picture of a shirt, and ask Google to find you the same pattern — but on another article of clothing, like socks,” Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan said.
“This helps when you’re looking for something that might be difficult to describe accurately with words alone.”
The technology also sorts within videos, including on Google’s YouTube, already the Internet’s biggest streaming service.
“Your bike has a broken thingamajig, and you need some guidance on how to fix it,” Raghavan said. “The point-and-ask mode of searching will make it easier to find the exact moment in a video that can help.”
Users will be able to run reverse-image searches when surfing on the Google iOS app or the Chrome desktop browser. Selecting an image will pull up similar online visuals, which could help shoppers find where to buy items seen in photos and ultimately lead them to Google Shopping, its rival to Amazon.com Inc’s marketplace.
Making more items searchable is another priority. Google said it was licensing a free Address Maker app to governments and organizations to map routes and assign addresses to businesses and homes not yet listed on Google Maps. The app could reduce the time it takes governments and organizations to assign addresses for a town from years to weeks, Google said.


New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 November 2021

New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

  • New Zealand PM said tech giants and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online

LONDON: Tech giants like Meta’s Facebook and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019 after a white supremacist killed 51 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch while live-streaming his rampage on Facebook.
This Christchurch Call initiative has been supported by more than 50 countries, international organizations and tech firms, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft.
Ardern said on Friday the initiative had been successful in its first aim of establishing a crisis protocol, including a 24/7 network between platforms to quickly remove content, in response to events like those in Christchurch.
“We have had real world stress-testing of those systems and they have worked very effectively,” Ardern said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.
“I am confident that we are operating more effectively than we have before,” she added. “The next challenge though, is to go further again.”
Asked what tech companies should be doing, Ardern replied: “much more.”
Ardern said the next step was to focus on prevention, looking at how people are finding or coming across hateful or terror-motivating content online and perhaps becoming radicalized.
“That’s where we are really interested in the ongoing work around algorithms and the role that we can all play to ensure that online platforms don’t become a place of radicalization,” she said.
A Christchurch Call conference earlier this year was attended by the United States and Britain.


Tunisia court frees TV host held over comments on president

Updated 25 November 2021

Tunisia court frees TV host held over comments on president

  • Zitouna TV presenter Amer Ayad had been arrested in October along with MP Abdellatif al-Alaoui, who appeared on his show
  • Both criticised the president's Sept. 29 appointment of Najla Bouden as Tunisia's first female prime minister

TUNIS: A Tunisian military court on Thursday ordered the release of a television journalist arrested last month after strongly criticizing President Kais Saied, his lawyer said.
Zitouna TV presenter Amer Ayad had been arrested in October along with MP Abdellatif Al-Alaoui, who appeared on his show.
The pair were held on charges of “plotting against state security,” Ayad’s lawyer Samir Ben Omar said at the time.
In the show, they both criticized the president’s Sept. 29 appointment of Najla Bouden as Tunisia’s first female prime minister.
Ayad was released on parole Thursday, Ben Omar said.
His trial continues, however, and the next hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 20, the lawyer added.
Alaoui, a MP for the Al-Karama party, had been released a few days after his arrest.
Al-Karama is an ally of the Ennahdha movement which had the largest number of seats in the parliament that Saied suspended in July.
On July 25, citing an “imminent threat,” Saied also sacked the government and put himself in charge of the prosecution.
On Sept. 22, he suspended parts of the constitution and installed rule by decree.
Alaoui had branded Saied’s measures a “coup” in the show hosted by Ayad.
Zitouna TV is considered close to Ennahdha and its ally Al-Karama.


Coe calls Olympics social media survey results ‘disturbing’

Updated 25 November 2021

Coe calls Olympics social media survey results ‘disturbing’

  • The survey to gain an understanding of the level of online abuse in athletics drew its findings from a sample of 161 Twitter handles current and former athletes
  • Female athletes received 87% of all abuse

PARIS: World Athletics president Sebastian Coe described as “disturbing” the results of a study conducted during the Tokyo Olympics to identify and address targeted, abusive messages sent to athletes via social media.
The survey to gain an understanding of the level of online abuse in athletics drew its findings from a sample of 161 Twitter handles of current and former athletes involved in the Games (derived from a list of 200 athletes selected by World Athletics).
They were tracked during the study period, starting one week prior to the Olympic opening ceremony and concluding the day after the Olympic closing ceremony (July 15 — August 9).
The survey found 23 of the athletes received targeted abuse with 16 of those women — 115 of the 132 identified abusive posts were directed at female athletes.
Female athletes received 87 percent of all abuse.
Two athletes — both black and female — received 63 percent of identified abuse.
Unfounded doping accusations made up 25 percent of abusive messages, while 10 percent consisted of transphobic (9 percent) and homophobic (1 percent) posts.
89 percent of racist abuse was targeted at US athletes, despite them representing only 23 percent of the study set.
The two most common categories of abuse were of a sexist (29 percent) and/or racist (26 percent) nature, accounting for 55 percent of all identified abuse.
“This research is disturbing in so many ways,” said Coe in a statement.
“What strikes me the most is that the abuse is targeted at individuals who are celebrating and sharing their performances and talent as a way to inspire and motivate people.
“To face the kinds of abuse they have is unfathomable and we all need to do more to stop this.
“Shining a light on the issue is just the first step.”
In the study timeframe, 240,707 tweets including 23,521 images, GIFs and videos were captured for analysis.
This included text analysis through searches for slurs, offensive images and emojis and other phrases that could indicate abuse.
It also used AI-powered Natural Language Processing to detect threats by understanding the relationship between words (allowing it to determine the difference between “I’ll kill you” and “you killed it,” for example).

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Vaughan dropped by BBC over involvement in Yorkshire crisis

Updated 25 November 2021

Vaughan dropped by BBC over involvement in Yorkshire crisis

SALFORD, England: Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan was dropped by the BBC on Wednesday because of his involvement in the racism controversy enveloping county club Yorkshire.
Vaughan has been accused of using racially insensitive comments toward a group of players of Asian ethnicity in 2009 while they were at Yorkshire.
Vaughan has denied the allegations and said his reputation has been “trashed unfairly,” calling it “the worst thing I have ever experienced.”
The BBC, which uses Vaughan as a pundit, said it wasn’t currently appropriate for him to have a role in coverage of the upcoming Ashes series against Australia and for wider elements of the sport “while he is involved in a significant story in cricket.”
“We require our contributors to talk about relevant topics,” the broadcaster said in a statement, “and his involvement in the Yorkshire story represents a conflict of interest.”
Azeem Rafiq, the whistleblower whose revelations about the racism and bullying he suffered at Yorkshire has sparked a crisis in the English game, was the first to make the allegation that Vaughan said in 2009 of the four players of Asian heritage: “There are too many of you lot; we need to do something about it.”
Rafiq was one of the four players in question. Two more — Adil Rashid and Pakistan international Rana Naved-ul-Hasan — have also said they overheard Vaughan’s alleged remarks.
Vaughan might still be heard in Britain during the Ashes through his scheduled work for Australian rights-holder Fox Sports, which will provide the audio for BT Sport’s coverage of the series.
“Very disappointed not to be commentating for TMS (Test Match Special) on the Ashes and will miss working with great colleagues & friends,” Vaughan wrote on his Instagram account, referring to the BBC radio program, “but looking forward to being behind the mic for @foxcricket in Australia.”
Vaughan said the issues facing cricket “are bigger than any individual case.”
“I want to be part of the solution, listening, educating myself and helping to make it a more welcoming sport for all,” he wrote.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has suspended Yorkshire from hosting international matches over its “wholly unacceptable” response to the racism faced by Rafiq, while some of the club’s sponsors are ending deals.
Last week, British sports minister Nigel Huddleston called for cricket to “get its house in order” and raised the possibility of independent regulation if it did not.


Five million viewers see Carlson’s Rittenhouse chat

Updated 24 November 2021

Five million viewers see Carlson’s Rittenhouse chat

  • Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable news channel in prime time, averaging 2.89 million viewers

NEW YORK: Tucker Carlson reached 5.05 million viewers for his Kyle Rittenhouse interview on Monday, the Fox News Channel opinion host's largest audience since the night of the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol.
Rittenhouse was acquitted on murder charges last week and Carlson was given the chance for the post-trial interview because of the support he had shown him, according to the 18-year-old's family.
Carlson has averaged 3.16 million viewers on a typical night this year, the Nielsen company said.
ABC News and Diane Sawyer had strong ratings for her Friday night interview with members of a California family held captive for many years by their parents. That “20/20” episode reached more than 7.4 million viewers.
Fox broadcasting was the top-rated network in prime time last week, averaging 5.4 million viewers. NBC had 4.8 million, CBS had 4.5 million, ABC had 4.1 million, Univision had 1.5 million, Telemundo had 1 million and Ion Television had 880,000.
Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable news channel in prime time, averaging 2.89 million viewers. ESPN had 2.31 million, Hallmark had 1.58 million, MSNBC had 1.18 million and HGTV had 893,000.
ABC's “World News Tonight” won the evening news ratings race with an average of 8.3 million viewers. NBC's “Nightly News” had 7.2 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 5.4 million.
For the week of Nov. 15-21, the 20 most popular programs in prime time, their networks and viewerships:
1. NFL Football: Pittsburgh at L.A. Chargers, NBC, 14.55 million.
2. NFL Football: New England at Atlanta, Fox, 13.52 million.
3. “The OT,” Fox, 11.6 million.
4. “NFL Pregame,” NBC, 11.2 million.
5. NFL Football: L.A. Rams at San Francisco, ESPN, 10.7 million.
6. “NFL Pregame,” Fox, 8.59 million.
7. “Football Night in America, Part 3,” NBC, 8.54 million.
8. “FBI,” CBS, 7.61 million.
9. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 7.58 million.
10. “Yellowstone,” Paramount, 7.42 million.
11. “20/20,” ABC, 7.41 million.
12. “Young Sheldon,” CBS, 6.95 million.
13. “The Voice” (Tuesday), NBC, 6.78 million.
14. “The Equalizer,” CBS, 6.59 million.
15. “The Voice” (Monday), NBC, 6.56 million.
16. “FBI: International,” CBS, 5.96 million.
17. “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 5.79 million.
18. “Survivor,” CBS, 5.77 million.
19. “FBI: Most Wanted,” CBS, 5.64 million.
20. “NFL Pregame,” ESPN, 5.5 million.