Russia moves forward on proposed law on banning foreign media

The proposal must still pass a third reading in the Duma and secure the upper house's approval before going to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into law. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 29 June 2022

Russia moves forward on proposed law on banning foreign media

  • The proposal must still pass a third reading in the Duma and secure the upper house's approval
  • The draft law also calls for allowing Russia's prosecutor general to cancel the registration of media outlets

MOSCOW: The lower house of Russia’s parliament on Wednesday approved the critical second reading of a proposed law that would allow the banning of foreign news media in response to other countries taking actions against Russian news outlets.
The proposal must still pass a third reading in the Duma and secure the upper house’s approval before going to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into law. But the Duma’s approval on second reading, when a proposal still can undergo substantial changes, almost always prefigures a law’s enactment.
Russia has repeatedly complained in recent months that Western countries were improperly restricting Russian media by banning their operation or denying visas to their journalists. In early June, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called in representatives of American media, including The Associated Press, to warn that they could be denied renewal of their visas and accreditation.
The draft law also calls for allowing Russia’s prosecutor general to cancel the registration of media outlets for disseminating “illegal, dangerous, unreliable publicly significant information or information expressing clear disrespect for society, the state, the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as aimed at discrediting the Russian armed forces,” state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.
Many foreign news organizations suspended or curtailed their operations in Russia following the passage in March of a law calling for up to 15 years in prison for reports seen as discrediting the Russian military.
The foreign ministry in May ordered the closure of the Moscow bureau pf the state-funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in response to Canada’s ban on RT, a Russian state-controlled broadcaster.
In February, as Russia built up troops along Ukraine’s border, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle was ordered to close in Moscow after Germany banned the broadcast of RT’s German-language programs.
Before the vote on the second reading, Vladimir Solovev, the head of the Russian Journalists’ Union, told the committee preparing the draft that the measure was justified by an “information war unprecedented in history” against Russia.
Russia in recent years has persistently clamped down on independent journalism. Following the start of the Ukraine conflict, many significant independent news media shut down or suspended operations. Those included the Ekho Moskvy radio station and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, whose editor, Dmitry Muratov, was last year’s co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.


Russia fines streaming site Twitch over 31-second ‘fake’ video — agencies

Updated 16 August 2022

Russia fines streaming site Twitch over 31-second ‘fake’ video — agencies

  • The court accused Twitch, a U.S.-based live-streaming service popular with video gamers, of failing to remove a 31-second clip of a girl from Bucha

LONDON: A court in Russia has fined streaming service Twitch 2 million roubles ($33,000) for hosting a short video containing what it calls “fake” information about alleged war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, Russian news agencies reported on Tuesday.
Russia has repeatedly threatened to fine sites — including Google, Twitter and Wikipedia — it accuses of hosting “fake” content related to its military campaign in Ukraine.
The court accused Twitch, a US-based live-streaming service popular with video gamers, of failing to remove a 31-second clip of a girl from the town of Bucha, the Kommersant newspaper reported. It did not specify the content of the video.
Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ukraine and its allies accuse Russian forces of committing atrocities in Bucha, a satellite town of Kyiv, after Moscow launched its invasion in February. Russia denies the charge.
Earlier, RIA reported that Telegram messenger was hit with two fines totalling 11 million roubles ($179,000) for refusing to delete channels which allegedly showed how to “sabotage” military vehicles and hosting “unreliable data” about Russia’s progress in what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.


OSN+ to stage 1,000-drone airborne light show in celebration of ‘House of the Dragon’ premiere

Updated 15 August 2022

OSN+ to stage 1,000-drone airborne light show in celebration of ‘House of the Dragon’ premiere

  • As well as the display over Riyadh Boulevard as part of Gamers8, the streaming service announced a screen takeover and fireworks display to herald debut of ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel

DUBAI: Middle East streaming platform OSN+ is celebrating the upcoming premiere of new HBO series “House of the Dragon,” a prequel to the international hit “Game of Thrones,” by staging an immersive drone show at Riyadh Boulevard on Aug. 18, as part of the ongoing Gamers8 festival.

In addition to the airborne light show, featuring 1,000 drones, the special celebration will include a complete screen takeover at Gamers8 and a fireworks display.

“OSN+ is excited to launch a spectacular drone show, as part of the Gamers8 festival, ahead of the highly anticipated release of ‘House of the Dragon’ on Aug. 22 in the Middle East,” said Ashley Rite, vice-president of marketing and growth with the streamer.

“Alongside an expansive screen takeover and firework display, the gaming festival will provide an engaging and immersive platform to celebrate the premiere of the first episode of the ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel with fans, both within the Saudi Arabian capital and across the Kingdom.”

The first season of the 10-episode HBO Original drama will air exclusively in the region on OSN+ from Aug. 22, with the first episode available at the same time as its US premiere and subsequent episodes released weekly.


YouTube plans to launch streaming video service

Updated 15 August 2022

YouTube plans to launch streaming video service

  • The platform has been in the works for at least 18 months and could be available as early as this fall.

LONDON: Alphabet Inc’s YouTube is planning to launch an online store for streaming video services, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The company has renewed talks with entertainment companies about participating in the platform, which it is referring to internally as a “channel store,” the report said, citing people close to the recent discussions.
The platform has been in the works for at least 18 months and could be available as early as this fall, the report added.
Alphabet did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
With more consumers cutting the cord on cable or satellite TV and shifting to subscription-based streaming services, the planned launch will allow YouTube to join companies like Roku Inc. and Apple in a bid to gain a portion of the already crowded streaming market.
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Walmart Inc. has held talks with media companies about including streaming entertainment in its membership service.


Strike four: Facebook misses election misinfo in Brazil ads

Updated 15 August 2022

Strike four: Facebook misses election misinfo in Brazil ads

  • Facebook has identified Brazil as one of its priority countries where it’s investing special resources specifically to tackle election related disinformation

Facebook failed to detect blatant election-related misinformation in ads ahead of Brazil’s 2022 election, a new report from Global Witness has found, continuing a pattern of not catching material that violates its policies the group describes as “alarming.”
The advertisements contained false information about the country’s upcoming election, such as promoting the wrong election date, incorrect voting methods and questioning the integrity of the election.
This is the fourth time that the London-based nonprofit has tested Meta’s ability to catch blatant violations of the rules of its most popular social media platform— and the fourth such test Facebook has flubbed. In the three prior instances, Global Witness submitted advertisements containing violent hate speech to see if Facebook’s controls — either human reviewers or artificial intelligence — would catch it. They did not.
“Facebook has identified Brazil as one of its priority countries where it’s investing special resources specifically to tackle election related disinformation,” said Jon Lloyd, senior adviser at Global Witness. “So we wanted to really test out their systems with enough time for them to act. And with the US midterms around the corner, Meta simply has to get this right — and right now.”
Brazil’s national elections will be held on Oct. 2 amid high tensions and disinformation threatening to discredit the electoral process. Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the country. In a statement, Meta said it has ” prepared extensively for the 2022 election in Brazil.”
“We’ve launched tools that promote reliable information and label election-related posts, established a direct channel for the Superior Electoral Court to send us potentially-harmful content for review, and continue closely collaborating with Brazilian authorities and researchers,” the company said.
In 2020 Facebook began requiring advertisers who wish to run ads about elections or politics to complete an authorization process and include “Paid for by” disclaimers on these ads, similar to what it does in the US The increased safeguards follow the 2016 US presidential elections, when Russia used rubles to pay for political ads designed to stoke divisions and unrest among Americans.
Global Witness said it broke these rules when it submitted the test ads (which were approved for publication but were never actually published). The group placed the ads from outside Brazil, from Nairobi and London, which should have raised red flags.
It was also not required to put a “paid for by” disclaimer on the ads and did not use a Brazilian payment method — all safeguards Facebook says it had put in place to prevent misuse of its platform by malicious actors trying to intervene in elections around the world.
“What’s quite clear from the results of this investigation and others is that their content moderation capabilities and the integrity systems that they deploy in order to mitigate some of the risk during election periods, it’s just not working,” Lloyd said.
The group is using ads as a test and not regular posts because Meta claims to hold advertisements to an “even stricter” standard than regular, unpaid posts, according to its help center page for paid advertisements.
But judging from the four investigations, Lloyd said that’s not actually clear.
“We we are constantly having to take Facebook at their word. And without a verified independent third party audit, we just can’t hold Meta or any other tech company accountable for what they say they’re doing,” he said.
Global Witness submitted ten ads to Meta that obviously violated its policies around election-related advertising. They included false information about when and where to vote, for instance and called into question the integrity of Brazil’s voting machines — echoing disinformation used by malicious actors to destabilize democracies around the world.
This will be Brazil’s first election since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who is seeking reelection, came to power. Bolsonaro has repeatedly attacked the integrity of the country’s election systems.
“Disinformation featured heavily in its 2018 election, and this year’s election is already marred by reports of widespread disinformation, spread from the very top: Bolsonaro is already seeding doubt about the legitimacy of the election result, leading to fears of a United States-inspired January 6 ‘stop the steal’ style coup attempt,” Global Witness said.
In its previous investigations, the group found that Facebook did not catch hate speech in Myanmar, where ads used a slur to refer to people of east Indian or Muslim origin and call for their deaths; in Ethiopia, where the ads used dehumanizing hate speech to call for the murder of people belonging to each of Ethiopia’s three main ethnic groups; and in Kenya, where the ads spoke of beheadings, rape and bloodshed.


Iran conservative media hail Salman Rushdie attacker

Updated 15 August 2022

Iran conservative media hail Salman Rushdie attacker

  • Rushdie was on a ventilator after the attack during a literary event in New York state on Friday, more than 30 years after he went into hiding following late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa

TEHRAN: Iranian ultra-conservative newspaper Kayhan on Saturday hailed the man who stabbed British author Salman Rushdie — the target of a 1989 Iranian fatwa calling for his death.
Rushdie was on a ventilator after the attack during a literary event in New York state on Friday, more than 30 years after he went into hiding following late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa.
“Bravo to this courageous and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and depraved Salman Rushdie in New York,” wrote the paper, whose chief is appointed by current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“Let us kiss the hands of the one who tore the neck of the enemy of God with a knife,” the daily added.
With the exception of reformist publication Etemad, Iranian media followed a similar line, describing Rushdie as an “apostate.”
State-owned paper Iran said that the “neck of the devil” had been “cut by a razor.”
Iranian authorities have yet to make any official comment on the stabbing attack against Rushdie.
But Mohammad Marandi, an adviser to the negotiating team for Iran’s nuclear talks in Vienna, wrote on Twitter: “I won’t be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam.”
“But, isn’t it odd that as we near a potential nuclear deal, the US makes claims about a hit on Bolton... and then this happens?” he questioned.
The attack came after Iran hinted earlier on Friday that it may accept a final compromise to revive its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. This followed the European Union’s submission of a “final text” in Vienna.
The US Justice Department said Wednesday that it had indicted a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards over allegations he had offered to pay an individual in the United States $300,000 to kill former White House national security adviser John Bolton.
Iran dismissed the allegations as “fiction.”
Rushdie, 75, was propelled into the spotlight with his second novel “Midnight’s Children” in 1981, which won international praise and Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize for its portrayal of post-independence India, where he was born.
But his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” transformed his life when Khomeini issued a religious decree ordering his killing.
In 1998, the government of Iran’s reformist president Mohammad Khatami assured Britain that Iran would not implement the fatwa.
But Khamenei said in 2005 he still believed Rushdie was an apostate whose killing would be authorized by Islam.