Amazon sues thousands of Facebook groups over fake reviews

Amazon filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the administrators of more than 10,000 Facebook groups in a move designed to fight fake reviews on the e-commerce site. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 19 July 2022

Amazon sues thousands of Facebook groups over fake reviews

  • Bogus ratings were intended to promote items in exchange for free products or money

LONDON: Amazon filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the administrators of more than 10,000 Facebook groups in a move designed to fight fake reviews on the e-commerce site. 

The groups would recruit people who provided fake reviews of Amazon products across its online storefronts in the US, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Japan and Italy.

Reviews were intended to boost product ratings of items ranging from camera tripods to car stereos in exchange for free products or money, Amazon said in a statement.

Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has made an effort to “shut down multiple major review brokers,” taking down half of the reported groups while investigating the others.

“Our teams stop millions of suspicious reviews before they’re ever seen by customers, and this lawsuit goes a step further to uncover perpetrators operating on social media,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president of Selling Partner Services. 

The lawsuit represents a “proactive legal action targeting bad actors,” Mehta said.

Amazon strictly prohibits fake reviews and has a team of more than 12,000 employees around the world dedicated to investigating the problem, as well as protecting its stores from fraud and abuse.

Since 2020, Amazon has reported more than 10,000 fake review groups to Meta. 

One of the groups identified in the lawsuit is “Amazon Product Review,” which had more than 43,000 members until it was taken down by Meta earlier this year.

Another group, “Amazon Verified Buyer & Seller,” had more than 2,500 members.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, jointly with Amazon were investigated last year by the UK’s antitrust regulator, which questions their efforts to eliminate fake reviews from their platforms.

The investigation comes as part of UK government moves to tackle the problem, with new rules being considered that will make it illegal to write or post fake reviews online. 

Rules announced in April will ensure people are not deceived by “bogus ratings.”


GXR sees itself as a facilitator for artists rather than a record label, says its boss

Updated 34 sec ago

GXR sees itself as a facilitator for artists rather than a record label, says its boss

  • Elia Mssawir said the new indie label, which launched two months ago in partnership with Empire, aims to change the face of the music business in the region

DUBAI: The idea for independent music label GXR Records grew from a simple conversation between Elia Mssawir, an award-winning artist manager, and Paul Roy, the CEO of Galaxy Racer, a multimedia company focusing on esports, content creators, music and sport.

They were discussing their shared passion for music and vision for a company in the region that truly cares about its artists, Mssawir told Arab News.

“We started throwing around ideas and (talking about) how we wanted to bridge the gap between MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) and Asia — and that’s how GXR Records was brought to life,” he said.

They launched the label in August this year in partnership with Empire, a global independent label, distributor and publisher. Based in Dubai and with Mssawir as head of label, GXR Records is focused on developing talent in West Asian and North African territories. It has already signed a number of artists from this region, including Freek, Noel Kharman, Dyler, Hanody Awesome and Noor Stars, and the number of acts on its roster has reached more than 20 in the two months since launch. 

Mssawir, who joined Galaxy Racer in April, had been recruiting artists and influencers in India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Malaysia, where the company has offices, and discovered plenty of musical talent in those places. An idea was born to not only sign artists from Asia and Africa but also help them collaborate with their counterparts in the Middle East.

The founders of GXR Records said that, building on parent company Galaxy Racer’s existing portfolio, it is dedicated to identifying and developing a diverse roster of emerging and established artists across the region, while encouraging cross-promotion and collaborations within the label to help them reach a wider audience.

In addition to finding and signing artists, GXR Records will work with Galaxy Racer to create and produce music for the parent company’s influencers and brand collaborations, Mssawir said. These collaborations between artists and the parent brand is part of Mssawir’s vision for the company.

“It’s becoming a family more than a label,” he said.

This ambitious vision is matched by the label’s growth strategy; GXR Records has already opened an office in the US and there are plans to establish bases in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and South Africa by the end of this year. There are no current plans, however, for additional offices in the Middle East.

“Our headquarters here in Dubai are enough to operate on a MENA scale for 2022,” said Mssawir. However, he added that GXR Records intends to expand its presence in Africa and the Levant in the coming year.

One of the challenges, historically, for regional artists has been how to develop and grow into a global presence, Mssawir said. “This is where we come in and enhance this opportunity for them,” he added.

The new label is planning to organize a large-scale music festival next year, something that has been a long-time dream for Mssawir but one he never seemed to have “the time or team to focus on” until now.

“We’re planning on doing small events around the region, building up toward a big festival where we’re hoping to get a couple of international artists, and the MENA artists can open or support the international artists,” he said.

He jokes that his biggest challenge since the launch of GXR has been “sleeping less and working more.” But he added that working hard and putting in long hours is something he is happy to do because “we want to change how the music business is being done here.”

Another challenge he said he has faced is the negative public perception of record labels, something he said has been largely influenced by the way they are portrayed in Hollywood.

“That’s one of the things that we want to change,” he said.

There were no professional managers for acts in the region a decade ago and so artists would often accept any deal they could get, he said. The ecosystem is changing, however, and Mssawir said he is determined to help set high standards for artists, particularly when representing GXR Records as a brand.

“Labels are not there to kill artists’ careers,” he said. “And that’s why I don’t really call (GXR) a label, I call it a facilitator: We facilitate for the artists rather than labeling them.”


Twitter adds Arabic to ‘reply prompts’ feature, launches in Saudi Arabia

Updated 04 October 2022

Twitter adds Arabic to ‘reply prompts’ feature, launches in Saudi Arabia

  • The feature, which Twitter said has already proved successful in other languages, encourages people to think twice before replying to a tweet
  • The platform said English-language users in the US changed or deleted replies 30 percent of the time when prompted

DUBAI: Twitter has added an Arabic version of its “reply prompts” feature for users in Saudi Arabia, following a test phase among select Arabic-speaking users in the Kingdom.

The feature, which is designed to encourage people in certain circumstances to think twice before replying to a tweet, was initially tested in English in 2020. Twitter began to roll it out in some territories in 2021 and it was launched globally in 2022 in English and Turkish, in Spanish in Mexico, and in Portuguese in Brazil.

“People come to Twitter to talk about what’s happening and sometimes conversations about things we care about can get intense and people say things in the moment they might regret later,” Twitter’s director of product design Anita Butler and product manager Alberto Parrella wrote in a blog post.

According to Twitter, the feature has proved successful so far, with tests showing that English-language users in the US changed or deleted their replies 30 percent of the time when prompted, while Portuguese-language users in Brazil did so 47 percent of the time.

The social media platform said it found that after being prompted to reconsider a reply, users canceled it 9 percent of the time and revised it 22 percent of the time. Overall, people who were prompted in this way posted 6 percent fewer offensive tweets.

In early tests, users sometimes received unnecessary prompts because the computer algorithms could not properly differentiate between potentially offensive language, sarcasm and friendly banter. Throughout the process, Twitter said it analyzed results, collected feedback from users and worked to address any errors, including detection inconsistencies. Based on feedback and what was learned from those tests, the platform said it made improvements to the systems that determine when and how the prompts are sent.

For example, the algorithms now takes into consideration the nature of the relationship between two accounts, because if they follow and reply to each other regularly there is a higher likelihood that they have a good understanding of the preferred tone of communication.

Additionally, Twitter said it is adjusting its technology to account for situations in which insulting words or phrases might have been reclaimed by underrepresented communities and used in non-harmful ways, and to detect strong language more accurately. It is also working on ways in which users can provide feedback on whether or not they found a prompt helpful or relevant. 

The feature is now active on iOS, Android and the web on accounts in Saudi Arabia that have enabled Arabic-language settings.


Official FIFA 23 game soundtrack launched on Spotify

Updated 39 min 23 sec ago

Official FIFA 23 game soundtrack launched on Spotify

  • Saudi Arabia is the most FIFA-obsessed country in the Arab world on the platform, as it has the most playlists per user featuring songs from the soundtrack

DUBAI: FIFA 23, the latest iteration of the football video game franchise from EA Sports, has been generating much hype among gamers around the world since its release last week, and not only about the gameplay.

Many fans are as eager to discover the music used in each new version of the game as they are to actually play it and this year is no exception. And building on the FIFA fever in this World Cup year, the official soundtrack of the game has now been launched on Spotify.

It features songs from a mix of new and established acts around the world, including Saudi-born British artist Alewya. Meanwhile, MILKBLOOD and Pheelz make their FIFA soundtrack debuts.

“When cultural moments happen that ignite the gaming world like FIFA, we see that reflected in the music that we listen to on Spotify,” the streaming company said.

The platform analyzed the streaming habits of its users and found that Saudi Arabia ranks as the most FIFA-obsessed country in the Arab World, as it has the highest number of playlists per user that feature songs from the game’s soundtrack. Egypt and UAE are close runners-up, followed by Morocco and Qatar.

Globally, Spotify said that more than 21.2 million playlists include at least one song from the official FIFA 23 soundtrack.

The platform also revealed that the most-streamed song globally from the soundtrack to date is “Ojitos Lindos” by Bad Bunny and Bomba Estereo, followed by “Obsessed With You” by Central Cee, “Saoko” by Rosalia, “Ahora y Siempre” by Quevedo, Linton, and “Nail Tech” by Jack Harlow.

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Twitter confirms Musk buyout offer, says will close at original price

Updated 04 October 2022

Twitter confirms Musk buyout offer, says will close at original price

  • The news comes ahead of a highly anticipated faceoff between Musk and Twitter in Delaware’s Court of Chancery on Oct. 17

LONDON: Billionaire Elon Musk is proposing to go ahead with his original offer of $54.20 per share to take Twitter Inc. private, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, sending the shares of the social media firm surging.
Twitter shares jumped 12.7 percent to $47.93 before trading was halted for the second time, while Tesla Inc, the electric vehicle company that Musk heads, fell about 3 percent.
Musk made the proposal in a letter to Twitter, Bloomberg reported, citing people who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information.
Twitter and Musk’s lawyers were not immediately available for requests for comment from Reuters.
The news comes ahead of a highly anticipated faceoff between Musk and Twitter in Delaware’s Court of Chancery on Oct. 17, in which the social media company was set to seek an order directing Musk to close the deal at $54.20 per share.
“This is a clear sign that Musk recognized heading into Delaware Court that the chances of winning vs. Twitter board was highly unlikely and this $44 billion deal was going to be completed one way or another,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives wrote in a note after the news.
Musk agreed in April to buy Twitter for $44 billion, but within weeks said the number of bot accounts was much higher than Twitter’s estimate of less than 5 percent of users.


Moscow praises Musk's peace plan after Tesla and Zelensky clash in Twitter showdown

Updated 04 October 2022

Moscow praises Musk's peace plan after Tesla and Zelensky clash in Twitter showdown

  • In a Twitter poll the Tesla boss proposed Ukraine permanently cede Crimea to Russia
  • Kremlin spokesperson said Russia welcomes Elon Musk proposal

UNITED NATIONS: Billionaire Elon Musk on Monday asked Twitter users to weigh in on a plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine that drew immediate condemnation from Ukrainians, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, who responded with his own poll.
“Which @elonmusk do you like more?,” Zelensky tweeted, offering two responses: one who supports Ukraine, one who supports Russia.
Musk, the world’s richest person, proposed UN-supervised elections in four occupied regions that Moscow last week moved to annex after what it called referendums. The votes were denounced by Kyiv and Western governments as illegal and coercive.
“Russia leaves if that is will of the people,” Musk wrote.
The Tesla Inc. chief executive suggested that Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014, be formally recognized as Russia, that water supply to Crimea be assured and that Ukraine remain neutral. He asked Twitter users to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the plan.
“Dear @elonmusk, when someone tries to steal the wheels of your Tesla, it doesn’t make them legal owner of the car or of the wheels. Even though they claim both voted in favor of it. Just saying,” Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda tweeted in response.
Musk, who is also chief executive of SpaceX, followed up his first tweet with another poll: “Let’s try this then: the will of the people who live in the Donbas & Crimea should decide whether they’re part of Russia or Ukraine.”
He said he didn’t care if his proposal was unpopular, arguing that he did care “that millions of people may die needlessly for an essentially identical outcome.”
“Russia has >3 times population of Ukraine, so victory for Ukraine is unlikely in total war. If you care about the people of Ukraine, seek peace,” he posted on Twitter.
In February, when Ukraine’s Internet was disrupted following Russia’s invasion, Musk responded to a tweet by a Ukrainian government official seeking help. Musk said SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband service was available in Ukraine and that SpaceX was sending more terminals to the country.
“SpaceX’s out of pocket cost to enable & support Starlink in Ukraine is ~$80M so far. Our support for Russia is $0. Obviously, we are pro Ukraine,” Musk posted on Twitter later on Monday.
Ukraine’s outspoken outgoing ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, had a blunt reaction to Musk’s peace plan. Melnyk himself faced criticism in July for defending the controversial World War Two Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera.
“Fuck off is my very diplomatic reply to you @elonmusk,” tweeted Melnyk.
On Tuesday, the Kremlin praised Tesla boss proposal for suggesting a possible peace deal to end the war in Ukraine.
“It is very positive that somebody like Elon Musk is looking for a peaceful way out of this situation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call.
“Compared to many professional diplomats, Musk is still searching for ways to achieve peace. And achieving peace without fulfilling Russia's conditions is absolutely impossible,” he added.
As of 1030 GMT on Tuesday, Musk's original poll had garnered more than 2.5 million votes, with some 60% opposed to the plan.
Peskov said on Tuesday that “bots” - phoney twitter accounts - were “actively participating in the voting”. He provided no evidence.
Moscow had always been open to a negotiated end to the conflict, Peskov added. He criticised a new Ukrainian decree, signed by Zelenskiy on Tuesday, which says Kyiv will not negotiate directly with Putin for an end to the conflict.

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