Apple launches ‘buy now, pay later’ service

According to Apple, more than 85 percent of US retailers accept Apple Pay. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 March 2023
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Apple launches ‘buy now, pay later’ service

  • Apple Pay Later service will allow users to split purchases into four payments spread over six weeks with no interest or fees
  • Apple said service is currently available to selected users in the US, full rollout coming soon

LONDON: Apple Inc. on Tuesday launched its “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) service in the United States, a move that threatens to disrupt the fintech sector dominated by firms like Affirm Holdings and Swedish payments company Klarna.
The service, Apple Pay Later, will allow users to split purchases into four payments spread over six weeks with no interest or fees, the company said. It will initially be offered to select users, with plans of a full roll-out in the coming months.
Users can get loans between $50 and $1,000 for online and in-app purchases made on iPhones and iPads with merchants that accept Apple Pay, according to the company.
More than 85 percent of US retailers accept Apple Pay, the company said.
“Apple Pay Later will absolutely wallop some of the other players. Other companies would’ve taken a look at Apple’s announcement today because they are an ubiquitous name. This will take a bite out of the market share of other players,” said Danni Hewson, head of financial analysis at AJ Bell.
BNPL firm Affirm’s shares fell more than 7 percent, while PayPal closed about 1 percent lower.
In 2020, pandemic-related lockdowns turned shoppers to online payment platforms, bolstering demand for fintech companies offering BNPL services, especially to millennials and Gen Z customers.
Digital payments behemoths including PayPal and Block Inc. have expanded into the sector through acquisitions, while Affirm went public in a multi-billion dollar listing.
The sector’s fortunes have since turned as rising interest rates and red-hot inflation dampened purchasing power and forced consumers to tighten their purse strings.
“We expect Apple to tread cautiously, especially in this macro environment,” said Christopher Brendler, analyst at D.A. Davidson, alluding to its decision to not use a partner and underwrite, fund, and collect on the loans directly.
Apple Pay Later is enabled through the Mastercard Installments program, the company said, adding that Goldman Sachs was the issuer of the Mastercard payment credential.


Arab League, OIC Islamic Broadcasting Union to sign media protocol

Updated 57 sec ago
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Arab League, OIC Islamic Broadcasting Union to sign media protocol

  • Protocol encompasses various areas of collaboration, and focuses on training and capacity building in media and journalism
  • Ambassador Ahmed Rashid Khattabi expressed optimism that the collaboration will contribute to promoting values of tolerance and moderation

CAIRO: The Arab League said that a media cooperation protocol will be signed between its Secretariat’s Media and Communication Sector and the OIC Islamic Broadcasting Union.

The Arab League added that “as part of efforts to cement ties between the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Radio and Television Union, and in line with the General Secretariat’s commitment to fostering relations with regional and international organizations, a cooperation protocol will be signed between the General Secretariat’s Media and Communication Sector and the OIC Islamic Broadcasting Union.”

The protocol encompasses various areas of collaboration, and focuses on training and capacity building in media and journalism. It aims to bolster media exchange between the League of Arab States and the OIC, facilitate the sharing of expertise and knowledge in media practices, organize joint media initiatives, and conduct specialized training courses and workshops.

Ambassador Ahmed Rashid Khattabi, assistant secretary-general and head of the Media and Communication Sector, said that the protocol shows the commitment of both organizations to advancing professional cooperation.

He highlighted the importance of aligning with rapid technological advancements to meet the evolving needs of both entities.

Khattabi commended the significance of this protocol, stressing the vital role of intensified media cooperation between Arab and Islamic nations.

He expressed optimism that the collaboration will contribute to promoting values of tolerance and moderation, while rejecting extremism, and fostering deeper media and cultural exchanges.

The signing ceremony will take place at the headquarters of the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States in Cairo.

In response to the secretary-general’s directive, Khattabi will sign the cooperation protocol on behalf of the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States. Amr Ellissy, president of the OIC Radio and Television Union, will sign on behalf of the union.


Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says

Updated 17 April 2024
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Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says

  • Ministry accuses X of failing to address its concerns, says ban was in ‘interest of upholding national security’
  • X has been blocked since country election in February, with activities critizing ban aims to stifle democratic accountability

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interior ministry said on Wednesday it had blocked access to social media platform X around the time of February’s election on national security concerns, confirming a long-suspected shutdown.
Users in Pakistan have reported problems using X, formerly known as Twitter, since mid-February, but the government had made no official announcement on the matter until now.
The interior ministry mentioned the shutdown in a written submission to Islamabad High Court on Wednesday. Another court has told the government to reconsider the ban within a week, said Abdul Moiz Jafri, a petitioner and advocate.
“It is very pertinent to mention here that the failure of Twitter/X to adhere to the lawful directives of the government of Pakistan and address concerns regarding the misuse of its platform necessitated the imposition of a ban,” the ministry said in its court submission, which was seen by Reuters.
It said X had been reluctant to resolve the issue. X did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Wednesday.
“The decision to impose a ban on Twitter/X in Pakistan was made in the interest of upholding national security, maintaining public order, and preserving the integrity of our nation,” the ministry report said.
Access to X has remained limited since the Feb. 8 national election, which the party of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan says was rigged.

KHAN’S PARTY IS BIG USER OF X
Among Pakistan’s political parties, Khan’s party is the most prolific user of social media platforms, particularly after the country’s traditional media began censoring news about the ex-cricket star and his party ahead of the polls. Khan has over 20 million followers on X, making him the most followed Pakistani.
Khan says Pakistan’s military was behind his ouster as prime minister in 2022 and that it helped his opponents form the current government, despite candidates backed by his party winning most seats in February’s election. The military denies this charge.
He remains in jail on a number of convictions, most of which came days before the election.
Many government officials in Pakistan, notably Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, continue to use X — most likely through VPN software that bypasses the blocks.
The decision to temporarily block X was taken after considering confidential reports from Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies, the ministry report said.
It said “hostile elements operating on Twitter/X have nefarious intentions to create an environment of chaos and instability, with the ultimate goal of destabilising the country and plunging it into some form of anarchy.”
Rights groups and marketing advertisers have raised concerns.
Digital rights activist Usama Khilji said the block on X seemed designed to hinder the democratic accountability which he said a platform with instant updates of real-time information enables, especially amid the allegations and evidence of rigging which surfaced following the election.
Marketing consultant Saif Ali said: “It has become nearly impossible to convince Pakistani advertisers to invest in Twitter for brand communications, due to the platform being throttled by governmental authorities.”


Palestinian journalists urge US media to boycott correspondents’ dinner with Biden

Updated 17 April 2024
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Palestinian journalists urge US media to boycott correspondents’ dinner with Biden

  • Appeal issued due to administration’s involvement in Israel’s actions in Gaza

LONDON: Palestinian journalists are urging their US counterparts to boycott the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner over the Biden administration’s involvement in Israel’s actions in Gaza.

The appeal, which has been endorsed by 25 Palestinian journalists from Gaza and from other countries, was officially issued on Tuesday after endorsement campaigns lasting a couple of weeks.

The letter said: “As Palestinian journalists, we urgently appeal to you, our colleagues globally, with a demand for immediate and unwavering action against the Biden administration’s ongoing complicity in the systematic slaughter and persecution of journalists in Gaza.

“For Palestinian journalists in Gaza, the blue press vest does not offer us protection, but rather functions as a red target.”

Media watchdogs have reported that at least 97 journalists and media workers have been among the more than 34,000 killed since the conflict began on Oct. 7.

Many others are missing or being detained by the Israeli military “for merely fulfilling our journalistic duties.”

Some 25 journalists have signed the letter, although some have chosen to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by the Israeli army.

The letter includes signatures from renowned Gaza-based journalists such as Bisan Owda and photojournalists Mohamed Almasri, Ali Jadallah, Hosam Salem, and Mohammed Zaanoun.

The appeal has also been supported by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and Palestinian reporters working outside Gaza, including Mariam Barghouti, Mohammed El-Kurd, and Said Arikat, the Washington bureau chief for Al-Quds newspaper.

The letter criticizes the annual event — scheduled for April 27 — as an attempt by the US administration to manipulate the media by sacrificing journalistic ethics for access.

The letter added: “For journalists to fraternize at an event with President Biden and Vice President Harris would be to normalize, sanitize, and whitewash the administration’s role in genocide.

“The press plays an integral role in standing up against injustice by illuminating the truth and holding power to account.

“Journalists in Gaza cannot continue to bear the burden of doing so alone. It is past time journalists take action for journalists in Gaza.”


Dubai-based Telegram platform to hit 1 bln users within year, founder says

Updated 17 April 2024
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Dubai-based Telegram platform to hit 1 bln users within year, founder says

  • Goal is to remain neutral and not a “player in geopolitics,” Pavel Durov said in interview

LONDON: The Telegram messaging app, one of the most popular social media platforms in Ukraine and Russia, will likely cross 1 billion active monthly users within a year, its founder said in remarks published on Tuesday.
In a rare interview, Pavel Durov told US journalist Tucker Carlson that the Dubai-based free cloud-based app that allows users to send and receive messages, calls and other files, is spreading like a “forest fire.”
“We’ll probably cross 1 billion monthly active users within a year now,” Durov, who fully owns Telegram, told Tucker, according to the video interview posted on Tucker’s account on the X social media platform.
The goal of the app, which has now 900 million active users, is to remain a “neutral platform” and not a “player in geopolitics,” Durov said. The Russia-born entrepreneur said he had fled Russia in 2014 citing government interference in a company he founded.
One of Telegram’s main rivals, Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp, has more than 2 billion monthly active users. The Financial Times reported in March that Telegram would likely aim for a US listing once the company had reached profitability.
After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Telegram has become an instrumental tool for both governments and a go-to place for posting and accessing unfiltered information about the war.
Almost all major media, government entities and public figures in both Russia and Ukraine operate content channels on Telegram.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky posts his daily video addresses on the app, while his armed forces warn of air raids and document battlefield developments. The Kremlin announces President Vladimir Putin’s activities on Telegram, while Russia’s opposition rallies for support.
But the app, critics said, has also become a tool of misinformation and manipulation. A bill submitted to the Ukrainian parliament in March looks at stricter regulation of Telegram and other social networks.
The Kremlin told Durov to be more attentive after the messaging application was allegedly used to help recruit the gunmen who attacked a concert hall outside Moscow in March.


TikTok launches awards scheme for best ad campaigns on the platform in Middle East

Updated 16 April 2024
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TikTok launches awards scheme for best ad campaigns on the platform in Middle East

  • The awards cover six categories designed to recognize different aspects of campaigns
  • The winners will be announced during a ceremony in November

DUBAI: Short-form video app TikTok has launched an inaugural awards program to recognize and honor the best advertising campaigns on the platform in the Middle East, Turkey, South Africa and Pakistan, based on their creativity and performance.

“We have seen how creative talents from different backgrounds leverage digital platforms such as TikTok to push creative boundaries and set new benchmarks for advertising,” said Shadi Kandil, the company’s general manager of global business solutions in the Middle East, Turkey, Africa, Central and South Asia.

“This is exactly why it is important to celebrate the role brands and agencies play in promoting this dynamism. Through the TikTok Ad Awards, we aim to not only recognize their innovative efforts but also amplify the unique cultural narratives of communities within this region.”

Similar TikTok awards programs are already established in other markets but this year marks the first time they have been open to advertisers in the four listed territories. They cover six categories designed to recognize different aspects of ad campaigns.

“It’s the Creative for Me” celebrates campaigns with strong ideas and strategies specifically designed for the platform, while “Bougie on a Budget” honors those crafted on modest budgets that combine paid and organic content.

“The Trendsetter” category aims to recognize brands and agencies that harness the platform’s advertising products in innovative and effective ways.

Music and audio effects, and the influencers who operate in related spaces, are pivotal for TikTok. With that in mind, the “Sound On Please!” category will reward campaigns in which sound is a key element.

“Community Core” is for advertisers that leverage the talent of TikTok creators, while the audience at the awards ceremony in November will vote on the finalists in all the categories to choose a “People’s Choice” winner.

The TikTok Ad Awards are now open to submissions from brands and agencies in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa and Pakistan. The deadline is Sept. 6.