Meta oversight board to examine Israel-Hamas war content

After that attack, Meta temporarily lowered its threshold for removing potentially harmful content. (AFP/File)
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Updated 07 December 2023

Meta oversight board to examine Israel-Hamas war content

  • Oversight board to review two specific cases
  • New expedited review mechanism ensures that the decision’s outcome will be announced within 30 days

NEW YORK: Meta’s independent Oversight Board said on Thursday it will review how the company has handled violent content on its social media platforms in two cases involving hostage-taking and bombing in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The cases will be the first to use a new expedited review mechanism announced earlier this year that requires the board to make decisions within 30 days. The board usually deliberates for several months on its cases. The board’s decision to take on the cases comes as social media platforms have been flooded with violent, hateful and misleading content in the two-month-old war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement in Gaza which carried out the Oct. 7 attack on Israeli towns that set off the conflict.
After that attack, Meta temporarily lowered its threshold for removing potentially harmful content, including posts that clearly identified hostages taken by Hamas. The company has also faced accusations that it was suppressing expressions of support for Palestinians living under Israel’s military response in Gaza.
In one case to be reviewed by the board, Meta took down a video on Instagram showing the aftermath of an explosion at the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, including injured and dead children, the board said.
A caption on the video claimed the hospital had been targeted by the “usurping occupation,” an apparent reference to the Israeli army, it said. The hospital, the biggest medical facility in the Palestinian Territories, has been at the center of accusations of war crimes on both sides of the conflict. Human Rights Watch last month said its investigation found the explosion at the hospital was likely caused by a rocket commonly used by Palestinian armed groups.
Meta restored the content with a warning screen after the board selected the case for review.
The other case involves a video on Facebook showing a woman begging her kidnappers not to kill her as she is driven away on a motorbike. A caption urges people to raise awareness of what happened on Oct. 7, the board said.
Meta initially took down the video, but reversed its decision weeks later in response to trends around how hostage kidnapping videos were being shared, according to the board.
As with the video in the first case, it was restored with a warning screen, the board said.
In a statement, Meta said it welcomed the Oversight Board’s review and pledged to implement its decision in each case.

Video of driver lashing migrants in back of lorry sparks indignation in Italy

Updated 56 min 10 sec ago

Video of driver lashing migrants in back of lorry sparks indignation in Italy

  • Video shows driver shouting at and hitting a group of Eritrean migrants with makeshift whip

LONDON: A video showing a driver lashing a group of migrants who hid in the back of his lorry to cross into France has sparked outrage in Italy.

The video, which went viral on social media, shows an unidentified driver, believed to be from Eastern Europe, shouting at and hitting a group of Eritrean migrants, mostly women, with a makeshift whip.

The incident was filmed by a passerby at a traffic center in Ventimiglia, in the Liguria region near the French border.

Police are investigating the incident but have not released further information.

The episode has ignited a nationwide debate, with Save the Children Italy condemning the images as “inhuman and demeaning.”

“Children, adolescents, and thousands of migrants arriving in Europe deserve a system that recognizes their needs, treats them with respect and dignity, and protects them from danger,” the association said in a statement, criticizing the EU’s recently approved Pact on Migration and Asylum.

According to the Italian newspaper Secolo XIX, the group had been welcomed the evening before the incident at a refugee center run by Catholic charity Caritas and spent the night at the “widespread reception point” in Ventimiglia.

Following the incident, the migrants returned to the center, where they recounted what had happened.

Russian-US journalist Gessen sentenced to 8 years jail in absentia

Updated 15 July 2024

Russian-US journalist Gessen sentenced to 8 years jail in absentia

  • Masha Gessen is accused of spreading false information about the Russian military’s killing of civilians in Ukraine

MOSCOW: A Russian-American journalist who has accused the Russian army of carrying out crimes in Ukraine was sentenced in absentia to eight years jail by a Moscow court on Monday.
Masha Gessen, a regular contributor to the New Yorker, was declared wanted in Russia last year after alleging its military killed civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha in March 2022, an accusation the Kremlin denies.
The court sentenced Gessen to eight years jail for “knowingly spreading false information about the use of the Russian army,” according to a statement from the Moscow city court service.
Shortly after launching its offensive in Ukraine, Russia made independent reporting on the conflict illegal and outlawed criticism of its armed forces.
Gessen, who now lives in the United States, is a prominent LGBTQ activist and long-time critic of President Vladimir Putin, penning a scathing biography of the Russian leader in 2012.
A Moscow court also on Monday sentenced a former municipal deputy to seven and a half years in absentia for allegedly spreading “fakes” about the Russian army.
Elena Kotenochkina, who has fled Russia, was convicted after speaking out in defense of fellow deputy Alexei Gorinov, jailed for seven years after proposing a minute’s silence for the victims of the conflict in Ukraine during a council meeting.

DAZN and beIN Sports acquire Ligue 1 TV rights

Updated 15 July 2024

DAZN and beIN Sports acquire Ligue 1 TV rights

  • British DAZN and Qatari beIN reportedly paid approximately 700 million euros per year for both domestic and international TV rights
  • Deal valid for next two seasons

PARIS: British platform DAZN and Qatari channel beIN Sports have acquired the TV rights to French football’s top-flight Ligue 1 for at least the next two seasons, a source close to the negotiations told AFP on Sunday.
The financial commitment is reported to be close to 500 million euros ($544 million) annually for domestic broadcast rights, while international rights will fetch a further 160 million euros plus 40 million for the second-division Ligue 2.
There remain a number of details to hammer out before the agreement, which is due to run for the period 2024-2029, is made official — including an exit clause for DAZN and France’s Professional Football League (LFP) in two years’ time.
The division of matches between the sports streaming platform and the Qatari channel is also yet to be finalized, although DAZN is expected to broadcast eight of the nine matches in each round, while beIN would get the primetime game.
The larger picture of the agreement was validated by the chairmen of Ligue 1’s clubs during an LFP board meeting on Sunday.
“Despite an incredible amount of work by (LFP chair) Vincent Labrune and several other chairmen, including myself, we were at an impasse, given the urgency of the situation,” Jean-Pierre Caillot, chairman of Reims and chair of the Ligue 1 board, told AFP.
“We had to find the best solution for the clubs in terms of exposure and cash flow. Finding and securing this agreement with DAZN and beIN Sports is the solution that, after several hours of discussions, the Ligue 1 chairmen were virtually unanimously in favor of.
“It’s obviously not the result we’d imagined at the outset, but it means that the future is not compromised,” added Caillot.
The clubs will earn a total of 700 million euros per annum to share between themselves. However, that amount is a far cry from the initial one billion euros the LFP hoped to attract for domestic rights alone when the rights were put out to tender last autumn.
The 2024-25 Ligue 1 season will begin on August 16.

UN urges release of detained Libyan journalist

Ahmed Sanussi. (Photo/Facebook)
Updated 14 July 2024

UN urges release of detained Libyan journalist

  • The crackdown on journalism fosters a climate of fear and undermines the necessary environment for democratic transition in Libya
  • Libya has been wracked by division and unrest since the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and remains divided between two rival administrations

TRIPOLI: The United Nations mission in Libya on Saturday called for the “immediate” release of a prominent journalist arrested this week, warning against a “crackdown” on media freedoms in the war-torn country.
Ahmed Sanussi, chief editor of Libyan financial news website Sada who has long covered corruption in the hydrocarbon-rich country, was arrested in his Tripoli home after returning from Tunisia, his family said.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said it was “deeply concerned about the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalist Ahmed Sanussi on July 11 in Tripoli.”
In a message on social media platform X, UNSMIL called for his “immediate release.”
“The crackdown on journalism fosters a climate of fear and undermines the necessary environment for democratic transition in Libya,” it said.
Libya has been wracked by division and unrest since the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and remains divided between two rival administrations.
The UN mission highlighted the need for a “thriving civic space where Libyans can engage in open and safe debate and dialogue by exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
“All Libyan authorities must protect journalists and media professionals.”
Sanussi’s latest reporting on corruption implicated Economy Ministry Mohamad Ali Houej.
Authorities in Libya did not comment on the arrest, which was also condemned by Western governments.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) deemed it “unacceptable that authorities have not disclosed where he is being held or the reason for his arrest.”
The Netherlands’ ambassador in Libya, Joost Klarenbeek, said on X he was “deeply concerned,” adding that “any acts of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance or ill-treatment must be thoroughly investigated.”
CPJ’s MENA program coordinator, Yeganeh Rezaian, said Libyan “authorities must release Sanussi immediately and unconditionally and ensure his safe return home.”


Meta bans ‘watermelon cupcake’ in internal Gaza row

Updated 13 July 2024

Meta bans ‘watermelon cupcake’ in internal Gaza row

  • Meta’s Muslim club was told to avoid ‘disruptive’ themed cupcakes at internal company event
  • ‘Censorship hangs on absurdity,’ Meta data scientist denounced before being laid off

LONDON: Meta has banned the sale of watermelon-themed cupcakes due to the fruit’s association with Gaza, sparking an internal censorship controversy.

The incident began in late May when Saima Akhter, a Meta data scientist in the New York office, accused the company of blocking her plan to sell the themed cupcakes at a company event.

“I am deeply concerned and tired of the exorbitant internal censorship at Meta that is now hinging on absurdity,” Akhter wrote on Instagram after the company halted the idea.

Akhter explained that management called the offering “disruptive” and suggested the Muslim workers’ club offer “traditional Muslim sweets” instead.

According to Wired, which first reported the news, the dispute involved at least three Meta staff members, with Akhter being the only employee to publicly denounce the episode.

Akhter revealed she was fired by Meta two weeks later, allegedly for copying an internal document listing grievances of Muslim staff regarding the company’s handling of Palestinian content and the Gaza conflict.

Sources indicate she is one of at least four pro-Palestinian employees let go since Oct. 7 for various internal policy violations.

This episode highlights growing discontent among Muslim and Arab workers at tech companies over perceived bias and censorship.

Watermelon, due to its colors resembling the Palestinian flag, has become a symbol of Palestinian resistance and, recently, the Gaza protests.

In response to potential internal conflicts following the Oct 7 attack, Meta, like other tech companies, restricted discussions about the war, which has resulted in over 38,000 Palestinian and more than 1,500 Israeli deaths since October.

Maxine Williams, Meta’s diversity chief, stated in a memo that the company introduced new policies “to limit discussions around topics that have historically led to disruptions in the workplace, regardless of the importance of those topics.”