How the Facebook babies became the TikTok teens

As Facebook turns 20, the babies who once pervaded its news feed barely use the platform now.
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Updated 02 February 2024

How the Facebook babies became the TikTok teens

  • As Facebook turns 20, so are many of the toddlers who pervaded its news feed

DUBAI: “My parents like photography and when the digital age came, they shifted from photobooks to Facebook,” 23-year-old Dubai resident Alexandra Morata told Arab News.

Morata, like many her age and younger, grew up to find out that their parents had been posting pictures of them — including of their awkward teenage years — on Facebook.

The phenomenon was so common that there is a term for it: sharenting.

A paper written by child development experts defines sharenting as “the practice of parents, caregivers or relatives sharing information about their children (underage) online, typically on some online platforms.”

A massive 80 percent of children had an online presence before they were 2 years old, according to a 2010 study by online security firm AVG.

The presence of baby pictures on the news feed was seemingly so pervasive that in 2013 a browser extension called was created to auto-detect baby images and replace them with others, including of cats.

As Facebook turns 20, the babies who once pervaded its news feed barely use the platform now.

Teenagers spent nearly two hours on TikTok every day, compared to just one minute on Facebook and 16 minutes on Instagram, according to a 2022 study.

Morata and Aily Prasetyo, 24, both said they have shifted to other platforms like Instagram and TikTok partly due to their friends not being on Facebook anymore, and also because “Facebook was so populated with … old people,” said Prasetyo.

“Facebook is a platform for millennials and baby boomers while TikTok is more for a younger audience and is known for its emphasis on authentic videos rather than ones that are overly sales oriented,” Nimrah Khan, founder of digital marketing agency Kollab Digital, told Arab News.

Those considered Generation Z are overwhelmingly embracing TikTok. It was the top platform of choice for Gen Zs overtaking YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, according to a study last year by research firm YPulse.

Globally, seven of the top 10 countries for TikTok, by reach, are in the Middle East North Africa region, according to “Social Media in the Middle East 2022: A Year in Review” published by the University of Oregon-UNESCO Crossings Institute.

TikTok even overtook online giant Google in 2021 as the most popular website of the year, according to internet security company Cloudflare.

Khan has a warning though: “TikTok’s algorithmic recommendations can expose users, including teenagers, to inappropriate content or potential privacy risks based on their browsing history and interactions on the platform.”

Still, many youngsters remain open to sharing their lives online because they, in large part, understand the security risks of living a digital life.

Morata, for example, said that she does not have any privacy concerns around the pictures her parents shared of her childhood because they had private profiles. The conversations around online safety have made her more aware of the risks, and so, she is careful with her accounts, she added.

Social media “can be detrimental to mental health,” but it has become such a common topic of conversation that most older teens are aware of what is fake and what is not, especially as influencers have started becoming more authentic, said Prasetyo.

Despite that awareness, social media platforms can have dangerous effects on youngsters’ mental health.

Cam Barrett, who is now in her early twenties had her personal life — from bath photos to the fact that she was adopted — shared publicly on Facebook by her mother. It is a habit she inculcated too, sharing much of her life publicly, when she opened a Twitter account, she told The Atlantic.

But last year, Barrett was among the people who advocated for children’s internet privacy.

“Today is the first time that I’ve introduced myself with my legal name in three years because I’m terrified to share my name because the digital footprint I had no control over ... exists,” she said testifying in front of the Washington State House last year.

The testimony was to support a bill that aims to ensure that children who are heavily featured in influencers’ online content have a right to financial compensation for their work and to maintain their privacy.

“I know firsthand what it’s like to not have a choice in the digital footprint you didn’t create that follows you around for the rest of your life with no option for it to be removed,” Barrett said.

The bill is the brainchild of Chris McCarty, a student at the University of Washington, who was inspired by the 2020 case of Huxley Stauffer, a toddler with special needs adopted from China by family vloggers Myka and James Stauffer.

The couple made and monetized extensive content about Huxley and his adoption, before giving him up because they realized they were not equipped to take care of him.

In 2021, whistleblower and former product manager at Facebook, Frances Haugen, leaked thousands of internal documents detailing how the company knew its apps helped spread divisive content and harmed the mental health of some young users.

Top bosses from all major social media companies have been called on for answers by lawmakers around the world.

On Wednesday this week, CEOs from Meta, TikTok, and other companies were grilled by US lawmakers over the dangers that children and teens face using social media platforms.

“They’re responsible for many of the dangers our children face online,” said US Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, and chair of the committee, during his opening remarks.

He added: “Their design choices, their failures to adequately invest in trust and safety, their constant pursuit of engagement and profit over basic safety have all put our kids and grandkids at risk.”

The hearing marked TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s second appearance before the US Congress, since March 2023, when he was questioned about the growing influence of TikTok on young people’s mental health, among other concerns.


Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India

Updated 20 May 2024

Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India

  • ICWI and Eko found Meta’s system failed to detect prohibited content in most cases
  • Indian election sees surge in anti-Muslim, Hindu supremacist sentiment

LONDON: Tech giant Meta approved political advertisements on its platforms inciting violence and hate speech during India’s general election, a report released on Monday revealed.

The investigation, conducted by non-sectarian diasporic organization India Civil Watch International and corporate watchdog Eko, found that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, allowed AI-manipulated political ads that spread disinformation and incited religious violence, particularly targeting Muslims.

The report found that Meta’s system failed to prohibit a series of inflammatory ads designed to mimic real-life scenarios, uploaded by ICWI and Eko.

The ads, submitted to Meta’s ad library, contained slurs towards Muslims in India, such as “let’s burn this vermin” and “Hindu blood is spilling, these invaders must be burned.”

Another ad featured Hindu supremacist language and false claims about political leaders, including an opposition leader allegedly wanting to “erase Hindus from India” and calling for their execution.

According to the report, all of the adverts “were created based upon real hate speech and disinformation prevalent in India, underscoring the capacity of social media platforms to amplify existing harmful narratives.”

Out of 22 ads submitted in English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati and Kannada, 14 were approved by Meta, while a further three were approved after minor tweaks that did not alter the overall provocative messaging.

Only five ads were rejected for violating Meta’s community standards on hate speech and violence.

The ads, which largely targeted Muslims, were immediately removed after approval by ICWI and Eko.

The organizations accused Meta of profiting from hate speech and failing to uphold its pledge to prevent AI-generated or manipulated content from spreading on its platforms during the Indian election.

Campaign spending for India’s elections, the largest and longest in the world, is estimated to reach $16 billion.

The report also claims that the approved ads violated India’s election rules, which ban election-related content 48 hours before polling begins and during voting.

Meta, which requires vetting approval for accounts running political ads, had already faced controversy during this year’s Indian elections.

A previous report by ICWI and Eko found that surrogate or “shadow” accounts aligned with political parties paid vast sums of money to disseminate unauthorized political ads on platforms.

Some approved accounts for running political ads were even up for sale in public Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members.

Many of these real ads endorsed Islamophobic tropes and Hindu supremacist narratives.

The tech giant has struggled for years with the spread of Islamophobic content on its platforms, raising concerns about Meta’s ability to enforce its policies and control the situation amid rising anti-Muslim sentiment in India.

Food delivery app HungerStation and Snapchat launch AR treasure hunt in Saudi Arabia

Updated 20 May 2024

Food delivery app HungerStation and Snapchat launch AR treasure hunt in Saudi Arabia

  • Companies say the sponsored treasure hunt is a world first
  • Great AR Hungerhunt is part of HungerStation rebranding campaign

LONDON: Food delivery app HungerStation has partnered with social media provider Snapchat to launch an immersive augmented reality treasure hunt on the platform.

The two companies said on Monday that the Great AR Hungerhunt, using Snapchat’s geofenced AR objects technology, is the first sponsored digital treasure hunt of its kind in Saudi Arabia and the world.

“Celebrating our rebranding with Snapchat marks a significant step in our journey of creativity and innovation,” said Mohammed Jifri, chief marketing officer of HungerStation.

“Through this partnership, we’re not just delivering food, but also delivering unforgettable digital experiences to our users.” 

The initiative is part of HungerStation’s rebranding campaign following its $297 million acquisition by German multinational Delivery Hero in July 2023.

A leading food delivery app in Saudi Arabia, HungerStation unveiled its new brand identity in January.

HungerStation’s director of brand and communication, Ahmad Chatila, said the campaign merges technological innovation with marketing opportunities with the aim to connect the brand with youth by “offering a real-life experience and amazing game challenges.”

To participate, Snapchat users need to search for and collect HungerStation’s new branded boxes hidden around city maps to gain points using the AR map feature on Snapchat.

For users not based in Jeddah or Riyadh, a non-location minigame version is available that allows them to collect points too.

EU bans 4 more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the bloc, citing disinformation

Updated 18 May 2024

EU bans 4 more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the bloc, citing disinformation

  • The EU has already suspended Russia Today and Sputnik among several other outlets since February 2022

BRUSSELS: The European Union on Friday banned four more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the 27-nation bloc for what it calls the spread of propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine and disinformation as the EU heads into parliamentary elections in three weeks.
The latest batch of broadcasters consists of Voice of Europe, RIA Novosti, Izvestia and Rossiyskaya Gazeta, which the EU claims are all under control of the Kremlin. It said in a statement that the four are in particular targeting “European political parties, especially during election periods.”
Belgium already last month opened an investigation into suspected Russian interference in June’s Europe-wide elections, saying its country’s intelligence service has confirmed the existence of a network trying to undermine support for Ukraine.
The Czech government has imposed sanctions on a number of people after a pro-Russian influence operation was uncovered there. They are alleged to have approached members of the European Parliament and offered them money to promote Russian propaganda.
Since the war started in February 2022, the EU has already suspended Russia Today and Sputnik among several other outlets.



Israeli soldiers post abusive videos despite army’s pledge to act: BBC analysis

Updated 17 May 2024

Israeli soldiers post abusive videos despite army’s pledge to act: BBC analysis

  • The BBC analyzed 45 photos and videos posted online by Israeli soldiers that showed Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank being abused and humiliated

LONDON: Israeli soldiers continue to post videos of abuse against Palestinian detainees despite a military pledge to take action against the perpetrators, analysis by the BBC has found.

The broadcaster said it had analyzed 45 photos and videos posted online by Israeli soldiers that showed Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank being abused and humiliated. Some were draped in Israeli flags. 

Experts say the footage and images, which showed Palestinians being stripped, beaten and blindfolded, could breach international law and amount to a war crime.

The Israel Defense Forces said some soldiers had been disciplined or suspended for “unacceptable behavior” but did not comment on the individual cases identified by the BBC.

The most recent investigation into social media misconduct by Israeli soldiers follows a previous inquiry in which BBC Verify confirmed Israeli soldiers had filmed Gazan detainees while beating them and then posted the material on social platforms.

The Israeli military has carried out arbitrary arrests across Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the Hamas attack on Oct. 7. The number of Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank has since risen to more than 7,060 according to the Commission of Detainees’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner Society.

Ori Givati, spokesperson for Breaking the Silence, a non-governmental organization for Israeli veterans working to expose wrongdoing in the IDF, told the BBC he was “far from shocked” to hear the misconduct was ongoing.

Blaming “current far-right political rhetoric in the country” for further encouraging the abuse, he added: “There are no repercussions. They [Israeli soldiers] get encouraged and supported by the highest ministers of the government.”

He said this played into a mindset already subscribed to by the military: “The culture in the military, when it comes to Palestinians, is that they are only targets. They are not human beings. This is how the military teaches you to behave.”

The BBC’s analysis found that the videos and photos it examined were posted by 11 soldiers of the Kfir Brigade, the largest infantry brigade in the IDF. None of them hid their identity.

The IDF did not respond when the BBC asked about the actions of the individual soldiers and whether they had been disciplined.

The BBC also attempted to contact the soldiers on social media. The organization was blocked by one, while none of the others responded.

Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, urged an investigation into the incidents shown in the footage and called for the IDF to discipline those involved.

In response to the BBC’s investigation, the IDF said: “The IDF holds its soldiers to a professional standard … and investigates when behavior is not in line with the IDF’s values. In the event of unacceptable behavior, soldiers were disciplined and even suspended from reserve duty.

“Additionally, soldiers are instructed to avoid uploading footage of operational activities to social media networks.”

However, it did not acknowledge its pledge to act on BBC Verify’s earlier findings in Gaza, according to the broadcaster.

4 journalists killed in Gaza as death toll climbs above 100

Updated 17 May 2024

4 journalists killed in Gaza as death toll climbs above 100

  • 104 Palestinian media workers reported dead, along with 3 Lebanese and 2 Israelis

LONDON: The Gaza Media Authority on Thursday said that four journalists had been killed in an Israeli airstrike, bringing the total number of journalists killed in the conflict to more than 100.

The victims were identified as Hail Al-Najjar, a video editor at the Al-Aqsa Media Network; Mahmoud Jahjouh, a photojournalist at the Palestine Post website; Moath Mustafa Al-Ghefari, a photojournalist at the Kanaan Land website and Palestinian Media Foundation; and Amina Mahmoud Hameed, a program presenter and editor at several media outlets, according to the Anadolu Agency.

The Gaza Media Office said the four were killed in an Israeli airstrike, but did not provide additional details on the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

A total of 104 Palestinian journalists have been killed since the conflict began on Oct. 7. Two Israeli and three Lebanese media workers also have been killed.

The latest loss adds to the already heavy toll on media workers, with the Committee to Protect Journalists saying the Gaza conflict is the deadliest for journalists and media workers since it began keeping records.

Israel is continuing its offensive on Gaza despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire.

On Thursday, South Africa, which has brought a case accusing Israel of genocide to the International Court of Justice, urged the court to order Israel to halt its assault on Rafah.

According to Gaza medical authorities, more than 35,200 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, and over 79,200 have been injured since early October when Israel launched its offensive following an attack by Hamas.