TikTok hosts awards ceremony for second edition of Creator Hub Middle East

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Updated 01 March 2024

TikTok hosts awards ceremony for second edition of Creator Hub Middle East

  • First place receives $10,000, second and third $5,000 each

RIYADH: TikTok MENA (Middle East and North Africa) hosted the second edition of the TikTok Creator Hub Awards ceremony in Riyadh on Wednesday to celebrate the growth of women-led businesses.

Taking place in Lakum Artspace, the event was attended by many aspiring businesswomen and influencers from the region.

Heba Qadeer, who won a second-place prize, told Arab News: “It’s incredible. I couldn’t believe it. When I found out that I (had) won, I was at work, and the first thing that I did was call my mom.”

Born and raised in Dubai, Qadeer is the founder and designer at Bharosa, a design line which celebrates Pakistani and Middle East culture.

She said: “I resonate with Middle Eastern culture so much, I am a hijabi myself and I absolutely love modest wear but at the same time I love my Pakistani colorful rich culture, so I wanted to mix that and create something that is unique.”

She explained that turning 30 was a milestone that motivated her to pursue her dream in business.

The top three at the event won cash prizes with Duaa Al-Bataiha, founder of Dina’s Dessert Hour, winning $10,000 for first place. 

Those in second and third place, Qadeer and Lara Akl, owner of a balloon and decoration company, received $5,000 each.

Kinda Ibrahim, TikTok’s general manager of operations for the Middle East, Turkiye, Africa, Pakistan, and South Asia, expressed the platform’s support for women-led businesses.

Reem Akl, communications and advocacy analyst at the UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States; Chahrazad Al-Hajjar, founder of Chahrazad’s Cuisine The Bakery; and Doaa Gawish, CEO and founder of The Hair Addict, also attended the ceremony.

Jomana Al-Rashid, CEO of the Saudi Research and Media Group and chairwoman of the Red Sea Film Foundation, delivered a speech via video.

She said: “To all of the incredible women creators, entrepreneurs and innovators here, you are making a profound impact on the world of digital media.

“Your creativity and determination are shaping narratives and inspiring women worldwide.

“Clarity of vision, resilience in execution, and the preparedness to seize opportunities when they are presented are the only determinants of success.”

One of the participants at the creator hub was Atheer Fahad, a Saudi designer who created the handbag brand Pearly.

She said: “This is all handmade. I taught myself how to create these products on my own and I took part in the competition through TikTok Creator Hub to reach more people and share my story and product.”

Fahad said she was a “one-woman show,” designing, creating, and promoting her handbags in the region.

She told Arab News: “I create these products on my own — from making the handbags by hand to managing the company and promoting it on TikTok.”

The program has helped her reach more people than ever before while showcasing her product, she added. 

The TikTok Creator Hub launched its Middle East edition in 2022. The program is set to continue annually with the next edition scheduled to take place in January 2025.

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.