Israel revokes order to cut AP live Gaza video feed

A screenshot taken from AP video showing a general view of northern Gaza as seen from Southern Israel, before it was seized by Israeli officials on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 22 May 2024
Follow

Israel revokes order to cut AP live Gaza video feed

JERUSALEM: Israel walked back its decision to shut down an Associated Press live video feed of war-torn Gaza on Tuesday, following a protest from the US news agency and concern from the White House.
Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said he had revoked an earlier order that accused the AP of breaching a new ban on providing rolling footage of Gaza to Qatar-based satellite channel Al Jazeera.
“I have now ordered to cancel the operation and return the equipment to the AP agency,” Karhi said in a statement, after Washington called on Israel to reverse the move.
“We’ve been engaging directly with the government of Israel to express our concerns over this action and to ask them to reverse it,” a White House spokesperson said.
Karhi’s original order earlier Tuesday said communications ministry inspectors had “confiscated the equipment” of AP on orders approved by the government “in accordance with the law.”
The AP said Israeli officials had seized its camera and broadcasting equipment at a location in the Israeli town of Sderot that overlooks the northern Gaza Strip.
In a statement issued after the order the news agency said it “decries in the strongest terms” the move by the Israeli government.
Reacting after Israeli officials ordered the equipment to be returned, it added: “While we are pleased with this development, we remain concerned about the Israeli government’s use of the foreign broadcaster law and the ability of independent journalists to operate freely in Israel.”
AP said Al Jazeera was among thousands of clients that receive live video feeds from the agency.
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said the government “went crazy.”
“This is not Al Jazeera, this is an American media outlet that has won 53 Pulitzer Prizes,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
AFP global news director Phil Chetwynd said Israel’s initial order was “an attack on press freedom.”
“The free flow of verified information and images from reliable sources is vital in the current highly-charged context,” he said in a statement.
“We would urge the authorities to immediately reverse this decision and to allow all journalists to work freely and without hindrance.”
The United Nations said it was “shocking.”
“The Associated Press, of all news organizations, should be allowed to do its work freely and free of any harassment,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera was taken off the air in Israel this month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government voted to shut it down over its coverage of the Gaza war.
Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem offices were shuttered, its equipment confiscated and its team’s accreditations pulled.
The AP said communications ministry officials arrived at its location in Sderot on Tuesday afternoon and seized the equipment.
It said officials had handed the AP a piece of paper, signed by the communications minister, alleging it was violating the country’s new foreign broadcast law.
The ministry later confirmed the incident.
It said the US news agency regularly took images of Gaza from the balcony of a house in Sderot, “including focusing on the activities of IDF (army) soldiers and their location.”
“Even though the inspectors of the Ministry of Communications warned them that they were breaking the law and that they should cut off Al Jazeera from receiving their content and not transfer a broadcast to Al Jazeera, they continued to do so,” it said.
The AP said it had been broadcasting a general view of northern Gaza before its equipment was seized, and that the live feed has generally shown smoke rising over the Palestinian territory.
“The AP complies with Israel’s military censorship rules, which prohibit broadcasts of details like troops movements that could endanger soldiers,” the agency added.
The Foreign Press Association in Israel said it was “alarmed” by the confiscation of the AP’s equipment, calling it “a slippery slope.”
It denounced Israel’s “dismal” record on press freedom during the Gaza war, and called the move against AP “outrageous censorship.”
In the 2024 press freedom index by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Israel ranked 101st out of 180 countries — dropping four positions from the previous year.
The Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Hamas also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,647 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.


Wikipedia labels prominent Israeli civil rights organization ‘unreliable’ on Israel-Palestine crisis, antisemitism

Updated 19 June 2024
Follow

Wikipedia labels prominent Israeli civil rights organization ‘unreliable’ on Israel-Palestine crisis, antisemitism

  • Anti-Defamation League cannot be trusted as neutral source of information, Wikipedia editors conclude
  • Organization under scrutiny for its methods of tracking antisemitism and its rigid definition of the term

LONDON: Wikipedia has labelled the Anti-Defamation League, a prominent Israeli civil rights organization, as “generally unreliable” for its work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, effectively declassifying it as a top source on its pages.

Editors of the world’s largest online encyclopedia concluded that the ADL, known as the premier Jewish civil rights organization in the US, cannot be trusted as a neutral source of information about antisemitism and the Israel-Palestine crisis.

“ADL no longer appears to adhere to a serious, mainstream and intellectually cogent definition of antisemitism, but has instead given in to the shameless politicization of the very subject that it was originally esteemed for being reliable on,” an editor known as Iskandar323, who initiated the discussion about the ADL, wrote in a debate thread.

Editors highlighted the definition of Zionism, the Jewish nationalist movement advocating for the creation of an Israeli state, as a key reason for the declassification.

The decision, which equates the ADL with tabloids, is a significant blow to the organization’s historical status as a key source of information regarding the tracking of antisemitism in the US.

The ADL has faced scrutiny for its methodologies and its rigid definition of antisemitism.

Experts repeatedly expressed skepticism about the organization’s decision to classify demonstrations featuring “anti-Zionist chants and slogans” as antisemitic.

Critics argue that this classification does not represent the full spectrum of antisemitism, because it excludes Jewish progressives and others critical of Israel.

The Forward, a US-Jewish newspaper, found at least 3,000 cases that raised concerns about the ADL’s logging system.

This decision appears to reflect ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt’s position that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism, full stop,” as he stated in a 2022 speech.

Greenblatt has often been criticized for his strong stance on the issue and has been accused of a partisan approach toward Israel.

In November, he endorsed Elon Musk, who had posted an antisemitic conspiracy theory on his X account, while more recently he described US student protests as Iranian “proxies” and compared the Palestinian keffiyeh scarf to a swastika.

In a statement, the ADL said the Wikipedia decision was part of a “campaign to delegitimize the ADL.”

“This is a sad development for research and education, but ADL will not be daunted in our age-old fight against antisemitism and all forms of hate,” the statement said.


US regulator says TikTok may be violating child privacy law

Updated 19 June 2024
Follow

US regulator says TikTok may be violating child privacy law

NEW YORK: The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Tuesday that it had referred a complaint against TikTok to the Justice Department, saying the popular video sharing app may be violating child privacy laws.
The complaint, which also names TikTok’s Chinese parent company Bytedance, stems from an investigation launched following a 2019 settlement, the FTC said in a statement.
At the time, the US regulator accused TikTok’s predecessor, Musical.ly, of having improperly collected child users’ personal data.
TikTok agreed to pay $5.7 million under the settlement and to take actions to come into compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a 1998 law.
FTC chair Lina Khan said Tuesday on X that the follow-up investigation had “found reason to believe that TikTok is violating or about to violate” COPPA and other federal laws.
A separate FTC statement said that the public announcement of the referral was atypical, but “we have determined that doing so here is in the public interest.”
Neither Khan nor the FTC statement further specified the violations TikTok and Bytedance were believed to have committed.
TikTok said Tuesday on X that it had worked for more than a year with the FTC “to address its concerns,” and was “disappointed” the agency was “pursuing litigation instead of continuing to work with us on a reasonable solution.”
“We strongly disagree with the FTC’s allegations, many of which relate to past events and practices that are factually inaccurate or have been addressed,” it said.
“We’re proud of and remain deeply committed to the work we’ve done to protect children and we will continue to update and improve our product.”
The complaint comes a day after US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for new restrictions on social media to combat a sweeping mental health crisis among young people.
Among the steps proposed by Murthy in his New York Times op-ed was notably a tobacco-style warning label “stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents.”
TikTok, with roughly 170 million US users, is facing a possible ban across the United States within months, as part of legislation signed by President Joe Biden in late April.
The company has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ban, which is working its way through US courts.
Meanwhile TikTok has been targeted by several civil suits alleging the company insufficiently protected minors who use the platform.


Snap launches AI tools for advanced augmented reality

Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

Snap launches AI tools for advanced augmented reality

  • Snap hopes special lenses will attract new users and advertisers
  • AI-led Lens Studio reduces filter creation time and enhances realism

LONDON: Snapchat owner Snap on Tuesday launched its latest iteration of generative AI technology that will allow users to see more realistic special effects when using phone cameras to film themselves, as it seeks to stay ahead of social media rivals.
Snap has been a pioneer in the field of augmented reality (AR), which overlays computerized effects onto photos or videos of the real world. While the company remains much smaller than rival platforms like Meta, it is betting that making more advanced and whimsical special effects, called lenses, will attract new users and advertisers to Snapchat.
AR developers are now able to create AI-powered lenses, and Snapchat users will be able to use them in their content, the company said.
Santa Monica, California-based Snap also announced an upgraded version of its developer program called Lens Studio, which artists and developers can use to create AR features for Snapchat or other websites and apps.
Bobby Murphy, Snap’s chief technology officer, said the enhanced Lens Studio would reduce the time it takes to create AR effects from weeks to hours and produce more complex work.
“What’s fun for us is that these tools both stretch the creative space in which people can work, but they’re also easy to use, so newcomers can build something unique very quickly,” Murphy said in an interview.
Lens Studio now includes a new suite of generative AI tools, such as an AI assistant that can answer questions if a developer needs help. Another tool will allow artists to type a prompt and automatically generate a three-dimensional image that they can use for their AR lens, removing the need to develop a 3D model from scratch.
Earlier versions of AR technology have been capable only of simple effects, like placing a hat on a person’s head in a video. Snap’s advancements will now allow AR developers to create more realistic lenses, such as having the hat move seamlessly along with a person’s head and match the lighting in the video, Murphy said.
Snap also has plans to create full body, rather than just facial, AR experiences such as generating a new outfit, which is currently very difficult to create, Murphy added.


YouTube tests context ‘notes’ feature for videos

Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

YouTube tests context ‘notes’ feature for videos

  • Notes will allow users to provide additional context on videos

LONDON: Alphabet’s YouTube will soon allow users to add ‘notes’ that will provide context on some of its videos as part of a new feature that will be initially rolled out in the United States, it said on Monday.
YouTube will invite certain users and creators, as part of the initial test phase, to write notes that are meant to provide “relevant, timely, and easy-to-understand context” on videos.
The notes, for instance could clarify when a song is meant to be a parody, point out when a new version of a product being reviewed is available, or let viewers know when older footage is mistakenly portrayed as a current event.
Social media platform X has a similar feature called Community Notes through which it allows select contributors to add context to posts including tags such as “misleading” and “out of context.”
The notes feature on YouTube will be available initially on mobile to users in the US and in English. In this phase, third-party evaluators will rate the helpfulness of notes, which will help train the systems, before a potential broader rollout, YouTube said.
Viewers in the US will start to see notes on videos in the coming weeks and months.


Greece says BBC report does not prove coast guard threw migrants overboard

Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

Greece says BBC report does not prove coast guard threw migrants overboard

  • BBC investigation alleges that the Greek coastguard caused dozens of migrant deaths between 2020 and 2023
  • Survivors have filed a criminal complaint against the Greek coast guard, accusing it of a slow response despite multiple warnings

ATHENS: Greece rejected Monday a BBC investigation that alleged its coast guard caused the deaths of dozens of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe, denying accusations it had broken international law.
In an investigation published on its website on Monday, the BBC counted 43 migrants it said had died in the Aegean Sea after being turned back by Greek coast guards between May 2020 and May 2023.
Nine of the dead were deliberately thrown overboard, the publicly funded British broadcaster added.
Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis denied the claims.
“We monitor every publication, every investigation, but I repeat: what has been reported is in no way proven,” he said, adding the coast guard “saves dozens of human lives each day.”
Greece has long been accused of carrying out illegal operations to force back migrants braving the perilous crossing from Turkiye’s western coast in the hope of reaching the European Union.
Though Athens has always denied the practice, numerous investigations by international media and rights groups have documented its existence, often with video evidence.
The BBC said its investigation examined 15 such pushback operations over a three-year period.
As well as basing its reporting on local media, NGOs and the Turkish coast guard, the BBC was able to interview eyewitnesses.
They include a Cameroonian national who said he and two other migrants were arrested after landing on the island of Samos in September 2021.
He said the police forced them onto a Greek coast guard boat, beating them as they went, before throwing them out into the water.
He was the only one to survive, with the bodies of his two companions — an Ivorian and another Cameroonian — washing up on the Turkish coast.
The eyewitness’s lawyers are calling for the Greek authorities to open a double murder case into the incident.
The EU said it was aware of the “terrible allegations.”
“Greek authorities, as in all EU member states, must fully respect obligations under the asylum and international law,” European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told journalists in Brussels.
Tens of thousands of migrants, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, have entered Greece in recent years from the sea and land borders with Turkiye.
The International Organization for Migration has declared the Mediterranean passage the world’s most perilous migration route.
In 2023, a migrant trawler with hundreds of people on board sank off the Greek coast, killing more than 600 people in one of Europe’s deadliest shipwrecks.
The survivors have filed a criminal complaint against the Greek coast guard.
They allege that the coast guard took hours to mount a response to the sinking ship, despite warnings from EU border agency Frontex and the NGO Alarm Phone.