LONDON: Microsoft Corp. is substantially cutting its business in Russia in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.
Earlier in March, Microsoft said it was suspending new sales of its products and services in Russia.
The company did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
More than 400 employees will be affected, the report said, citing a company spokesperson.
Several major companies, including Apple Inc, Nike and Dell Technologies, have severed connections with Russia.
Facebook-owner Meta Platforms Inc. and Alphabet Inc’s Google have also taken measures to restrict Russian state media from making money off ads on their platforms.
Can you tell us about the latest content trends on Instagram in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia?
The Middle East region has one of the highest social media usage rates in the world. People in the region have turned to Instagram to stand behind causes they care about and have successfully ignited waves of digital activism, which gave rise to content that focuses on sharing information and educating communities. It also allowed others to find their own voices in these movements.
We have also seen an increasing interest in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) among our communities as the buzz around concepts like the metaverse and Web3 continues.
Content creators in the region creatively used our Spark AR features to bring forth the spirit of Ramadan and augment the holy month celebrations with filters by @Bdanabol and @aymen_ghnia topping the list.
Reels content has also been on the rise with content spanning everything from celebrating Saudi coffee on the back of declaring the year 2022 as the Year of Saudi Coffee, to anime and K-pop content, and the latest hits on Netflix.
Can you elaborate on the popularity of anime content on the platform?
The Middle East has had a soft spot for anime since the Eighties. The Japanese art has inspired Arab creators to use anime for self-expression, incorporating Arab culture and sensibilities within its parameters of character and world-building.
With the boom in local anime creation, lovers of the medium are increasingly turning to Instagram as the platform to showcase their talents. To date, the hashtag #anime has garnered almost a million followers across KSA, UAE, Egypt and Kuwait on Instagram.
Regional creators are exploring the full range of the anime universe with manga, cosplay, origami and folktale anime productions coming together on the platform and redefining the boundaries of the medium through its originality.
Talents like Jassim Al Mohannadi use Instagram to publish original anime productions spiced with Middle Eastern flavors. Jasim has published 21 chapters of his own Arabic manga creations on WEBTOON under the title “Justice in the Wasteland” and penned the Middle Eastern manga “Primeval.” Others like Reem (@renberryart) were able to turn their impressive talents in anime illustration into a source of income on Instagram. Everything from anime movie characters to fusions of Mirko and Tengen can be found on Reem’s emerging storefront.
We are delighted to witness the incredible Japanese art shaping Middle Eastern creator communities and further making Instagram home to self-expression.
How has fashion and travel content grown on the platform?
Instagram is a place to explore, share and push culture forward. We see our community heading to places like Explore, Reels, and Stories for inspiration, self-expression and discovery of all types of content. Yet, there is no doubt that the fashion and travel categories have always been, and continue to be, a cornerstone of the Instagram experience.
There is always a new fashion trend to jump on in terms of what to wear and where to shop. Our 2022 Instagram Trends Report has shown that Gen Z is now making bold moves with its style choices, using fashion as a vehicle for joy, optimism and self-expression.
They are also moving away from big-box online retailer websites as more than half of young people are interested in new shopping experiences, opening new avenues for small-to-medium businesses and thrift shops.
In the region, we saw a recent interest in modest fashion where the hashtag #modestfashion grew 45 percent in the UAE, as creators were experimenting in the lead-up to Ramadan.
Travel content has also been on the rise, especially with the boom of Reels. We have seen creative content from a plethora of creators in the region such as Murad and Nataly Osmann and Kasem Hato, who continuously share everything from vacation hotspots for the summer to hidden gems around the world through content that sparks a sense of adventure.
What do brands need to know about current content trends both in terms of creating their own content as well as in terms of collaborating with creators?
90 percent of people on Instagram follow a business globally, making it easier for brands to transform content into commerce by building trust with customers through their owned channels as well as collaborating with key opinion leaders and creators.
We introduced an array of tools that help brands seamlessly connect and collaborate with creators on Instagram including Branded Content Ads, Shopping from Creators, and Branded Content Tags, to name a few.
Last year, we added a new hub to the Professional Dashboard where businesses can find inspiration to spark more content ideas for those unsure where to start. Instagram users with business accounts can browse a collection of quality organic and promoted posts from other businesses in the hope it will inspire them to post their brand-specific content.
There is so much room for exploring and expanding brands’ presence online and to make that search easier, we curated guidelines and tips to help businesses amplify their growth based on their goals.
How is Instagram investing in content creators?
Creators are the heart of culture on Instagram. We’re committed to building a suite of tools to support creators’ various needs and ambitions, regardless of if they’re aspiring, emerging or established creators.
If you have an idea that you want to share with the world, you should be able to create it and get it out there easily and simply — across Facebook and Instagram — and earn money for your work. That is why we are focused on developing a range of creative and monetization tools across our platforms to support creators’ various needs and ambitions, whether they are just getting started or already have an established brand.
In 2021, we expanded the support to fund content for even more creators to produce fun and engaging content that will help them grow their personal brands and make a living. We also launched @creators as a way to reach even more aspiring creators around the world with best practices, product news, and tips & trips.
We have a dedicated creators’ page, which includes everything a creator needs to know on Instagram — ranging from trends, content tips, success stories, staying safe and earning money, to guidelines on using the most recent tools and features.
By the end of 2022, we plan to invest over $1 billion in programs that give creators new ways to earn money for the content they create on Facebook and Instagram. This investment will include new bonus programs that pay eligible creators for hitting certain milestones when they use our creative and monetization tools.
We will also provide seed funding for creators to produce their content. Our goal is to help as many creators as possible find sustainable, long-term success on our apps.
Lastly, how does Instagram moderate and monitor content?
When we find content such as a post, comment or story that goes against our Community Guidelines, we remove it from Instagram. If the content does not go against our Community Guidelines but may be inappropriate, disrespectful or offensive, we may limit it from Explore, rather than removing it from Instagram.
Our Community Guidelines define what is and is not allowed on Instagram, and they apply all over the world. They are designed to encourage expression and create a safe environment on Instagram.
To find, review and take action on content that may go against Community Guidelines, we use technology and human reviewers. Artificial intelligence technology is central to our content review process. AI can detect and remove content that goes against our Community Guidelines before anyone reports it.
Other times, our technology sends content to human review teams to take a closer look and make a decision on it. These thousands of reviewers around the world focus on content that is most harmful to Instagram users.
Anime content creators in the Middle East
User: @artistsoosa https://www.instagram.com/artistsoosa/
About: Jeddah-born Samah Kamil was the first Arab artist to receive a master’s degree in the art of manga from the Arts & Designs faculty at King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia. As well as being an artist, she’s also the editor of Manga Arabia, and leads and facilitates workshops covering a variety of manga-related topics.
Her work, which she posts on Instagram, illustrates Saudi culture through contemporary anime drawings, reflecting meaningful plots with relatable characters and social messages.
User: 6th__kage https://www.instagram.com/6th__kage/
About: The Saudi-based content creator is an avid gamer who merges the worlds of gaming and anime. He often cosplays his favorite character Kakashi Hatake from the manga series Naruto.
User: @Paris.ae https://www.instagram.com/paris.ae/
About: Taking cosplaying to the next level, @Paris.ae presents herself as an Emirati Kawaii doll bringing anime characters to life.
User: @Renberryart https://www.instagram.com/renberryart/
About: 21-year-old Reem has combined her passion for all things anime and her artistic skills to create digital art that she posts and sells through her Instagram page.
LONDON: TikTok revealed on Thursday a new screen time control feature that allows users to set custom limits for how much time they want to spend on the app, encouraging users to take a break from continuous scrolling.
This new feature is similar to previous screen time controls, which timed out after a designated daily limit, including more than 40, 60, 90 or 120 minutes.
The new setting, however, allows users to set up a reminder through the app to “take a break” if they have had it open for an extended period of time.
“These prompts will remind people to take a break after a certain amount of uninterrupted screen time, which they can set as they choose,” said Jordan Furlong, TikTok’s product manager of digital well-being.
The company also said it will issue users between the ages of 13 and 17 “digital well-being prompts” when they have used the app for more than 100 minutes in a single day.
Furlong said that the prompts will “remind them of our screen time limit tool the next time they open the app.”
The new features will also be accompanied by a screen time dashboard, which offers daily data on how much time users have spent on the app. Users can opt for weekly notifications to review their screen time dashboard.
These changes come after mounting pressure on social media platforms to regulate “addictive” social media use among teens.
On Thursday, a family sued Meta over their daughter’s eating disorder, self-harm and thoughts of suicide due to her addictive use of Instagram.
The lawsuit follows seven other similar lawsuits filed against Meta, saying that excessive exposure to social media platforms had led to attempted or actual suicide, eating disorders, sleeplessness and other issues.
DUBAI: Shahid VIP, the premium, subscription-based service of MBC Group’s streaming platform Shahid, has announced the premiere of a new Arabic-language international production titled “The Eight.”
The suspense thriller tells the story of a dangerous criminal cartel that decides to turn on its biggest member.
The Shahid Original, which was filmed in Cairo, Paris, Lille, and Marrakech, stars Egyptian actors Asser Yassin and Khaled El-Sawy in the lead roles. The supporting cast includes well-known actors from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, and the US.
Regional cast members include Mohammed Alaa, Reem Moustafa, Mahmoud El-Bezzawy, Hanan Suliman, Lara Scandar (Iskandar), Sara Abdulrahman, and Ghada Adel, while international names such as Michael Beach, Pasha Lychnikoff, and Richard De Mayo join the lineup.
The show has been written by acclaimed Saudi producer Turki Al-Alshikh and directed by Ahmed Medhat from Egypt who is best known for films such as “The International Player,” “The Hunter,” and “Between Two Worlds.”
“The Eight” premiered on Shahid VIP on June 9.
LONDON: The Washington Post on Thursday fired reporter Felicia Sonmez, who has been publicly feuding with her colleagues and criticizing the newspaper’s leadership for the past week.
It said Sonmez was fired for “misconduct that includes insubordination, maligning your coworkers online and violating The Post’s standards on workplace collegiality and inclusivity.”
“We cannot allow you to continue to work as a journalist representing The Washington Post,” the statement concluded.
It comes after the newspaper suspended journalist Dave Weigel for one month without pay for retweeting a post containing a sexist joke.
Weigel was called out publicly by Sonmez on Twitter and privately on a Washington Post Slack channel.
Sonmez quoted Weigel’s tweet with the caption: “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!”
On Slack, she tagged Weigel and asked: “I’m sorry but what is this?” His retweet of the joke sent “a confusing message about what the Post’s values are,” she added.
Weigel apologized for the retweet and deleted it from his account. He was subsequently suspended without pay for a month. However, Sonmez continued to criticize him, drawing more and more attention.
Sonmez proceeded to argue publicly with many of her colleagues, prompting executive editor Sally Buzbee to intervene with an internal memo stating the newspaper did not tolerate colleagues “attacking colleagues” either face-to-face or online.
“Respect for others is critical to any civil society, including our newsroom.”
Sonmez was not satisfied with the response and tweeted that Buzbee’s note had provided “fodder for *more* harassment” against her.
In her public comments, Sonmez was also highly critical of the newspaper’s leadership, including Buzbee, and some of her colleagues.
In one Twitter thread, she suggested it was only a good workplace for those who were white and highly paid.
Sonmez sued the paper for discrimination in 2021, but the suit was dismissed.
LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the Taliban on Thursday for violently beating an Afghan journalist and charging three others over corruption reporting, urging them to file an immediate probe.
“Taliban leaders must take action to prevent their members from attacking journalists like Reza Shahir, and must immediately drop the spurious charges against three journalists in Faryab province over an old corruption case,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.
“The detentions, beatings, and harassment of media workers has continued to rise in Afghanistan under the Taliban, which indicates a worrisome trend for press freedom.”
Last Friday, Afghan journalist Reza Shahir was stopped by Taliban forces while he was on his way to his home in Kabul, searched him, and proceeded to punch him in the head and beat him on the shoulder with an AK-47.
Shahir was stripped of his mobile phone and left unconscious on the street.
Previously a reporter for the local broadcaster Rahe Farda TV, Shahir was also beaten and detained by Taliban forces last April, but has since worked as a freelancer to avoid such violent incidents.
According to Shahir, Taliban fighters beat him after they searched his mobile phone and found screenshots of media reports about his April detention and beating.
He said the Taliban accused him of being a spy and working for foreign governments.
Separately, three Afghan journalists have been charged with as yet unspecified criminal offences after being questioned and detained numerous times throughout last month.
The three journalists, Firoz Ghafori, Mosamem, and Olugh Beig Ghafori, said they did not know the exact nature of the charges against them but feared they could face prison time.