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Saudi women's rights activist Loujain Alhathloul sentenced to nearly 6 years in prison: state-linked media – CBC.ca

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One of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activists was sentenced on Monday to nearly six years in prison under a vague and broadly worded law aimed at combating terrorism, according to state-linked media and her family.

Loujain Alhathloul’s case, and her imprisonment for the past two and a half years, have drawn international criticism from rights groups, members of the U.S. Congress and European Union lawmakers. Alhathloul, whose family members in Canada have been advocating for her release, is a graduate of the University of British Columbia who lived in Canada for five years.

State-linked Saudi news outlet Sabq reported that Alhathloul, 31, was found guilty by the kingdom’s anti-terrorism court on charges of agitating for change, pursuing a foreign agenda, using the internet to harm public order and co-operating with individuals and entities that have committed crimes under anti-terror laws.

She has 30 days to appeal the verdict. 

“She was charged, tried and convicted using counter-terrorism laws,” her sister, Lina Alhathloul, said in a statement.

“My sister is not a terrorist, she is an activist. To be sentenced for her activism for the very reforms that MBS and the Saudi kingdom so proudly tout is the ultimate hypocrisy,” she said, referring to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by his initials.

Activism and imprisonment

Alhathloul was among a handful of Saudi women who openly called for the right to drive before it was granted in 2018 and for the removal of male guardianship laws that had long stifled women’s freedom of movement and ability to travel abroad.

She was arrested for the first time in 2014 while attempting to drive across the border from the United Arab Emirates — where she had a valid driver’s licence — to Saudi Arabia. She spent 73 days in a women’s detention facility, an experience she later said helped shape her campaigning against the kingdom’s male guardianship system.

LISTEN | A prominent Saudi activist’s detention and sudden silence:

Front Burner25:34A prominent Saudi activist’s detention and sudden silence

Loujain Alhathloul, a Saudi women’s rights activist who studied in Canada, has been imprisoned for the past two years. And now, her family, who used to be able to talk to her regularly, hasn’t heard from her in seven weeks. Today, the CBC’s Michelle Ghoussoub joins us to talk about how Alhathloul became one of the most prominent faces in the struggle for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, what her continued detention says about social reforms under the Saudi regime, and what her family thinks her silence means. 25:34

In 2016, a year after she became one of the first women to stand for municipal election in Saudi Arabia, she was among 14,000 signatories on a petition to King Salman calling for an end to the guardianship system. The kingdom eased guardianship laws last year, allowing women to apply for a passport and travel freely.

In March 2018, Alhathloul was arrested in the UAE, where she was studying, and forcibly flown to Riyadh, where she was held under house arrest before being moved to prison in May, rights groups say. She was among at least a dozen other women’s rights activists arrested.

UN calls sentence ‘deeply troubling’

In a statement on Twitter, the UN human rights office said the conviction and sentence handed to Alhathloul, “already arbitrarily detained for 2½ years, is also deeply troubling.” The office urged her early release as a “matter of urgency.”

Her family has called on the Canadian government to be more aggressive in holding Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations to account. Alhathloul has told her family she has been held in solitary confinement and suffered electrocution, flogging, and sexual assault.

Alhathloul rejected an offer to rescind her allegations of torture in exchange for early release, according to her family. A court recently dismissed her allegations, citing a lack of evidence.

A rights group called Prisoners of Conscience, which focuses on Saudi political detainees, said that Alhathloul could be released as early as the end of March 2021 based on time served. She has been imprisoned since May 2018 and 34 months of her sentencing will be suspended.

The judge ordered her to serve five years and eight months in prison for violating anti-terrorism laws, according to Sabq, which said its reporter was allowed inside the courtroom during Monday’s session.

Alhathloul’s family said in a statement she will be barred from leaving the kingdom for five years and required to serve three years of probation after her release.

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GUEST OPINION: Is social media complicit in the mob attack on the American capital? – The Guardian

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Kent Bruyneel
Guest opinion


My friend Dave said to me recently that whatever anyone thought of social media, we human beings at this point in our evolution were not ready for these tools. Hard to argue, even for someone who makes part of his living teaching that very tool. Using social media as our primary source for both news and truth, we have arrived at a chaotic time in public discourse like people swept up in a mob who don’t quite know what we are doing. Or, why we are doing it. Or, what will become of all that private and personal information shared and shouted. We only know, as mob members, that everyone else is doing it; parts of it seem like entertainment; and we had better do it lest we miss out on something – that most modern of motivations.

I tell students and clients that one of the tenets of modern communications, especially social media, is that if you do not define your online voice, someone else will do it for you. Sure, they probably will anyway (see: Yelp). But, I remind them, you have to enter the arena to at least hear what is being said. I encourage its use broadly and pervasively, so even though I am not an active social media poster, I am connected to the ridiculous and deadly spectacle that happened in the American capital this past week in myriad ways. In a sense all of those in the social network are: the lurkers and the over-sharers. Not culpable, or guilty or anything, but not quite innocent either: we are responsible for how widely, vigorously and seriously we read. And, of course, we are responsible for what signs we hold over our head; and what weapons we bear in our arms. But the basic underlying algorithm that controls the news we unprepared-humans now are fed has made social media so dangerous that its standard bearer is being linked in legitimate publications to the machine that will destroy mankind.

Put simply, an algorithm is a specific set of instructions to solve a problem. Broadly speaking, social media algorithms find out what you like and then feed you more of it. This process is always been part of the internet experience: more cute than deep (endless cat videos), more seedy than dangerous (endless pornography), more annoying than threatening (endless spam). What has fundamentally changed is that now, mostly through Twitter and Facebook, we are fed not just larks or stimuli, we are fed news and truth.

Different truth, and different news according to what we already believe. News and truth, actually, that have specifically designed and delivered for us. News and truth that have been curated to please us and turn off our critical faculties. The Atlantic recently published an article called “Facebook is a Doomsday Device” that is both chilling and worth the read. This is what Dave meant. We are not prepared for these tools.

The eleventh hour banning of President Trump’s Twitter account and the Big Tech move that comes against Parler, Twitter’s conservative wannabee doppelganger, is too late in the process, poorly and cynically timed; but also necessary. Though it may seem futile, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg must chase down the horses that have so violently erupted from their barns. Even if they do, they will almost certainly face more regulatory and legislative oversight going forward from all nations. Good.

In the United States, the protections social media companies have been granted under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act will be further scrutinized. The best way to quickly explain Section 230 is that it allows social media companies to be platforms, not publishers: a publisher is responsible for the veracity of whatever it publishes, a platform is not responsible for whomever stands on it and shouts. It appears that the companies themselves have now realized that line can no longer be so easily delineated in the still nascent empires of influence.

Though it is possible to understand the banning of the MAGA crowd as the violation of the rules of a platform, it can be just as easily read as the editorial decisions of a publisher. The president’s quixotic and ill-informed attack on Section 230 notwithstanding, I expect the investigation, regulation and scrutiny to only grow on the companies that control the information age; and the most prominent web companies do too based on their recent actions. Good.

We know now and have always known that disinformation has consequences. It seems unavoidable to conclude that absent the ability of social media companies to curate and choose news and truth for people based on scraped personal information and preferences; and those companies’ concurrent ability to group those people together with relative ease, these acts of mob terrorism would have been far harder to organize. This is not to excuse or explain away the brutality and violence, this is to understand how it all got together in one place. Understanding the later, does not lessen the contempt, disgust or scorn for the former.

I also acknowledge that Facebook can help facilitate many wonderful things too and connect people in a certain way. But, at the moment, that feels akin to people fighting the opioid epidemic by acknowledging that heroin makes you high … Sure, it does that too. That’s how this all got started.

I come bearing no solutions other than this: Read more. I would doubt anyone who said they know exactly what social media will look like, or how it will impact us, in10 years, or even five. I’ll just close by paraphrasing George Orwell, who was prescient about the danger of a degraded public discourse: Those who do not read well cannot think well, and those who do not think well will have their thinking done for them.

Kent Bruyneel teaches modern business communications and social media and applied digital communications at the University of Prince Edward Island and is the editor-in-chief of Forget Magazine. With his wife, Dr. Shannon Bruyneel, he runs a strategic consulting firm, The Eastsizing Company, that focuses on socially actionable research.

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GUEST OPINION: Is social media complicit in the mob attack on the American capital? – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Kent Bruyneel
Guest opinion


My friend Dave said to me recently that whatever anyone thought of social media, we human beings at this point in our evolution were not ready for these tools. Hard to argue, even for someone who makes part of his living teaching that very tool. Using social media as our primary source for both news and truth, we have arrived at a chaotic time in public discourse like people swept up in a mob who don’t quite know what we are doing. Or, why we are doing it. Or, what will become of all that private and personal information shared and shouted. We only know, as mob members, that everyone else is doing it; parts of it seem like entertainment; and we had better do it lest we miss out on something – that most modern of motivations.

I tell students and clients that one of the tenets of modern communications, especially social media, is that if you do not define your online voice, someone else will do it for you. Sure, they probably will anyway (see: Yelp). But, I remind them, you have to enter the arena to at least hear what is being said. I encourage its use broadly and pervasively, so even though I am not an active social media poster, I am connected to the ridiculous and deadly spectacle that happened in the American capital this past week in myriad ways. In a sense all of those in the social network are: the lurkers and the over-sharers. Not culpable, or guilty or anything, but not quite innocent either: we are responsible for how widely, vigorously and seriously we read. And, of course, we are responsible for what signs we hold over our head; and what weapons we bear in our arms. But the basic underlying algorithm that controls the news we unprepared-humans now are fed has made social media so dangerous that its standard bearer is being linked in legitimate publications to the machine that will destroy mankind.

Put simply, an algorithm is a specific set of instructions to solve a problem. Broadly speaking, social media algorithms find out what you like and then feed you more of it. This process is always been part of the internet experience: more cute than deep (endless cat videos), more seedy than dangerous (endless pornography), more annoying than threatening (endless spam). What has fundamentally changed is that now, mostly through Twitter and Facebook, we are fed not just larks or stimuli, we are fed news and truth.

Different truth, and different news according to what we already believe. News and truth, actually, that have specifically designed and delivered for us. News and truth that have been curated to please us and turn off our critical faculties. The Atlantic recently published an article called “Facebook is a Doomsday Device” that is both chilling and worth the read. This is what Dave meant. We are not prepared for these tools.

The eleventh hour banning of President Trump’s Twitter account and the Big Tech move that comes against Parler, Twitter’s conservative wannabee doppelganger, is too late in the process, poorly and cynically timed; but also necessary. Though it may seem futile, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg must chase down the horses that have so violently erupted from their barns. Even if they do, they will almost certainly face more regulatory and legislative oversight going forward from all nations. Good.

In the United States, the protections social media companies have been granted under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act will be further scrutinized. The best way to quickly explain Section 230 is that it allows social media companies to be platforms, not publishers: a publisher is responsible for the veracity of whatever it publishes, a platform is not responsible for whomever stands on it and shouts. It appears that the companies themselves have now realized that line can no longer be so easily delineated in the still nascent empires of influence.

Though it is possible to understand the banning of the MAGA crowd as the violation of the rules of a platform, it can be just as easily read as the editorial decisions of a publisher. The president’s quixotic and ill-informed attack on Section 230 notwithstanding, I expect the investigation, regulation and scrutiny to only grow on the companies that control the information age; and the most prominent web companies do too based on their recent actions. Good.

We know now and have always known that disinformation has consequences. It seems unavoidable to conclude that absent the ability of social media companies to curate and choose news and truth for people based on scraped personal information and preferences; and those companies’ concurrent ability to group those people together with relative ease, these acts of mob terrorism would have been far harder to organize. This is not to excuse or explain away the brutality and violence, this is to understand how it all got together in one place. Understanding the later, does not lessen the contempt, disgust or scorn for the former.

I also acknowledge that Facebook can help facilitate many wonderful things too and connect people in a certain way. But, at the moment, that feels akin to people fighting the opioid epidemic by acknowledging that heroin makes you high … Sure, it does that too. That’s how this all got started.

I come bearing no solutions other than this: Read more. I would doubt anyone who said they know exactly what social media will look like, or how it will impact us, in10 years, or even five. I’ll just close by paraphrasing George Orwell, who was prescient about the danger of a degraded public discourse: Those who do not read well cannot think well, and those who do not think well will have their thinking done for them.

Kent Bruyneel teaches modern business communications and social media and applied digital communications at the University of Prince Edward Island and is the editor-in-chief of Forget Magazine. With his wife, Dr. Shannon Bruyneel, he runs a strategic consulting firm, The Eastsizing Company, that focuses on socially actionable research.

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Firstlight Media Teams with Google Cloud to Deliver Next-Gen OTT – Canada NewsWire

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Unlocks Service Agility, Scalability, Extensibility Across Partner Ecosystems

TORONTO, Jan. 19, 2021 /CNW/ – Firstlight Media today announced that it has partnered with Google Cloud to support rapid deployment and expansion of OTT video streaming services.

Firstlight Media’s microservices-based architecture takes full advantage of Google Cloud capabilities, including:

  • Agility to launch services in weeks, rather than months;
  • Scalability for cost effective growth with customers’ businesses and support for complex use cases; and
  • Extensibility that futureproofs platforms with simplified integrations into best of breed technology solutions, as well as product features that drive innovation and deliver on customer acquisition, retention and revenue.

By combining Firstlight Media’s extensive background in solving complex issues for Tier 1 operators with the scale, reach and tools of Google Cloud, Firstlight Media now enables video providers to capitalize quickly and efficiently on new market opportunities in delivering AI/ML-powered personalization and monetization. Customers can leverage Firstlight’s OTT headend in San Diego and digital expertise in the media and entertainment industry to navigate the increasingly complex world of advertising and subscription direct-to-consumer business models with confidence.

“For the industry, our partnership with Google Cloud exponentially expands options for new services that can rapidly address viewer demand,” said Andre Christensen, CEO and co-founder of Firstlight Media. “Our customers can leverage three formidable resources—Firstlight Media’s cloud native platform, Google Cloud’s platform, and the technology of other Google Cloud partners—all to create opportunities that maximize the long-term value of each subscriber.”

“Increasingly, media and entertainment need to deliver digital-first experiences to consumers, in person and online,” said Kip Schauer, Global Head of Media and Entertainment Partnerships at Google Cloud. “We’re excited to partner with Firstlight Media to scale and extend their platform on Google Cloud, and help businesses deliver exciting, new digital experiences to consumers.”

About Firstlight Media
Firstlight Media is expediting OTT’s transformation to ultra-scalable, cloud-based platforms that use artificial intelligence to drive true engagement and monetization for Tier 1 operators. Founded by a team with deep OTT video expertise and a strong track record of building successful B2B businesses, Firstlight Media is poised to capture the next wave of growth in premium OTT entertainment services. The company is headquartered in Toronto and has additional locations in Los Angeles, San Diego and Chennai, India. For more information, visit firstlight.ai.

SOURCE Firstlight Media

For further information: Paul Schneider, PSPR, Inc. for Firstlight Media, [email protected], +1.215.817.4384

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