It was a music video meant to depict a young bride’s joy: Actress Saba Qamar, in a flowing white wedding gown with a golden hem, was twirled by the singer playing her groom in front of the mosaics of a 17th-century mosque in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore.
As soon as the video emerged earlier this month, it went viral — but for the wrong reasons. It infuriated religious radicals who inundated social media with claims that Qamar’s dancing sullied the historic Wazir Khan Mosque.
The uproar was the latest example of how trolling has surged online in Pakistan since a lockdown, imposed in March over coronavirus concerns, confined tens of millions to their homes, leading to a 50 per cent increase in internet use in this conservative Muslim nation of over 220 million people.
Minority rights activists and social media trackers say they’ve seen a sharp rise in online sectarian attacks, hate speech and cries of “Blasphemy!”
“It is unprecedented,” Shahzad Ahmad of Bytesforall, an Islamabad-based social media rights group, told The Associated Press.
Toxic trending on Twitter has also taken aim at minorities, blaming the ethnic Hazaras for allegedly bringing the coronavirus to Pakistan from neighbouring Iran. Like most Iranians, Hazaras are Shiites, and traditionally make pilgrimages to holy sites in Iran, which has the deadliest virus outbreak in the region. Some Pakistani pilgrims returning home were among the first reported cases of COVID-19 in Pakistan.
After .Shiavirus began trending on Twitter in April, Hazaras say they were denied jobs, service at stores — even treatment in medical facilities.
Claire Thomas, deputy head of the Britain-based Minority Rights Group International, said minority Ahmadis and Hindus have also been targeted.
Sunni militant groups often target Ahmadis, also known as Qadianis, named after the birthplace in northern India of their sect’s founder. The militants consider them heretics because they believe a prophet after Muhammad arrived more than 100 years ago by the name of Ahmad.
In 1974, Pakistan declared Ahmadis non-Muslims — and any Ahmadi claiming to be Muslim can land in jail. In a single day this month, #AhmadisAreNotMuslims registered 45,700 tweets; #QadianisAreInfidel 50,600 tweets; #QadianisAreTheWorstInfidelsInTheWorld had 32,600 tweets while #Expose–Qadyani–ProMinisters had 50,600 tweets.
“Since the lockdown began … there have been over half a dozen concerted hashtag campaigns against the community, either describing the community as worthy of death, or non-Muslim or traitors to Pakistan,” said Saleem Uddin, an Ahmadi community leader.
Extremists recently also attacked the construction site for a Hindu temple in Islamabad and warned Muslim faithful online that it would be blasphemy to support the temple.
In an ominous video on social media, a man introduces a young boy as his son. The child then speaks into the camera, delivering a message to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that he “will kill each and every Hindu” if the temple is built. The video got nearly 100,000 clicks.
Particularly worrisome is the unprecedented number of claims of blasphemy that Ahmad, from the rights group, says have driven some of those accused into hiding. The onslaught has continued even after the pandemic lockdown was lifted in early August.
Under Pakistani law, the charge of blasphemy, or insulting Islam, carries the death penalty. But even mere allegations of blasphemy can cause mobs to riot. Any attempt to amend the law to make it more difficult to bring charges, has brought angry radicals out on the street.
Last month, a gunman shot and killed Tahir Naseem, a Pakistani-American, in a courtroom in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Arrested two years ago, Naseem was on trial for blasphemy for allegedly declaring himself Islam’s prophet. Rights activists said he was mentally challenged.
The U.S. State Department said Naseem had been “lured to Pakistan” from his home in Illinois and entrapped by the blasphemy law.
Within days of the fatal shooting, religious radicals demonstrated across Pakistan in support of the killer, praising his actions. Selfies surfaced online of police guards smiling as they transported Naseem’s killer to his arraignment hearing — smiles meant to show support for the killer.
Qamar, the actress who danced in the promo video with popular singer Bilal Saeed in the Lahore mosque, apologized online.
“If we have unknowingly hurt anyone’s sentiments we apologize to you all with all our heart. Love & Peace,” she tweeted.
But the trolls were unmoved and last week, Qamar and Saeed appeared in court, charged with blasphemy. The two have not responded to AP requests for comment.
The same radical religious party that assailed them over the dancing — Tehreek-e-Labbaik, which won three seats in the 2018 local elections in Sindh province — also claimed a young entrepreneur’s soccer ball design was “satanic.”
The list goes on: a university professor whose views are seen as too liberal; a poet who defended him; a lawmaker who said no religion was superior to another.
Sunni Muslim cleric Muhammad Ali Mirza was targeted after one of his sermons went viral condemning vigilantes and clerics who incite them to kill anyone suspected of blasphemy.
This unleashed a vitriolic attack and eventually blasphemy charges were brought against Mirza. The court rejected them.
Haroon Baloch, also of the Bytesforall rights group, said he’s been using sensitive software that tracks not only hashtags involving a specific name or an extraordinarily heavy use of a particular word, but that also identifies some of the underlying emotions behind the postings.
Such tracking can offer early warnings of “an escalation from online threats to physical threats,” he said.
Facebook said it has increased its “content review team, including in Pakistan, and we now find and take action on more than 95% of hate speech before anyone reports it to us.”
“We’re also in close contact with partners on the ground to identify and remove misinformation that has the potential to incite physical harm offline,” the company told the AP.
Twitter said it does “not tolerate the abuse or harassment of people on the basis of religion.”
Journalist Marvi Sirmed was targeted after tweeting about forced disappearances of activists in southwestern Baluchistan province, many believed to be in the custody of Pakistani security agencies. Her Urdu-language “tongue-in-cheek” tweet mentioned Jesus, setting off a flood of threats.
Amnesty International on Tuesday cited Sirmed’s case and that of Qamar and Saeed, noting that “Pakistani authorities need no more evidence to see how dangerous the blasphemy laws are” and urging for their repeal.
Hassan Javid, a history professor in Lahore, blamed the government for its silence and for allowing rampant abuse on social media.
“Levying allegations of this kind — to intimidate, control, and endanger the accused — has become a national pastime in Pakistan, abetted by a state that continues to watch on in deliberate silence,” he said.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.
Surrey-born Trybe social media app's award system connects with Nickelback singer – Cloverdale Reporter
Dan Swinimer helped gather a tribe to launch a new app he hopes will disrupt the world of social media and websites where things are bought and sold.
Currently beta-tested for public launch, the Trybe platform counts Nickelback singer/guitarist Chad Kroeger among its four “founders/angels,” along with Swinimer, his father Bill and fellow Surrey-area musician/construction company boss Felipe Freig.
“We set out to try and monetize social media, while making it a safer and more positive experience,” said Swinimer, who lives in the Clayton area of Surrey. “We felt it unfair that social media users do all the work, provide all the content but make none of the profits.”
Trybe is based on an award system that sends as little as 10 cents per “like,” coupled with a built-in “win-win” for users, as Swinimer describes it.
“Every time you award someone else’s post, you get exposure for your own post which gives you a better chance of your post being seen and also making money in awards,” he told the Now-Leader.
“It’s turned into a thing, it really has,” added the Ontario-raised Swinimer. “We sold shares and raised almost $2 million, we have head offices in Toronto, a CEO (Thomas Jankowski) and staff of 10 coders. It’s turned into so much more than we originally conceived.”
In the late-2000s, Swinimer and Freig were members of the rock band Jet Black Stare when they met Kroeger, who shared a manager at the time.
A couple of years ago, Frieg told Swinimer about an issue involving his teen son, Jadis, who’d been posting video of his scooter-riding tricks to social media.
“You can’t even believe the tricks that this kid can do on the scooter, it’s amazing,” Swinimer said. “His son didn’t have any sponsors at that point, but he was spending hours and hours every day practicing, getting really, really good, and then he spent his own money buying all this video equipment and editing software. So he’d spend four or five hours a day practicing, learning tricks, videoing them from multiple angles, then he’d edit these videos just so that he could post them on social media. And what does he get for that? The ‘likes,’ and that’s it. He’d been doing this for awhile, and we realized that with the social media model, everyone is providing the product and getting nothing in return.”
After Swinimer and Freig talked some more, they clicked on the idea for Trybe as a way to monetize social media.
“It’s a platform where if you post something, you have a chance to make money on that post,” Swinimer elaborated. “When people post to social media, the most important thing is content, connecting with people and receiving validation from others. So imagine if you mixed in the possibility of making money and also having complete control over how many people will see your posts.… The more people I reward, the more people will see my posts, and the more chance I have of making money on my posts. If the content is good and views-to-engagement ratio is high, it also drives exposure to the post, so that lights a little fire under the post.”
Out of the gate, Kroeger had the level of celebrity pull sought by Swinimer and Freig for Trybe.
“We discussed it with Chad and right away, he was excited about it because he could see how it could transform the music business,” Swinimer recalled. “It could completely disrupt the entire distribution chain, because it’s a pain in the ass going through iTunes, which takes a lot of the proceeds. So what about a world where you post new music on Trybe and you just say, if you give anyone who rewards this post a dollar or more, gets a download code, and now you’re keeping all the money that comes in, as opposed to just half of it.”
Right now, to get early access to the app, users join a waitlist by downloading the iOS or Android app from trybe.ly.
New social platform Trybe has launched. No more giving away your creativity and time to social media giants. The new way-Social. Be yourself, be with your people, get rewards. See you on there https://t.co/phgzFBEDSY #trybe #startup #social #passioneconomy #creators #influencers pic.twitter.com/N36cM51Ltp
— Nickelback (@Nickelback) September 24, 2020
On Wednesday (Sept. 23), Nickelback raved about Trybe’s launch to the band’s 738,000 followers on the rival Twitter platform: “No more giving away your creativity and time to social media giants. The new way — Social. Be yourself, be with your people, get rewards. See you on there.” A day later, Avril Lavigne posted the same message for her 21 million followers on Twitter.
Swinimer says Kroeger is “very involved” in the project, and likes to be in the meetings when and where he can, including the time when the four Trybe founders flew in Kroeger’s private jet to Silicon Valley.
“We didn’t tour with Nickelback (with Jet Black Stare) back then, but toured with a lot of their friends, like 3 Doors Down, Hinder and Staind,” Swinimer recalled. “For someone of his level of recognition, Chad is very accessible to musicians. He’s not hard to find and he’s happy to talk to people. One night he took us out to celebrate our record deal when we first signed it, so that was kind of our first foray. He took us out to the Commodore Ballroom because Kid Rock was doing a special invite-only show there. So we’re in his little VIP section, and then we went to some penthouse suite afterwards to hang out. It was weird, man, because to that point it was all independent music, never getting anywhere, and all the sudden we’re partying with Kid Rock. It was a wild ride.”
In the decade since those rock-band days, after Jet Black Stare’s record deal with Island Def Jam had collapsed, Swinimer turned his attention to country music and launching the careers of musicians including Madeline Merlo and Jojo Mason. “I’ve been living in Surrey for 20 years,” he noted. “I built my production company here and have written/produced upwards of 40 hit songs since startup.”
As for Trybe, the app’s public release should be in a month or so, he said.
“We’re doing a system where we are making it very exclusive and making people excited about it, to get in early. We have multiple celebrities on board to get behind this new idea once we are public. It’s exciting.”
'Absolutely huge': Media groups optimistic after Liberal pledge to make internet giants pay for content – Financial Post
Article content continued
A way to ensure that people pay a fair fee to producers of the content, not a penalty, nothing punitive
Daniel Bernhard, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting
Canada’s stab at a law might follow Australia’s proposed effort based on fair trading. Canberra legislators may have a final draft of it within weeks, Rod Sims, chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, told the Associated Press this month.
Facebook warned Australia that it might simply bar local news rather than pay for it, while Google said it could impact its search results and user data, according to the AP report.
Efforts in Europe to rein in the tech giants through copyright laws so far haven’t been successful.
“There’s a real virtue in the Australian model in that it’s very fast and it’s direct negotiations with the government,” Hinds said. “The European model is a little more complicated.”
The best option is to adopt a pay-for-use fee structure, Bernhard said, so the money goes directly to creators, not as a tax on tech companies to the government — something similar to how music is billed to radio stations. He cited a study by Jean Hugues-Roy, of Université de Québec à Montréal, saying Facebook alone costs Canadian newspapers $135 million a year in lost revenue.
“This is about market power and finding a way to ensure that people pay a fair fee to producers of the content, not a penalty, nothing punitive, just a fair compensation,” Bernhard said.
Zimbel said he recently chanced upon old sales slips showing the band’s income from as recently as 2007 and how they dwarfed today’s receipts because of online streaming. “You don’t get rich playing in a nine-piece jazz band,” he said. “But I could not believe the numbers. They were huge compared to what we see now.”
The musician said he typically sees a rate of $50 for 250,000 streams, whereas the first month of a record release 13 years ago netted $7,800.
“It’s not only that you’re not making money from streaming,” Zimbel said. “It’s that all physical sales and downloading sales have evaporated now as well because people are only streaming.”
Donald Trump Jr. blasts media for ignoring Hunter Biden report: 'I was front page news for weeks' while Bid… – Fox News
Donald Trump Jr. slammed the media for largely ignoring the damning revelations from the GOP-led Senate report on Hunter Biden’s foreign financial ties.
The Senate Homeland Security and Finance Committees on Wednesday released an interim report on their months-long joint investigation into Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings and his alleged “extensive and complex financial transactions,” but also highlighted his questionable transactions with Russian and Chinese nationals.
None of the revelations, however, were given much coverage by many of the major news networks.
CNN and all three nightly news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC avoided the subject. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow was the only host on the network to address the Senate report but spent those roughly two minutes of coverage downplaying it.
Trump Jr. blasted the lack of coverage of the Senate report, suggesting a stark double standard between himself and the former VP’s son.
“When they thought they had me for something much less significant than direct payments from an associate of Vladimir Putin & direct links to human trafficking/prostitution in Russia, I was front page news for weeks on end but the Bidens get a pass for their corruption as always!” Trump Jr. exclaimed on Thursday.
Trump Jr. was likely referring to the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian nationals that he attended during the 2016 election that was intensely scrutinized by both the Mueller investigation and the mainstream media.
The news outlets that did cover the Hunter Biden report, however, portrayed the Senate Republicans’ findings as if there were no new revelations.
The New York Times ran the headline, “Republican Inquiry Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by Biden.” Politico similarly ran, “GOP senators’ anti-Biden report repackages old claims” as did BuzzFeed News’ “Republicans’ Hunter Biden Report is Filled With Old, Unsubstantiated Allegations and Debunked Theories.”
The Washington Post went even further to exonerate the former VP with its headline, “GOP senators’ report calls Hunter Biden’s board position in Ukraine ‘problematic’ but doesn’t show it changed US policy.”
Critics also pointed out that many of the written reports neglected to mention the Senate report’s key findings regarding Hunter Biden’s $3.5 million Russian wire transfer and his business ties with Chinese nationals.
In addition to new findings regarding Biden’s ties to Burisma, the report states that Senate investigators found millions of dollars in “questionable financial transactions” between Hunter Biden, who is a son of Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden, and his associates and foreign individuals, including the wife of the former mayor of Moscow as well as individuals with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
According to the report, an investment firm co-founded by Hunter Biden, Rosemont Seneca Thornton, “received $3.5 million in a wire transfer” from Elena Baturina, the wife of the former mayor of the Russian capital.
The report goes further and alleges that not just Hunter Biden but other members of the Biden family “were involved in a vast financial network that connected them to foreign nationals and foreign governments across the globe.”
In one instance, the report stated that Hunter Biden “opened a bank account” with a Chinese national linked to China’s communist government, which “financed a $100,000 global spending spree” for the former vice president’s brother, James Biden, and his wife, Sara Biden.
Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates on Wednesday blasted the investigation, and Johnson directly, for pursuing a “conspiracy theory.”
“As the coronavirus death toll climbs and Wisconsinites struggle with joblessness, Ron Johnson has wasted months diverting the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee away from any oversight of the catastrophically botched federal response to the pandemic, a threat Sen. Johnson has dismissed by saying that ‘death is an unavoidable part of life.’ Why? To subsidize a foreign attack against the sovereignty of our elections with taxpayer dollars — an attack founded on a long-disproven, hardcore rightwing conspiracy theory that hinges on Sen. Johnson himself being corrupt and that the Senator has now explicitly stated he is attempting to exploit to bail out Donald Trump’s re-election campaign,” Bates said in a statement Wednesday.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.
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