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LinkedIn to Close Down in China



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By Nick Fouriezos

There’s growing political pressure on U.S. social media giants to target Chinese state-sponsored misinformation initiatives, ahead of the 2020 elections. Will American social media giants censor China?

  • A growing misinformation war between the U.S. and China is leading to pressure on social media platforms to act against fake or misleading claims by Chinese officials.
  • With elections on the horizon, this pressure is expected to grow — from both Republicans and Democrats.

Major social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, are banned in mainland China. Yet, in early March, one of the most explosive accusations amid the COVID-19 pandemic — that the U.S. Army had allegedly brought the coronavirus to Wuhan — came from a major Chinese official over Twitter. “US owe us an explanation!” Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson at China’s foreign ministry, tweeted out in an unsubstantiated broadside that received more than 15,000 likes and nearly 12,000 retweets.

The episode revealed more than China’s hypocrisy on platforms such as Twitter — barred for ordinary citizens but used for propaganda and online bullying by officials and state-backed trolls. It also highlighted the escalating misinformation war being waged between the U.S. on the one hand and its adversaries on the other. And while American social media giants have so far largely faced criticism for failing to stop Russia’s online campaigns, including its interference in the 2016 elections, they’re now coming under growing pressure to act against misuse by Chinese officials. President Donald Trump has threatened to ban TikTok, the world’s fastest-growing social app owned by Chinese firm ByteDance. Microsoft is in talks to buy the American arm of TikTok.

At a time when neither party wants to risk being seen as weak against China, this growing scrutiny on social media platforms could come not just from Republican leaders and the Trump administration, but from Democrats too.

Since Zhao’s tweet:

  • In March, China’s state-sponsored international TV network CGTN posted an Arabic YouTube video suggesting that the virus had American origins.
  • In April, the People’s Daily suggested on Facebook that a restarted avian influenza experiment may have led to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • That same month, the Chinese ambassador’s office in France tweeted an animation that used Lego figures to lampoon the U.S. response and suggest China had tried to warn America of the virus’ looming threat.
None of those claims is backed by any evidence. But China’s efforts haven’t only been aimed at the United States. In June, Twitter took down 150,000 fake accounts created by the Chinese government to defend its clampdown on Hong Kong protesters. And amid tensions at the Himalayan border between China and India later in the month, Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the state-backed Global Times, ominously warned India. “Don’t mess with the PLA,” he tweeted, referring to the Chinese armed forces, “otherwise they will teach you a heavier lesson.”
The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee has started tracking these propaganda efforts, and is even releasing report cards grading Twitter, Facebook and YouTube on how well they are combating such misinformation from foreign actors. The former has received a D-, while YouTube got a C- and Facebook a C+.

Four months before the elections, that scrutiny will only rise. The pressure is showing — in May, two months after the initial posts, Twitter added fact-check tags to Zhao’s controversial tweets.

“I support free speech, but the Chinese Communist Party is abusing our First Amendment right, so I think social media companies have a responsibility,” says the committee’s lead Republican, Rep. Michael McCaul. “They should not allow their platforms to be used by our foreign adversaries to propagate falsehoods against the United States.”

To be sure, American officials, including President Donald Trump, have repeatedly used platforms like Twitter and Facebook to spread misinformation. Trump’s tweets about COVID-19 in particular have been particularly dangerous, urging states to reopen faster than health officials were recommending and likely leading to higher infection and death rates. He has also used social media to question the viability of mail-in voting without proof. And he and his top officials have insinuated that the coronavirus was spread deliberately by China, even though there is zero evidence to suggest the virus emerged from a lab. Finally, this summer, Twitter and Facebook removed a doctored video he used to decry CNN as “fake news.”

“China is an easy punching bag, there’s no doubt about it. And you gain a lot of political points for that,” says Nancy Snow, a professor of public policy at Kyoto University in Japan and author of Propaganda, Inc. and Information War, scholarly books on America’s global influence campaigns. Snow argues that the U.S. is often also guilty of selectively broadcasting facts to further its goals through propaganda. “We don’t call it that: We have euphemisms,” she says.

Still, the politics of the moment in the U.S. help the conservative argument: Now that social media giants are willing to more aggressively fact-check, and even censor, the American president, shouldn’t they go one step further and actually take down demonstrably false information from Chinese officials? “The idea that they couldn’t even take down the one tweet from a foreign adversary that said the U.S. military was in some way responsible for coronavirus speaks volumes,” McCaul says.

Nor is Trump alone. Facebook has deleted a post by Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro after he claimed that “hydroxychloroquine is working in all places,” despite research contradicting that assertion.

Before they acted against Trump, social media companies had aggressively fought to be seen as neutral arbiters of the web. Now, avoiding pressure to similarly target others — especially foreign players — will be difficult. And the focus will be squarely on posts and accounts from China.

Courtesy: OZY

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Aeon Bank Officially Launches Malaysia’s First Islamic Digital Bank




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Aeon Bank (M) Bhd has officially launched Malaysia’s first Islamic digital bank, marking a significant milestone in the country’s banking sector. The launch aims to provide comprehensive, Shariah-compliant digital banking solutions to all Malaysians, setting a new standard for financial services in the region.

Comprehensive Shariah-Compliant Solutions

At the public launch ceremony, Chief Executive Officer Raja Teh Maimunah Raja Abdul Aziz outlined the bank’s vision. “We aim to offer safe, simplified, and inclusive Shariah-compliant digital banking solutions such as savings accounts, retirement savings plans, various borrowing options, and payment services,” she stated. “This will allow us to offer financial services to our customers comprehensively, helping us achieve our mission.”

Innovative Banking Products

The Islamic Digital Bank’s services currently include personal banking products like Savings Account-i and customizable Savings Pots with optimization features. These products were developed and refined through extensive testing phases. Raja Teh Maimunah highlighted the success of the beta testing phase, which involved over 1,800 participants over 12 weeks. “The beta test was meant to identify any necessary improvements and fixes. We received a lot of positive feedback on the overall architecture. We did not rush the test and also conducted an alpha test before the beta, ensuring platform stability,” she explained.

Seamless User Experience

Users who activate their Aeon Bank account will immediately gain access to their virtual Aeon Bank x Visa Debit Card-i and can request a physical Debit Card-i. To celebrate the public launch, Aeon Bank is offering a sign-up bonus of 3,000 Aeon Points and triple Aeon Points for transactions using the Aeon Bank x Visa Debit Card-i, along with a profit rate of 3.88% per annum.

Additionally, Aeon Points Programme members will have their memberships automatically linked with the Aeon Bank (M) app, providing extra benefits and rewards to Aeon Group’s outlets and merchants.

Revolutionizing Digital Banking in Malaysia

Jointly owned by Aeon Financial Service Ltd and Aeon Credit Service (M) Bhd, both subsidiaries of Japan’s largest retail group Aeon Group, Aeon Bank is set to revolutionize digital banking in Malaysia. Raja Teh Maimunah expressed optimism about the bank’s potential to perform detailed financial analyses and promote financial inclusion.

Competitive Landscape

In addition to Aeon Bank, a consortium led by KAF Investment Bank Sdn Bhd has also secured an Islamic digital bank license from Bank Negara Malaysia. Other recipients of digital banking licenses include a consortium of Boost Holdings Sdn Bhd and RHB Bank Bhd, a consortium led by GXS Bank Pte Ltd and Kuok Brothers Sdn Bhd, and a consortium led by Sea Ltd and YTL Digital Capital Sdn Bhd.

Promoting Financial Inclusion

With the launch of Malaysia’s first Islamic Digital Bank, Aeon Bank is poised to make significant strides in promoting financial inclusion. The bank’s innovative products and services are designed to cater to the diverse needs of Malaysian consumers, providing them with Shariah-compliant, convenient, and efficient banking solutions. This initiative aligns with the broader goals of enhancing financial accessibility and inclusion across the country.

As Aeon Bank continues to expand its offerings and reach, it is expected to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of digital banking in Malaysia. By leveraging advanced technology and adhering to Shariah principles, Aeon Bank aims to provide a robust banking platform that meets the evolving needs of its customers. The successful launch of Malaysia’s first Islamic Digital Bank marks a new era in the country’s financial landscape, promising a future of inclusive, innovative, and customer-centric banking services.

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Crypto Miners See ‘Enormous Potential’ in the Gulf




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  • Crypto miners drawn to Gulf
  • Electricity is 80% of cost
  • Tech-savvy population

With cryptocurrencies edging up again after last weekend’s “halving” – in which the rewards Bitcoin miners get for solving problems is cut in two to maintain scarcity – these are heady days for holders of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Bitcoin miners have been attracted to the Gulf by cheap electricity and established infrastructure.

“GCC countries have enormous potential in relation to the development of the Bitcoin mining sector,” Abdumalik Mirakhmedov, executive president of Dubai-based Bitcoin miner GDA, told AGBI. “In the past year, the region has been experiencing active growth, with several significant launches.”

Bitcoin “mining” is a process in which information in a blockchain block is validated by specialist machines. When a complex solution is reached by this equipment, a reward – in the form of Bitcoin and fees for the work done – is then issued. Initially, mining was often done in back rooms and sometimes-unofficial data centres. These days, however, it is increasingly dominated by larger businesses.

This equipment, however, also requires a lot of electricity.  In 2023, the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI) estimated global electricity usage associated with Bitcoin mining to be around 120 terawatt hours – about the same as Australia’s total electricity consumption that year.

Working day and night, Bitcoin miners also generate a lot of heat.  In colder climates, this has sometimes been repurposed to provide heating.  In the Gulf, however, the heat creates even greater electricity consumption, as powered cooling systems are used to keep the machinery within its operational temperature range.

A further problem in the Gulf recently has often been the lack of a clear regulatory framework for the industry – sometimes because of a general suspicion of cryptocurrencies.  Kuwait, for example, has banned all virtual asset transactions, investments and mining. In Saudi Arabia and Qatar, crypto has only quasi-legal status.

Yet, despite the obstacles, “the GCC region is the world’s sixth-largest adopter,” said Paige Aarhus, Paris-based director of crypto news and analysis site DL News. And figures from Chainalysis, a US-based cryptocurrency software development company, estimate that total crypto transaction levels in Saudi Arabia alone amounted to $36 billion and in the first two months of 2024 it hit $6 billion.

In the UAE and Oman, too, a more positive approach has been taken. A regulatory framework has been established, enabling facilities such as the DMCC Crypto Centre in Dubai to provide a wide range of services, including mining. In Oman, $800 million is now invested in crypto mining in the Sultanate. Abu Dhabi’s Green Data City in Salalah was Oman’s first licensed mining entity, while Exahertz International has also now joined it in the southern – and slightly cooler – Omani city.

Power plays

With electricity representing around 75-80 percent of a data farm’s average cost, cheap power is a major draw for miners when it comes to the Gulf. In Oman, although subsidies for electricity are being phased out, typical costs remain at around $0.05 per kilowatt – much less than the US average of $0.23, which is itself lower than average tariffs in Europe. “Innovations such as liquid cooling and immersion cooling are expected to significantly contribute to the expansion of operations within the region,” says Mirakhmedov.

This was recognised at the recent Global Digital Mining Summit hosted by mining server manufacturer Bitmain, held in Muscat. The “Hydro-mining Wins in the Desert” gathering highlighted progress in water cooling.

Green, renewable energy from solar is also available in abundance in Oman and other Gulf countries, providing miners with more sustainable credentials. At the same time, the Gulf offers a developed infrastructure and few restrictions on land for large data farms.

Oman, and other Gulf states, have also all invested heavily in education and training in IT, producing large, tech-savvy populations. “Key benefits of the Gulf also include the region’s access to capital and the ease of doing business,” says Mirakhmedov.  These benefits may help Gulf miners weather the storm of the recent halving.

Larger mining companies, or groups of miners, stand a better chance of absorbing that loss, while “some smaller mining companies may well go out of business as a result,” Aarhus says. With miners in the Gulf generally larger operations with lower overall costs, they may now be well placed for further expansion. More data farms could therefore be springing up around the region, in the months to come.

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Zakat on Stocks and Shares: A Modern Dilemma Solved




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In today’s fast-paced world, where the buzz of the stock market is as familiar as morning coffee, a timeless tradition meets the modern age: the practice of paying Zakat on stocks and shares. This intersection of faith and finance might seem like a modern dilemma, but “Zakat on Stocks and Shares: A Modern Dilemma Solved” can be achieved with a blend of ancient wisdom and contemporary understanding. Let’s dive into the world of stocks, shares, and spiritual duty, and discover how this blend enriches both our wallets and our souls.

Understanding Zakat in the Digital Age

Zakat, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is a form of almsgiving to the less fortunate, calculated as a percentage of one’s wealth. Traditionally, it applied to tangible assets like gold, silver, and livestock. But what happens when your wealth is tied up in the intangible world of the stock market?

Imagine you’re in a vast, bustling city where skyscrapers are filled with traders, analysts, and investors, all meticulously tracking the rise and fall of stocks. In this modern jungle, your investments grow, sometimes unpredictably, reflecting not just your financial acumen but also the global economic heartbeat. Here lies our modern dilemma: how do we apply the ancient practice of Zakat to this digital-age wealth?

Calculating Zakat on Stocks and Shares

The key to solving this puzzle lies in understanding the nature of your investment. Are your stocks purely for capital gain, or do they yield dividends from companies that deal in tangible goods and services? The answer guides how Zakat is calculated on these modern assets.

  1. For Long-Term Investment: If you hold stocks as a long-term investment, Zakat is due on their market value. Think of it as if you’re a farmer with fields (stocks) that grow crops (dividends). Just as a farmer would calculate Zakat on the harvest, you calculate Zakat on the annual value of your stocks.
  2. For Active Trading: If you’re an active trader, your stocks are akin to the goods in a merchant’s caravan, constantly moving and changing. Here, Zakat is calculated based on the total value of your trading portfolio at the end of the lunar year.

Stories from the Stock Market

Let’s take a moment to walk in the shoes of Aisha, a dedicated software engineer by day and a savvy investor by night. Aisha’s portfolio is a mix of long-term tech stocks and short-term trades in renewable energy. When the time comes to calculate her Zakat, she reflects on the nature of each investment. Her tech stocks, akin to a golden wheat field, are valued at their current market price, while her active trades are tallied up like a merchant’s inventory at year-end. This careful consideration ensures Aisha fulfills her spiritual obligations without overlooking her modern investments.

Similarly, Omar, a retired teacher with a passion for philanthropy, uses his dividends from healthcare stocks to support various charities. By calculating the Zakat on his shares, Omar turns his investments into a powerful tool for social good, illustrating how ancient practices can meet modern philanthropy.

Embracing Modern Dilemmas with Ancient Wisdom

The dilemma of paying Zakat on stocks and shares illustrates a broader lesson: that our faith and traditions are not static, but rather, they evolve with us. As we navigate the complexities of the modern financial world, we’re reminded of the adaptability and enduring relevance of Islamic teachings.

Zakat on stocks and shares: a modern dilemma solved, not just through numbers and calculations, but through the stories of individuals who bridge the gap between their faith and their finances. In doing so, they enrich not only their own lives but also the lives of those around them, weaving a tapestry of spiritual and material prosperity that spans the ages.

In conclusion, the practice of paying Zakat on stocks and shares: a modern dilemma solved, offers a fascinating glimpse into how timeless traditions adapt to contemporary realities. It’s a journey that not only addresses a modern financial challenge but also deepens our connection to our faith, our community, and the wider world. As we move forward, let’s carry this wisdom in our hearts and portfolios, ensuring that our investments reflect our values and contribute to a better world for all.

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