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Spotify expands to Iraq and Libya

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Spotify is available to listeners and creators in Iraq and Libya, as part of its ongoing commitment to be the top global audio streaming subscription service.

In 2018, Spotify launched in 13 new markets in the MENA region with a fully Arabic user experience. These were the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, and Egypt.

“Since the end of 2018, Spotify has already had a warm welcome in the region, and expanding our presence to Iraq and Libya will help us further support local artists and foster the local music scene,” said Claudius Boller, managing director of Spotify MENA.

Listeners in the two countries will now have access to Spotify’s free and premium services, while local artists in these countries will have the same opportunities as creators in other markets, with the tools to gain more audience insights and propel their careers locally and internationally.

Earlier this year, Spotify announced its expansion to more than 80 new markets around the world.

“Building off the momentum from our expansion around the world in February of 2021, we’re excited to continue reaching new listeners and creators, regardless of where they live,” added Boller.

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Fact checkers say YouTube lets its platform be ‘weaponized’

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More than 80 fact checking organizations are calling on YouTube to address what they say is rampant misinformation on the platform.

In a letter to CEO Susan Wojcicki published Wednesday, the groups say the Google-owned video platform is “one of the major conduits of online disinformation and misinformation worldwide.”

YouTube’s efforts to address the problem, they say, are proving insufficient.

“What we do not see is much effort by YouTube to implement policies that address the problem,” the letter says. “On the contrary, YouTube is allowing its platform to be weaponized by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others, and to organize and fundraise themselves.”

The problem, these groups said, is especially rampant in non-English speaking countries and the global south.

The fact checkers are all members of the International Fact Checking Network and include Rappler in the Philippines, Africa Check, Science Feedback in France and dozens of other groups. They lambasted YouTube, saying it frames discussions about disinformation as a “false dichotomy” of deleting or not deleting content.

Displaying fact-checked information is more effective than deleting content, the fact checkers wrote.

They propose that YouTube focuses on providing context and debunks that are “clearly superimposed” on videos. They also called for YouTube to act against repeat offenders and beef up efforts against misinformation in languages other than English.

In a statement, YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez said the company has “invested heavily in policies and products in all countries we operate to connect people to authoritative content, reduce the spread of borderline misinformation, and remove violative videos.”

She called fact checking “a crucial tool to help viewers make their own informed decisions,” but added that it is “one piece of a much larger puzzle to address the spread of misinformation.”

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YouTube TV reaches deal with Disney to restore ESPN, ABC and FX channels

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If you use YouTube TV, you have access to Disney content like National Geographic, ESPN, ABC and FX again.

YouTube TV announced on Sunday that they reached a deal with Disney to restore access to those channels after they failed to reach a deal last week.

The price of the content will revert to $64.99 per month, but all impacted members will still receive a one-time $15 discount.

“We appreciate Google’s collaboration to reach fair terms that are consistent with the market, and we’re thrilled that our robust lineup of live sports and news plus kids, family and general entertainment programming is in the process of being restored to YouTube TV subscribers across the country,” Disney told USA TODAY in a statement.

All Disney recordings previously in your YouTube TV library will be restored, and your local ABC station will be available once again.

YouTube TV wrote to users that for any subscribers who were impacted and have initiated the cancellation process, the company will still honor the one-time $15 credit on your bill if you resume your membership before you lose access. If you go to tv.youtube.com/membership and click “Add,” you return the Base Plan to your membership.

You will still see a $64.99 price upon re-activating your membership, but a one-time discount will be reflected in your next bill.

The two companies were negotiating a new contract throughout last week and Disney had told USA TODAY it was “optimistic” a deal could be reached. The split came right as the college football bowl season was heating up with many games scheduled to be broadcast on ABC, ESPN and ESPN 2.

During that time, the service lowered its monthly price by $15, from $64.99 to $49.99, while the Disney channels were off the platform. The complete list of channels removed from YouTube included Disney Channel, National Geographic, and the SEC Network.

In a short amount of time, the two streaming behemoths resolved their differences, but consumers still expressed their frustration on Twitter.

“The damage was done and is irreversible. I can’t trust YouTube TV to get anything done in a timely manner to avoid disruptions,” said Twitter user Brian Prescott.

Other users point out that it’s normal for disruptions to occur when companies are renegotiating contracts.

“These disputes happen with every provider,” said Twitter user Whitney Lucas. “It’s going to keep happening as these channels/content providers want to charge a whole lot more money every time their contracts expire.”

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UAE, Bahrain to launch joint nanosatellite to ISS on Tuesday

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The UAE and Bahrain are set to launch a joint nanosatellite to the International Space Station on Tuesday, representing a major milestone of cooperation in space science, technology and engineering between the two countries.

“Light-1 will take off onboard a SpaceX CRS-24 flight on board of a Falcon 9 rocket after undergoing rigorous safety and environmental tests for thermal and vibration, communication systems and more,” said a statement on Emirati state news agency WAM.

The nanosatellite will be deployed from the Japanese Experiment Module in the ISS into orbit, supervised by the Japanese Aerospace Space Agency.

It was built and designed in collaboration between the UAE Space Agency and Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency.

The nanosatellite’s name was inspired by a book written by Bahrain’s King Hamad called “The First Light,” which recounts key points in the kingdom’s history and symbolizes the country’s growth and scientific progress.

The research spacecraft was developed by a team of leading Bahraini and Emirati engineers and scientists in the UAE, made up of 23 students, including nine Bahrainis and 14 Emiratis from Khalifa University and New York University Abu Dhabi.

“After reaching its orbit around Earth, Light-1 will monitor and study terrestrial gamma ray flashes from thunderstorms and cumulus clouds,” the statement said, adding that it will be the first study of its kind in the region and New York University will lead the science data analysis aspect of the mission.

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