Meta announces default end-to-end encryption for Messenger

Meta has announced a significant milestone in prioritizing user privacy and security with the rollout of default end-to-end encryption for personal messages and calls on Messenger and Facebook. This initiative is accompanied by a suite of new features designed to empower users with greater control over their messaging experience.While Messenger has offered the option for users to enable end-to-end encryption since 2016, Meta is now taking a bold step forward by defaulting private chats and calls across Messenger to be end-to-end encrypted. The comprehensive implementation of this feature has been a meticulous process, requiring years of investment, testing, and a dedicated team of engineers, cryptographers, designers, policy experts, and product managers.Throughout the development process, Meta has introduced new privacy, safety, and control features, including delivery controls that empower users to choose who can message them. Additionally, the introduction of app lock, alongside existing safety features such as report, block, and message requests, underscores Meta's commitment to creating a secure online environment.Collaborating closely with outside experts, academics, advocates, and governments, Meta has identified potential risks and implemented mitigations to ensure that privacy and safety are paramount. The company acknowledges the importance of this collaborative effort in building a robust and secure platform.The implementation of end-to-end encryption adds an extra layer of security, ensuring that the content of messages and calls with friends and family is protected from the moment they leave the sender's device to the moment they reach the receiver's device. This means that neither Meta nor any third party can access the content of the communication unless explicitly reported by the user.These new features are available for immediate use, although it may take some time for Messenger chats to be updated with default end-to-end encryption.

Meta, Christian Louboutin file joint lawsuit against counterfeiter

Meta and Christian Louboutin filed a joint lawsuit against an individual running a counterfeiting operation from Mexico. The defendant was using digital platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, to promote the sale of counterfeit Christian Louboutin products. The suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, claims the defendant violated Meta’s Terms of Service and Instagram’s Terms of Use and infringed Christian Louboutin’s intellectual property rights by using Facebook and Instagram accounts to promote the sale of counterfeit goods. Our policies and Terms prohibit IP infringement, including the sale or promotion of counterfeit products. Consistent with this, we have taken multiple enforcement actions against the defendant’s Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp accounts. "We have implemented robust IP protection measures across our technologies, including proactive detection and enforcement, a global notice-and-takedown program and policies to suspend repeat infringers. In addition, we provide businesses with tools to report IP violations and prevent harm via Brand Rights Protection, Rights Manager and the Intellectual Property Reporting API. Our global team of trained professionals provides around-the-clock coverage removing infringing content in multiple languages. In the second half of 2022, we removed more than 1.7 million pieces of content on Facebook and Instagram in response to more than 180,000 counterfeit reports, and more than 115 million pieces of content before it was reported to us by a rights holder," said Jessica Romero, Director & Associate General Counsel, Litigation and Mark Fiore, Director & Associate General Counsel, IP.  "We continue to work to ensure Meta’s platforms are safe for people and businesses to connect, share and buy and sell together. This lawsuit is a clear signal to those who would seek to engage in similar abuses that this behavior will not be tolerated. Meta and Christian Louboutin plan to continue their enforcement efforts against counterfeiting and hold those who abuse our policies accountable."

Meta joins Lantern to combat online child predators

Meta has announced its participation in the Lantern programme, a collaborative initiative that empowers tech companies to share vital information concerning accounts and behaviors that contravene their child safety policies.As a pioneering member of Lantern, Meta has played a pivotal role by providing the technical foundation underpinning the programme and continues to oversee its maintenance. The protection of children on the internet stands as one of the most pressing challenges facing the technology industry today. Meta says it is resolute in its mission to create a safe and positive online experience for young individuals, having dedicated a decade to develop tools and policies designed to shield them from harm. As a testament to these efforts, Meta is recognized for discovering and reporting more child sexual abuse material to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) than any other service.Recognizing the need for collective action to protect children and thwart predators, the industry leverages technologies such as Microsoft's PhotoDNA and Meta's PDQ to combat the dissemination of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on the internet. Nonetheless, additional solutions are required to halt predators' use of diverse applications and websites to target vulnerable children.Predators frequently transcend individual platforms, using multiple apps and websites while adapting their tactics to evade detection. When removed from one platform for violating its rules, they swiftly migrate to other apps or websites within their arsenal. This behavior underscores the importance of collaborating with industry peers to address this pressing issue.Working in conjunction with its partners at the Tech Coalition, Meta played an instrumental role in the establishment of Lantern. As detailed in the Tech Coalition's announcement, Lantern empowers technology companies to exchange an array of signals regarding accounts and behaviors that violate their child safety policies. Participants in the Lantern programme can leverage this information to conduct investigations on their respective platforms and take necessary actions.Meta's early involvement in Lantern as a founding member has been crucial. The company has not only provided the programme with essential technical infrastructure but also encouraged fellow industry partners to adopt it. Meta takes on the responsibility of managing and overseeing the technology in collaboration with the Tech Coalition, ensuring simplicity of use and equipping partners with the information they need to identify potential predators on their platforms.One notable example of Lantern's effectiveness is an investigation conducted by Meta following information supplied by Lantern partner MEGA during the programme's pilot phase. MEGA shared URLs with Lantern that had been previously removed due to child safety violations. Meta's specialized child safety team harnessed this information to initiate a broader investigation into potentially violating behaviors related to these URLs on its platforms. The investigation led to the removal of over 10,000 violating Facebook profiles, pages, and Instagram accounts. In compliance with legal obligations, the violating profiles, pages, and accounts were reported to NCMEC. Furthermore, details of the investigation were shared with Lantern, enabling participating companies to leverage the signals for their own investigations.

Facebook, Instagram roll out ad-free experience in Europe

Meta has announced the introduction of a new subscription option in the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland. This is in response to the evolving European regulatory landscape.This initiative, set to launch in November, allows users of Facebook and Instagram in these regions to make a choice between continuing to access personalized services for free with advertisements or opting for a subscription to enjoy an ad-free experience while ensuring their information is not utilized for ad targeting.Under this subscription model, users in the specified regions will have the opportunity to subscribe for a fee and access our products without advertisements. The pricing structure will vary depending on the platform: €9.99 per month when using the web, and €12.99 per month for iOS and Android. It's important to note that this pricing variation takes into account the fees imposed by Apple and Google through their respective purchasing policies. Until March 1, 2024, the initial subscription fee will cover all linked Facebook and Instagram accounts within a user's Accounts Center. However, starting from March 1, 2024, an additional charge of €6 per month on the web and €8 per month on iOS and Android will apply for each additional account listed in a user's Account Center.But why is Meta implementing this new subscription offering? The company says it is committed to maintaining an ad-supported internet, ensuring that people from all walks of life can access personalized products and services, while also facilitating small businesses in reaching potential customers and driving economic growth in Europe. While advocating for an ad-supported internet, Meta is equally committed to complying with evolving European regulations and respecting their spirit and purpose.This decision aligns with Meta's earlier announcement in August, in which the company expressed its intention to transition users in the EU, EEA, and Switzerland to the "Consent" legal basis as per GDPR for processing data collected on their platforms for advertising purposes. This change was made in response to emerging regulatory requirements in the region, including the interpretation of GDPR by the Irish Data Protection Commission following a recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union and the forthcoming Digital Markets Act.The introduction of the subscription model is aimed at balancing the needs of European regulators, providing users with choices, and enabling Meta to continue serving the people of the EU, EEA, and Switzerland. The Court of Justice of the European Union has explicitly recognized the validity of a subscription-based model as a form of consent for an ad-supported service.For users who opt to continue using Meta's products for free, their experience will remain largely unchanged, with ongoing support for tools and settings that empower individuals to control their ad experience. These tools include Ad Preferences, which offer a range of controls allowing users to influence the ads they see and the data used for ad targeting, as well as tools that explain "Why am I seeing this ad?" and help manage ad preferences.Meanwhile, advertisers will continue to run personalized advertising campaigns in Europe for those who choose to avail of the free, ad-supported online service. Meta remains committed to investing in the development of new tools that preserve the value of personalized advertising for both users and businesses while giving users more control over their ad experience on Meta's platforms.It's important to note that the subscription for an ad-free experience is available to individuals aged 18 and above, and Meta is actively exploring ways to provide teenagers with a useful and responsible ad experience in light of the evolving regulatory landscape.This new subscription model has been factored into Meta's most recent business outlook and guidance. This press release contains forward-looking statements regarding Meta's business outlook and the evolving regulatory landscape. These statements should not be considered as predictions of future events. More information about potential risks and uncertainties related to Meta's business and financial results can be found in the most recent Form 10-Q. Meta undertakes no obligation to update these statements based on new information or future events.

OPSWAT Opens Dubai Office to Bolster Industrial Sector's Cybersecurity DefenseOP

OPSWAT, a global leader in Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) cybersecurity solutions, today announced the opening of its Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) regional office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, following GITEX earlier this month. The move is aimed at answering the increasing demand across the region for zero-trust cybersecurity solutions capable of safeguarding critical infrastructure.The opening of OPSWAT’s Dubai office closely follows a period of significant growth for the company in the region. Over the past 12 months its regional momentum has included 60% growth in revenue, 50% growth in its customer base, a 50% increase in the number of projects, and a substantial increase in the company’s operational resources.OPSWAT’s regional customers include organizations in the manufacturing, nuclear, energy, oil and gas, government, and defense sectors. More than 50 GCC ministries selected OPSWAT in the past year and the company is also actively working with almost all the region’s oil and gas companies. In the financial services sector, OPSWAT has provided solutions and products to 43 regional banks — including eight central banks — since March 2022, and is in the POC stage with approximately 50 other FSI entities.“This office opening is timely, as we will have an on-the-ground presence in a market where we are fast becoming the vendor of choice for government ministries and banks,” said Sertan Selcuk, VP of Sales, Middle East, Turkey, Africa & Pakistan (METAP), at OPSWAT. “Our expectation is to see at least 500 companies as our customers in the META region by the end of this year.”Selcuk explained that the ongoing merger between IT and OT has added many layers of complexity to securing critical infrastructure. IT cybersecurity solutions lack the tools to protect such infrastructure and very few security professionals have the skills to tackle the current threat landscape as it relates to OT. A further challenge is that few training and certification programs focus on critical infrastructure protection.“Like elsewhere, many critical infrastructure networks in the Middle East rely on outdated or legacy systems that were not originally designed with robust security in mind,” Selcuk said. “Most OT networks rely heavily on IT systems and this interconnectedness often increases the attack surface. Securing these interdependencies poses substantial challenges.”OPSWAT’s growing reputation in the region has been built on its Content Disarm and Reconstruction (CDR) technology, which addresses these challenges directly. In CDR, files ranging from PDFs and HTML to image and video assets are pulled apart, sanitized, and reconstructed in real time. From its new base in Dubai, the company will offer CDR and other technologies to an expanded market. Its hub presence will ease OPSWAT’s engagement with partners and customers, who will get face-to-face access to industry experts.Apart from serving as a collaboration hub for customers and partners, OPSWAT’s Dubai office is home to a critical infrastructure protection (CIP) laboratory, where industry professionals, clients and channel organizations can see for themselves the power of OPSWAT products like Neuralyzer, MetaDefender Kiosk, MetaDefender Vault, NetWall, and much more. They will also be able to explore the advantages of OPSWAT Academy training, experience attack simulations, and discuss with the company’s experts how to combine these products and services to build the best possible OT security posture.Following two successful years where its business has more than doubled, OPSWAT is looking to a strong 2024, characterized by the same level of growth.“This investment [office launch] builds on the foundation we’ve been laying in the region for years, and we’re excited to have a strong presence in this key market,” Selcuk noted. “We are fully committed to the cyber fight alongside our META customers and partners. We see Saudi Arabia and the UAE as critical markets for cybersecurity awareness, and we see our growth in the region as continuing through our channel partners. We look forward to working with them to bring our solutions to more customers in the months ahead.”Apart from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Selcuk described OPSWAT’s growth in Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and Kuwait as “exponential”. “We are also in the midst of a very aggressive restructuring in Turkey, which is home to more than one million manufacturers,” Selcuk continued. “We have reaped the fruits of this in the first six months of this year. Next year we will focus on Pakistan and South Africa and we plan to manage all the countries in the META region from our new offices in Dubai.”

Barracuda showcases cloud application security, SASE solutions at GITEX

Barracuda Networks, Inc., a trusted partner and leading provider of cloud-first security solutions, is once again set to participate at GITEX Global, where it will focus on demonstrating to regional businesses how they can protect their cloud applications and enable seamless access to users, irrespective of location and device. At its stand (C50 in Hall 24) at the Dubai World Trade Centre, the vendor will showcase the latest advancements to its Cloud Application Protection and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions.  IDC forecasts that digital transformation spending in the Middle East, Türkiye, and Africa (META) will top $48.8 billion this year. "To deliver the differentiated digital experiences that employees and customers demand, organisations are increasingly turning to the cloud. The rapid time to market, incredible scalability, and cost effectiveness that cloud applications afford these businesses make them a foundational element of this ongoing transformation in the region," said Toni El Inati - RVP Sales, META & CEE, Barracuda Networks. “At Barracuda, we are here to empower our customers to innovate at pace, and embrace modern computing paradigms with the confidence in the security of their applications and data. This is what we intend to highlight to visitors to our GITEX stand.” Barracuda has regularly participated at GITEX for over a decade. As with previous editions of the trade show, the company will host live solution demos at its stand. This year, these include:·      Secure Access Service Edge (SASE): Barracuda’s cloud-first SASE platform enables businesses to control access to data from any device, anytime, anywhere, and allows security inspection and policy enforcement in the cloud, at the branch, or on the device. Barracuda SecureEdge delivers enterprise-grade security including Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), Firewall-as-a-Service, web security, and fully integrated office connectivity with Secure SD-WAN.·      Cloud to Cloud Backup: This platform delivers a fast search and restore experience for Office 365 data, including Teams, Exchange Online, SharePoint, and OneDrive. The solution offers complete, granular protection of an organisation's data with point-in-time retrieval, and both scheduled and on-demand backup. In addition, data is deduplicated and compressed to maximize storage efficiency and minimise the backup window.·      Web Application Firewall-as-a-Service: Deployed in minutes, Barracuda WAF-as-a-Service is a full-featured, cloud-delivered application security service that ensures complete protection of all apps. This service includes a containerised deployment mode so organisations can deploy the same protections between their microservices and thus protect them from intra-app attacks. In addition to customers engagements at the stand, through its participation at GITEX, Barracuda intends to strengthen its ties with existing channel partners, while potentially identifying new channel partners to support its ongoing expansion across the region. “At Barracuda, we highly value in-person interactions and will have our regional team present in full strength. We encourage channel organisations to visit our stand and gain an understanding of how through our comprehensive product portfolio and dedicated local support, we can empower them to build a profitable, and sustainable practice with Barracuda. I have no doubt that the power and simplicity of our solutions will enable them to not only achieve this outcome, but do so in a highly rapid and cost-effective manner,” said El Inati.

Inside the gaming mind of Bijay Gurung: From Angry Birds to global success

Founded in 2020, Riyadh-headquartered Sandsoft Games is a gaming company focused on publishing, developing, and investing in high-quality international gaming experiences and studios. Sandsoft delivers in engaging and entertaining experiences to players in the MENA region, with global support from an experienced team with a proven track record. The seasoned team is composed of passionate game creators who collate a deep-rooted knowledge of the video games market, having worked on some of the most successful game franchises ever, including FIFA, Candy Crush, Need for Speed, Angry Birds and World of Tanks.In this exclusive interview with Adgully, Bijay Gurung, Senior Director, Business Development, EMEA, dwells at length on the delicate balance between creativity and commerce in game development, the challenges and strategies of catering to the MENA region, the importance of cross-cultural collaboration, and so on. Join us on this journey through the gaming ecosystem, where continents, cultures, and people are brought closer together through the power of gaming. Excerpts:Your journey in the gaming industry has been quite remarkable, with experiences at companies like Rovio, Huawei, and Real Networks. How have these diverse roles shaped your perspective on business development in the gaming sector?Since starting my career in the days before the App Store and Google Play even existed, it’s been an incredible journey to see the growth and evolution of mobile games. The industry has grown from games being little snackable bits of content that are just 100 kilobytes in size, to being known as household brands. I spent a decade working on the Angry Birds franchise and continue to see its influence across the globe, with a movie, sports sponsorships and toys all spinning out of the IP.Could you share some insights from your time at Rovio, especially regarding your contributions to launching numerous games and leading major marketing programmes with tech giants like Apple, Google, Samsung, Facebook, and Amazon?I joined Rovio when Angry Birds was first gaining popularity and success. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to launch multiple games in close collaboration with the platforms. Particular highlights include launching Angry Birds Space from the international space station, a surprise appearance in CES for a special version of the game for Samsung Smart TVs, and being part of Apple’s key initiatives like ‘Games for RED’ and ‘Apps for Earth’.The mobile gaming industry is known for its rapid changes. How do you approach identifying and capitalizing on new opportunities and synergies across different platforms and geographical regions at Sandsoft Games?At Sandsoft, we are lucky to have amassed huge industry talents from across the globe. This allows us to identify key partners and partnerships from a range of company sizes and regions, all the way from publishing powerhouse Jam City to small indie developers. By working with international teams, we are able to provide the best experience for gamers wherever they play from.Sandsoft Games focuses on delivering gaming experiences in the MENA region. Could you elaborate on the challenges and strategies you employ to ensure that these experiences resonate with the local audience while maintaining global appeal? The challenge is that no two gamers are alike; but there are ways to provide experiences that have broad appeal. Our aim is to provide the ultimate gaming experience by incorporating local content, events, and cultural relevance. However, we also know that players are interested in experiencing content from beyond their own region. That's why we're focusing on games that have a global appeal while still being relevant to the MENA region. One such game that we think fits the bill is Fantasy Pick, a Fantasy Football game.Your background includes an MBA from the Kelley School of Business. How has this formal education complemented your practical experiences, particularly in the gaming industry?Formal education taught me a variety of lessons; not only in educational content, but also when it comes to working with others. My educational background has taught me how to approach challenging situations with clarity and boldness. Indeed, I've been taught the importance of analytical thinking from an early stage which I apply to my role on a daily basis. The multicultural environment at Kelley has equipped me with an understanding of diverse cultures and approaches; very relevant to my role at Sandsoft!Sandsoft Games has offices in various countries, including Saudi Arabia, Spain, Finland, and China. How do you manage cross-cultural collaboration and communication within your team, and what role do you believe this diversity plays in enriching the gaming ecosystem?Although technical solutions such as Slack and Teams are incredibly helpful in day-to-day communication, we also have quarterly face-to-face catch-ups that help foster effective collaboration and understanding. Most importantly, as our organisation grows, our People and Culture team is doing a phenomenal job of bringing everyone together, from new joiners to those that have been with us from the start. Given that our games are designed for a global market, diversity is key to making our games relevant to our players; particularly when it comes to understanding the market with localized marketing.As a Senior Director of Business Development, you've likely been involved in establishing and maintaining partnerships. Could you share a particularly challenging or rewarding partnership experience from your career, and the key lessons you've learned from it?One challenge I face is managing expectations. In my experience, building trust and a long-lasting partnership that goes beyond a single project has been most successful. Not all games or marketing partnerships will succeed, but viewing them as a part of a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship can help cement a lasting partnership. The philosophy behind games as a service follows a similar approach, as our goal is to entertain our players for many years to come. Whilst one partnership may not turn out exactly as planned, it's a long-term vision of success that we strive for.Gaming is increasingly seen as a medium for storytelling and artistic expression. How does Sandsoft Games balance the creative aspects of game development with the business side, and how do you ensure that the teams you work with maintain their artistic integrity while meeting commercial goals?Game making is very much a mix of art and science. Both go hand in hand. From inception we have the mindset of testing in the market what we are building. We have key milestones in different phases of the development process. Ultimately, a game must deliver an enjoyable experience to the players, and when they are truly engaged, commercial success naturally follows.With your extensive network in the gaming industry, what advice would you give to aspiring game developers and business development professionals who aim to make a mark in this ever-evolving sector?Have fun! The advice sounds simple but to truly thrive in the industry, it helps to have a passion for it. Play games, understand the latest releases, and keep up with the latest developments. When you're truly immersed in your work, the best results arise. Also, don't feel that you need to be an expert in everything. Not all of us are great game makers, but perhaps you have great marketing skills. By working closely with industry friends and colleagues, a well-rounded team can make sure all skills are met and the best results are achieved.Lastly, Sandsoft Games' mission revolves around bringing continents, cultures, and people closer together through gaming. Can you share a vision you have for the future of the gaming ecosystem in the MENA region and beyond?We’re deeply committed to delivering the best content to players, wherever they are in the world. To achieve this, we're building up an industry-leading team across the globe, with 20 nationalities represented among our 50-strong team. In August, Ahmed Sharif from META joined Sandsoft as CTO, and Pasqual Batalla became our COO after leaving SocialPoint. As a Saudi Arabia-headquartered company, we’re also committed to nurturing local talent; and our Press Start Internship Program equips local residents with the skills needed to thrive in the industry. With our talented team in place, we are excited to develop more high-quality gaming experiences for international players.

Game developer Sandsoft Games appoints Pasqual Batalla as COO

Riyadh: Sandsoft Games, the mobile-first game developer, publisher and investor powered by AAA talent, has appointed Pasqual Batalla as Chief Operating Officer (COO). He joins from Socialpoint, a Take-Two and Zynga mobile games studio. The senior hire follows the recent hire of Ahmed Sharif as CTO from Meta and furthers Sandsoft’s rapid growth trajectory as it aims to become a top games company. Based in Barcelona, Pasqual will drive Sandsoft’s operations across its teams in Riyadh, Barcelona, Helsinki and Shanghai, steering global publishing and internal game development activity.  Pasqual joins Sandsoft following seven and a half years at Socialpoint, including more than three years as COO. At Socialpoint, he successfully managed the studio and business operations of the Dragon City developer, achieving significant growth in profitability. With his history of building and developing high-performance teams, Pasqual brings a wealth of experience to Sandsoft and is also an active investor, advisor, and board member in the thriving Barcelona startup ecosystem.  David Fernandez, CEO of Sandsoft Games, commented: “Pasqual joins the executive team during an exciting period of growth for the company, which is particularly visible in our publishing arm currently. He’s a well-known and respected leader in the global games industry and his extensive experience fits our strategic vision to reach gamers across the world with the very best content.” Pasqual Batalla, Chief Operating Officer at Sandsoft Games, commented: “Sandsoft has all the ingredients to become a leading company in the games industry. It has a very much people-first approach to business and I look forward to working with the team, supporting them to bring engaging games to diverse players around the world.” Sandsoft Games recently announced its partnership with Jam City, one of mobile gaming’s most successful publishers, to support the global launch of DC Heroes & Villains and publish the title in the Middle East and North Africa markets.

Sandsoft Games strengthens global team with major hire from Meta

RIYADH: Sandsoft Games, the mobile-first game developer, publisher and investor powered by AAA talent, announces the appointment of Ahmed Sharif, formerly Meta’s Head of AR, VR, Metaverse Automation and Platform Engineering, as its new Chief Technology Officer. Ahmed’s appointment is another significant milestone in Sandsoft’s trajectory to becoming a leading global mobile gaming powerhouse. The experienced leader will drive technology and innovation across the business, which has a diverse global team of more than 50 people across its headquarters in Riyadh and offices in Barcelona, Helsinki and Shanghai. Ahmed will focus on enhancing and scaling the Sandsoft Publishing Platform while providing technical direction for Sandsoft’s in-house game development, supporting and guiding the studio and engineering teams in their development journeys. As a senior engineering leader and strategist, Ahmed brings to his role at Sandsoft extensive experience of building software and hardware to power gaming experiences. His career to-date encompasses top gaming brands such as EA, Sony Interactive Entertainment and Criterion Games, and titles such as Need for Speed and Pearl’s Peril. As well as shipping the Meta Quest 2 globally, Ahmed’s portfolio includes the development of PSVR1, PS4 and PS4 Pro, and EA’s Frostbite game engine.  David Fernandez, CEO of Sandsoft Games, commented: "It goes without saying that Ahmed is a significant hire for Sandsoft. He has spearheaded engineering strategy for many of the most recognizable commercial technology products and worked on globally renowned gaming titles. I’m excited to welcome him to the team and convinced that he’ll play a major role in driving the next phase of Sandsoft’s growth.” Ahmed Sharif, Chief Technology Officer at Sandsoft, commented: “Throughout my career I’ve worked on technology and content that delivers unforgettable gaming experiences. Sandsoft’s commitment to creating engaging and diverse games aligns really well with that objective, with a team that brings the best of cross-platform gaming to accessible, mobile-first environments. I believe Sandsoft is primed to become a leader in the global games industry and I’m looking forward to playing my part.” Sandsoft Games recently announced its partnership with Jam City, one of mobile gaming’s most successful publishers, to support the global launch of DC Heroes & Villains and publish the title in the Middle East and North Africa markets.

‘Meta’ the social metaverse, joins Manama-IX

Batelco, part of the Beyon Group, has announced that Meta has now joined Manama-IX, the Bahrain based Internet peering service provider. Meta, the social metaverse company and among the world’s leading content providers, owns and operates a number of social media platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram.Social media has revolutionized how people socialize, do business, shop, and get news. According to statistics from Mckinsey, since July 2022, new users are joining social-media platforms at an average global rate of seven users per second. With the high demands for social media usage and to ensure the best customer experience, Batelco is keen to provide high performance internet-based services.One way to improve internet efficiency is to establish direct connections with big content providers, and by having Meta on Manama-IX, members will have access to an immense data pool which will help reduce latency and improve connectivity quality, thus delivering a better customer experience when accessing Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp.Hani Askar, Chief Global Business Officer at Batelco, said, “We are delighted that Meta joined Manama-IX and that now we are able to provide our customers with direct peering access to major Content Delivery Network (CDNs) such as Meta, as well as AWS, Google, and Microsoft who are already on Manama-IX.”“Having Meta on Manama-IX is a very exciting milestone as we always aim to enhance the customer experience and add value to our peers, by attracting more content players to the region, and supporting the connectivity community,” he added.“Batelco’s vision behind Manama-IX is to be the leading IX in the MENA region and to contribute towards the development of Internet services across the region, in line with Bahrain’s vision of becoming a leading digital economy in the region.” Mr. Askar concluded.Manama-IX is the Bahrain-based Internet exchange platform that interconnects global carriers, local and international operators, and both content and cloud providers.To learn more about Manama-IX, please visit

Make music from words! Meta unveils AI tool AudioCraft

Meta has unveiled AudioCraft, the revolutionary AI tool that brings high-quality audio and music generation right to your fingertips. AudioCraft empowers users to effortlessly create captivating audio and music from simple text prompts, opening up a realm of possibilities for musicians, content creators, and sound enthusiasts like never before.With AudioCraft, users can explore new musical compositions without needing to play a single note on an instrument. Picture yourself easily enhancing your video ads on platforms like Instagram with mesmerizing soundtracks. This cutting-edge technology makes AI-generated audio and music accessible to you, putting the power of creativity in your hands.Unleash your imagination with AudioCraft's three powerful models: MusicGen, AudioGen, and EnCodec. Simply provide text prompts, and MusicGen, trained on specially licensed music, will generate exceptional melodies for you. Meanwhile, AudioGen, trained on public sound effects, delivers lifelike audio from your textual inputs. Excitingly, Meta is introducing an enhanced version of its EnCodec decoder, ensuring higher-quality music generation with minimal artifacts. Meta is making its pre-trained AudioGen models available, allowing you to create various environmental sounds and effects, from barking dogs to honking cars and footsteps on different surfaces. Meta is also sharing the entire AudioCraft model weights and code, giving you access to these models for research purposes through open-source.AI-generated audio has been a relatively untapped domain compared to images, videos, and text. That's why AudioCraft was designed to overcome these challenges, providing you with easy-to-use models capable of producing high-quality audio consistently. Meta has simplified the design of generative audio models, so you can make the most of our years of research and development while also encouraging you to experiment and create your own groundbreaking audio experiences.AudioCraft users have the freedom to explore various audio tasks, from generating music to crafting sound effects and compression algorithms—all within the same code base. Meta says it believes in fostering a collaborative community, and that's why it is open-sourcing AudioCraft, empowering users to innovate and redefine how we produce and enjoy audio content.With AudioCraft, users hold not just a tool but a platform to shape the future of AI-generated audio. MusicGen could become a new type of instrument, transforming the way music is composed, just like the impact synthesizers had when they first emerged.

Meta launches VR subscription service

Meta has unveiled a groundbreaking virtual reality (VR) subscription service called "Meta Quest+" at a price of $7.99. This innovative offering grants Meta Quest users the exclusive privilege of accessing the two most sought-after titles each month. Marked by its exceptional value, the Meta Quest+ subscription comes with a monthly fee of $7.99 or an annual payment of $59.99.The first indications of this remarkable service emerged in March when an astute Twitter user uncovered a description of a game pass feature within the Meta Quest app. Subsequently, another Twitter user stumbled upon the mention of Meta Quest+ and its associated pricing in the app selection of the Meta Quest app.On Monday, Mark Zuckerberg officially confirmed the arrival of Meta Quest+, emphasizing that it is currently compatible with Quest 2 and Pro. Furthermore, Quest 3 support will be extended upon the release of the new headset later this autumn.The initial game lineup for Meta Quest+ includes the adrenaline-pumping action-rhythm game FPS Pistol Whip and the captivating arcade adventure game Pixel Ripped 1995. In August, users will have the pleasure of experiencing Walkabout Mini Golf and Mothergunship: Forge.An intriguing aspect of Meta's subscription service is that subscribers retain access to all titles for as long as they remain subscribed to Meta Quest+.This new subscription offering from Meta distinguishes the company from PlayStation, which notably excludes VR games from its PlayStation Plus subscription.In its announcement, Meta expressed enthusiasm for the value that subscription services bring, harking back to the golden days of Blockbuster. With a monthly value of up to $60 USD, Meta Quest+ amalgamates affordability with the convenience of a curated experience. The company is thrilled to introduce Meta Quest users to an entirely novel approach for exploring the boundless potential of their VR headsets.To entice early adopters, Meta is extending an introductory discount, allowing users who sign up between now and July 31 to pay a mere $1 for the first month.Meta has also delighted fans by unveiling an array of forthcoming games for their VR headset.

Meta’s Messenger unveils parental supervision tools for teen safety

Meta has launched parental supervision tools on Messenger, aimed at empowering parents and guardians to ensure the safety and well-being of their teenage children in the digital world. By offering access to Messenger supervision tools and expert resources through the Meta Family Center, parents can now actively support their teens' online experiences.The parental supervision tools on Messenger are initially available in the US, UK, and Canada, with plans for a global expansion in the coming months. These innovative tools provide parents with valuable insights into their teen's Messenger usage without compromising their privacy. It is important to note that these tools do not grant parents access to their teen's private messages.Key features of the parental supervision tools on Messenger include:  1. Monitoring Usage: Parents can track the amount of time their teens spend on Messenger, gaining valuable insights into their online habits.  2. Contacts List Updates: Parents will have visibility into their teen's Messenger contacts list, as well as their privacy and safety settings, ensuring a secure online environment.  3. Report Notifications: Parents will receive notifications if their teen reports someone on Messenger, further enhancing safety measures and promoting open communication.  4. Message Settings: Parents can view who can message their teen, whether it is limited to friends, friends of friends, or no one. They will also receive notifications if any changes are made to this setting.  5. Messenger Stories: Parents can monitor who can view their teen's Messenger stories and will be alerted if any modifications are made to these settings.Over the next year, Meta plans to expand the range of features available through Parental Supervision on Messenger, enabling parents to assist their teens in managing their time and interactions effectively. It is important to note that these tools will function in both unencrypted and end-to-end encrypted chats, allowing for privacy while maintaining enhanced parental oversight.The launch of Parental Supervision on Messenger is part of Meta's ongoing commitment to creating the Meta Family Center as a central hub where parents and guardians can access valuable resources and tools to manage their teens' experiences across Meta technologies. This initiative aims to foster meaningful dialogue between parents and teens, ensuring a healthy and informed approach to their online lives.In addition to the introduction of Parental Supervision on Messenger, Meta is actively testing new messaging privacy features on Instagram. These features are specifically designed to safeguard teens from unwanted interactions and protect their well-being. The new measures include:  1. Invitation-based messaging: Individuals will be required to send an invite to connect with someone who doesn't follow them on Instagram. This ensures that permission is obtained before initiating a conversation. Users can only send one invite at a time and cannot send additional invites until the recipient accepts the invitation to connect.  2. Text-only invites: Message request invites will be limited to text-only communication, preventing the transmission of photos, videos, voice messages, or making calls until the recipient accepts the invitation to chat. This restriction aims to prevent the receipt of unwanted media from individuals not followed by the recipient.To promote responsible usage and encourage a healthy relationship with technology, Meta is taking further steps to nudge teens to manage their time on Facebook and Instagram. For instance, Facebook will notify teens after spending 20 minutes on the platform, encouraging them to take breaks and set daily time limits. Additionally, Instagram is exploring a new feature that nudges teens to close the app if they are excessively scrolling through Reels at night.

Meta launches Voicebox, revolutionizing speech generation with cutting-edge AI

Meta has launched Voicebox, a cutting-edge generative AI model designed to revolutionize the field of speech generation. Voicebox demonstrates remarkable capabilities in audio editing, sampling, and styling, unlocking a wide range of possibilities for creators and users alike.Voicebox leverages state-of-the-art AI algorithms to perform tasks such as editing, sampling, and stylizing audio content, even without explicit training for these specific functions. By utilizing in-context learning, this groundbreaking model can produce high-quality audio clips and manipulate pre-recorded audio while preserving the original content and style. For instance, Voicebox can seamlessly remove unwanted background noises like car horns or barking dogs, offering a transformative audio editing experience.One of the most remarkable features of Voicebox is its multilingual capabilities. The model can generate speech in six languages, including English, French, German, Spanish, Polish, and Portuguese. This versatility opens up a world of possibilities for future applications. Imagine virtual assistants and non-player characters in the metaverse speaking with natural-sounding voices or visually impaired individuals receiving written messages from friends read aloud by AI in their own voices.The potential use cases for Voicebox are vast and include:  1. In-context text-to-speech synthesis: With Voicebox, a mere two-second audio sample is sufficient to match the audio style and use it for text-to-speech generation.  2. Speech editing and noise reduction: Voicebox can recreate interrupted speech segments or replace misspoken words without requiring the re-recording of an entire speech. It acts as an audio editing eraser, effortlessly enhancing the listening experience.  3. Cross-lingual style transfer: By providing Voicebox with a speech sample and a text passage in different languages, the model can produce a natural reading of the text in any of the supported languages. This breakthrough technology fosters authentic communication across language barriers.  4. Diverse speech sampling: Voicebox has been trained on diverse data, resulting in the generation of speech that accurately reflects how people speak in real-world scenarios and across the supported languages.Meta's Voicebox represents a significant leap forward in the realm of generative AI research. This breakthrough technology not only paves the way for enhanced audio editing and manipulation capabilities but also offers numerous possibilities for enriching human interactions, accessibility, and creative expression.Meta looks forward to further exploring the audio space. The company encourages other researchers to build upon this work and collaborate in pushing the boundaries of generative AI.

Meta and BMW collaborate to explore AR/VR tech inside vehicles

Meta has announced its partnership with BMW Group to investigate the integration of AR and VR technology within fast-moving vehicles. This joint research project aims to enhance the passenger experience and potentially revolutionize travel in cars, trains, planes, and beyond.The collaboration between Meta and BMW, established in 2021, envisions a future where AR and VR are seamlessly integrated into smart vehicles, providing passengers with more productive, social, and entertaining experiences on the road. By leveraging cutting-edge technology, this partnership seeks to unlock new forms of hands-free communication, entertainment, and utility, transcending the limitations of current screens and instruments found in vehicles today.One of the challenges encountered in incorporating VR technology into moving vehicles is the conflict between inertial motion sensors (IMUs) and cameras. While VR headsets, such as Meta Quest 2, employ these sensors for precise motion tracking, they struggle to display stable virtual content when the vehicle is in motion. To address this issue, Meta has worked closely with BMW to integrate real-time IMU data from a BMW car's sensor array into the tracking system of the Project Aria research glasses.This significant breakthrough enables the system to calculate the glasses' location relative to the vehicle, overcoming the conflict between camera-observed motion inside the car and IMU-measured acceleration and rotational velocity relative to the world. By transferring this tracking system to the Meta Quest Pro, virtual objects can now be accurately anchored to a moving car using a digital twin representation. This advancement has allowed the demonstration of compelling virtual and mixed reality passenger experiences within moving vehicles.Moving forward, Meta and BMW are committed to leveraging the advanced machine perception capabilities of modern cars to explore future possibilities. Access to the car's precise six degrees of freedom (6DOF) positioning system could enable the rendering of world-locked virtual content outside of the vehicle, including the identification of landmarks and other points of interest. Such capabilities are expected to be invaluable for future AR glasses and personalized AI assistants.The Meta-BMW partnership signifies a significant step towards revolutionizing the passenger experience and paving the way for new advancements in AR and VR technology. By merging innovation from both companies, the collaboration aims to unlock the full potential of immersive experiences within vehicles, setting the stage for the future of transportation.

Meta unveils new AI-powered tools for advertisers

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has unveiled new AI-powered tools and features for advertisers and marketers. The company has introduced a new testing playground, the AI Sandbox, that will test generative AI-powered ad tools like text variation, background generation, and image outcropping. Meta is working with a small group of advertisers and plans to expand access gradually from July onwards. The company has also introduced new features in its Meta Advantage suite of ad automation tools, including switching manual campaigns to Advantage+ shopping in one click and using video creative in catalog ads. Additionally, the company is investing tens of billions of dollars annually in AI infrastructure and modeling to improve the performance and measurement of its ads system.The AI Sandbox will act as Meta's testing playground for early versions of new tools and features, including generative AI-powered ad tools. The goal is to learn what works for advertisers and make these features easy to use in our Meta's tools. The company is building tools like text variation, background generation and image outcropping to do things like make an ad’s text more engaging or improve parts of its creative.Currently, Meta is working with a small group of advertisers in order to quickly gather feedback that it can use to make these products even better. In July, Meta will begin gradually expanding access to more advertisers with plans to add some of these features into its products later this year.

Rolls-Royce PLC announces new leadership for the META region

Royce PLC has appointed John Kelly to the role of President – Middle East, Türkiye and Africa (META), with immediate effect. Previously Kelly spent six years as Senior Vice President, Europe, Middle East and Africa, for the firm’s Civil Aerospace business.Kelly started his career with Rolls-Royce in 2001, joining as a graduate trainee in the Defence business, where he rose to become a senior manager before joining Civil Aerospace.In his new role, Kelly will assume group-wide leadership and representation across the META region for engagement with senior stakeholders in government and industry.Rolls-Royce employs over 300 specialists in the Middle East, including those engaged in engineering and technical roles supporting commercial aviation, industrial and defence customers. It has had a substantial presence in the region for more than 50 years.John Kelly said:“My vision is to ensure Rolls-Royce builds on the solid foundations it has established across the META region and for each of our business units. While we are renowned for excellence in civil aerospace, we will leverage opportunities for all the Rolls-Royce businesses, providing solutions for the region’s major infrastructure projects and industrial customers. Our technology can play a fundamental role in enabling the transition to a low carbon global economy.”With bold ambitions for the future, Kelly is committed to growing partnerships across META which reflect Rolls-Royce’s core engineering and technological innovations. As the region looks towards COP28, set for Dubai later this year, these are anticipated to increasingly focus on sustainable aviation, decarbonisation solutions and the energy transition, all of which are embodied in Rolls-Royce’s net zero commitments.

Shaping the future of learning: BIBF Bahrain's educational institute on the meta

The Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF) recently announced the launch of its campus on the metaverse. This digital platform will provide a comprehensive and immersive learning experience for students and professionals in the financial and business sectors. Additionally, it will serve as a "holistic platform" where students, faculty, and alumni can collaborate, generate new ideas, and foster innovation. This initiative was fully designed and developed by Bahraini talents, making the BIBF the first educational institute in Bahrain to launch its campus on the metaverse.The launch of the BIBF Metaverse will occur in two phases, with the first phase – currently implemented - focusing on establishing the BIBF infrastructure along with certain facilities, whereas the second phase will launch the auditorium and classrooms where live sessions will be conducted.The BIBF Metaverse is a virtual representation of the BIBF building that allows users to interact with each other in a simulated environment. Users can attend events, collaborate on projects, and participate in interactive learning activities, including videos and tutorials. The metaverse offers immersive learning spaces, AR capabilities, and digital media labs for students of different degrees and certificates. It is also a networking and professional development tool that allows users to connect with peers and industry experts, attend virtual conferences and events, and acquire skills for success in the banking and finance industry.On this occasion, the BIBF’s Director, Dr. Ahmed Al Shaikh, stated that the launch of the BIBF Metaverse reflects the institute's commitment to innovation and excellence in education. “By leveraging the latest technology, the BIBF is providing students and professionals with a cutting-edge learning experience that will prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of the future.” He added.Dr. Al Shaikh also mentioned, “Learning through technology is a key part of the BIBF’s vision, with a clear focus on using both VR and the metaverse to strengthen and diversify education and training through relational and immersive experiences. The technology will engage students in a new and unique form, providing an opportunity to access live, virtual classrooms with other students from across the world.”On his part, the BIBF’s Chief Operations Officer, Mr. Ahmed Naeemi stated, "The launch of the BIBF Metaverse is a significant milestone for the business sector in Bahrain. We believe that this innovative platform will revolutionise the way we teach and learn in the business industry, particularly in the banking and finance fields."“I strongly believe that interaction plays a vital role in the learning process. The way you engage with fellow students can greatly enhance your learning outcomes. While video conferencing tools may provide a 2D screen experience, leveraging virtual reality can create a more immersive sense of presence, making it feel as though you are physically present.” Mr. Naeemi concluded.

Meta hosts Khalid Al Ameri for its first Reels Masters workshop in UAE

To celebrate Instagram’s Creator Week, Meta organized the region's first-ever Reels Masters Workshop led by Emirati content creator Khalid Al Ameri (@khalidalameri). The masterclass, which was Instagram in-person masterclass following the pandemic, took place at the region’s first and only content creation facility Thinksmart Hub and was attended by over 70 creators.The participants were guided by Khalid on elevating their content on Meta’s platforms using the latest tools, including AR effects, remixing, and stop motion techniques. The masterclass also focused on technical aspects like aligning tools, teleportation, and Greenscreen to help influencers devise a seamless production process.Talking about the relevance of the event Khalid said: “My brand of storytelling brings together humour and heart, and over the years, the Meta tools have been of great help! This masterclass was all about sharing that evolution and showing you can stay true to your core narrative while being adventurous with your style and approach.”Speaking of the event, Moon Baz, Creator Partnerships Lead, Middle East, Africa and Turkey at Meta said: “Today, with businesses back in action after the pandemic, we have noticed that every brand has embraced novel ways of consumer engagement and the change started with social media.. We are very proud to see Khalid Al Ameri discoursing the tricks of social media engagement to help creators stay relevant and memorable on our platforms. His content is best known to be culturally-relevant and is made for an international community.”Commenting on the event, Lina Husri, Founder, Thinksmart Hub said: “It is such an enriching experience for us to be the location host for the first Reels masterclass post-pandemic. Thinksmart Hub was conceptualized bearing in mind the burgeoning creators base in the region and we wanted them to have a creative space to unleash their ideas. Today, as Meta hosts this masterclass in the esteemed presence of Khalid Al Ameri, we feel that we’re a step closer to our vision of being the preferred location partner for creators in UAE. This event has been an inspiring session not just for our participants but for us as well since it further helped us understand the technical needs of content creators.”With the momentum set in with Meta’s The Reels Masters workshop, Thinksmart Hub plans to host many more brand partnership sessions to redefine content creation for the Metaverse.

Meta receives Rs 13.9 crore in ad revenue from social, political organisations

Meta Ad Library just revealed Rs 13.9 crore in ad expenditure for India in the previous 90 days (May 2, 2022 to July 30, 2022) on social problems, elections, or politics. According to the statistics, spiritual leader Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and his non-profit organisation Isha Outreach are India's top advertiser on Meta platforms, spending an average of Rs 1.35 lakh per day in the last quarter, followed by micro-blogging platform KOO and OTT operator Voot Select.Furthermore, Sadhguru has spent Rs 99.24 lakh on Facebook advertisements in the last 90 days. The KOO app came in second with Rs 78.44 lakh spent, followed by Voot Select with Rs 61.14 lakh, UNICEF with Rs 47.50 lakh, and Kutumb with Rs 44.11 lakh.Meta, the owner of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, openly provides statistics on advertisements related to social topics, elections, and politics.