Meta Introduces Subscription Fees for European Users in Response to Data Privacy Regulations

Meta Introduces Subscription Fees For European Users In Response To Data Privacy Regulations

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is rolling out monthly subscription fees for users in Europe on its social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram. This strategic move comes as a response to new European Union regulations aimed at curbing Meta’s data collection practices for personalised advertisements.

The subscription service, named Meta+, offers an ad-free experience on both platforms along with exclusive content. Pricing for the service is set at €9.99 ($10.60) per month for web users and €12.99 ($13.79) for mobile app users. Initially, a single subscription covers all linked accounts. However, starting from March 2024, additional accounts will incur an additional €6 ($6.37) monthly fee for web and €8 ($8.49) for mobile.

This step aligns with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which imposes requirements for user consent in personalised ad data processing. In July, the EU’s Court of Justice ruled that Meta had violated GDPR by transferring user data from Europe to the US without adequate protections. Consequently, Meta stopped using user data for personalised ads in Europe unless explicitly authorised by users.

Meta will continue to offer ad-supported versions of Facebook and Instagram in Europe. Users will have the choice to opt-in to receive personalised ads; otherwise, they will be presented with generic, non-targeted advertisements. Users will also have the flexibility to adjust their settings at any time to influence the types of ads they receive and the data used for targeting.

The subscription service will be launched in Europe in November 2023. Users can sign up for Meta+ either through their Facebook or Instagram accounts or via a dedicated website. Meta plans to closely evaluate user feedback and performance, with the possibility of expanding the subscription service to other regions in the future.

Kenya’s Deployment of International Force to Restore Peace in Haiti Faces Judicial Setback

Kenya's Deployment Of International Force To Restore Peace In Haiti Faces Judicial Setback

In a blow to Kenya’s plans to lead a multinational international force in Haiti, the country’s High Court has issued an extension on a temporary order, preventing the government from deploying hundreds of police officers to the French-speaking Caribbean Community (Caricom) nation. The United Nations Security Council had previously authorised the deployment through a resolution co-drafted by the United States and Ecuador, granting a one-year mandate with a review after nine months.

The Kenyan National Assembly has yet to schedule a debate regarding the motion to deploy the contingent, which is expected to consist of approximately 1,000 police officers. Despite this, several Caribbean Community countries have expressed their willingness to participate in the initiative.

However, the court order, initiated by former presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot on October 9, temporarily halted the deployment plan. Aukot argued that the law permitting the president to deploy Kenyan forces conflicted with constitutional articles. The Kenyan government has affirmed its commitment to seek parliamentary approval before the officers are dispatched.

“The court has extended the interim orders stopping the deployment of Kenya police to Haiti until the petition is determined,” stated Aukot, noting that the original order expired on Tuesday. The case is set to continue on November 9.

Highlighting the urgency of the situation, the United Nations Special Representative in Haiti, María Isabel Salvador, addressed the Security Council on Monday, emphasizing the deteriorating security conditions in the country due to escalating gang violence. She stressed the significance of holding elections as a means to establish sustainable rule of law and restore democratic institutions in Haiti.

Salvador underlined, “Elections are the only path and the only imperative to restore democratic institutions in Haiti. Only democracy and the rule of law can form the basis from which Haiti can progress towards development and growth.”

The prevalence of rampant gang violence, predominantly concentrated in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, exacerbates the already dire situation in Haiti, where nearly half of the population is dependent on humanitarian aid. Additionally, the country has endured a series of challenges in recent years, including a cholera epidemic, earthquakes, cyclones, and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

Source: VOA Africa

Kenya Raises Passenger Fares on Chinese-Built Railway Amid Debt Repayment Challenges and Fuel Price Hike

Kenya Raises Passenger Fares On Chinese Built Railway Amid Debt Repayment Challenges And Fuel Price Hike

In response to mounting debt obligations to Beijing and other lenders, as well as the surge in fuel prices, Kenya has announced a significant increase in passenger fares for the Chinese-built Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). The state-owned Kenya Railways revealed that the journey between Mombasa and Nairobi, spanning 470 kilometers (290 miles), will now cost $30 in first class, a rise from $19, while economy class fares will increase to $10 from $6.

Kenya Railways justified the fare hike by attributing it to the global escalation in fuel prices, which has impacted their operational costs. The decision comes shortly after Kenya’s central bank governor, Kamau Thugge, acknowledged that the Kenyan shilling had been overvalued by 25% for years, resulting in an artificially strong exchange rate.

President William Ruto’s recent visit to China, where he sought a $1 billion loan for unfinished infrastructure projects, raised eyebrows since Kenya’s total debt has reached a record $70 billion. Despite the financial challenges, Ruto pursued further funding. The revised train fares are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2024, affecting not only the popular commuter rail service in Nairobi but also the Kisumu and Nanyuki safari trains, known for attracting numerous tourists annually.

The SGR, constructed at a cost of $4.7 billion financed by Chinese banks, commenced operations in 2017. However, it has encountered difficulties in generating sufficient cargo service demand. According to economist Aly-Khan Satchu, the viability of the Kenya SGR hinges on expanding its cross-border reach to ensure financial sustainability. Satchu suggested that connecting Uganda’s oil resources to the sea and facilitating transportation of minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could enhance the project’s prospects.

Kenya’s escalating public debt has prompted President Ruto to implement stringent austerity measures, including travel restrictions and budget cuts exceeding 10% for all government ministries. Nevertheless, Ruto has faced criticism from Kenyans due to his extensive foreign trips, numbering 38 since assuming office in September 2022, surpassing the travel records of his four predecessors during their initial year in power.


Source: AP

Edinburgh Academic Becomes UK’s First Deaf Professor in Deaf Studies

Edinburgh Academic Becomes Uk's First Deaf Professor In Deaf Studies

In a groundbreaking achievement, Annelies Kusters, a scholar at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, has made history by becoming the first deaf professor in the United Kingdom to specialise in Deaf Studies. With nearly two decades of research on deaf communities worldwide, Prof. Kusters’ promotion in the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies establishes her as a leading authority in her field.

Expressing gratitude for the deaf lecturers and scholars who mentored her, Prof. Kusters emphasised her commitment to supporting and empowering future generations. Having received her education from deaf lecturers in Bristol, she now stands as the first academic in the UK to attain the rank of full professor in her area of expertise.

While Europe and the United States have already seen deaf professors in Deaf Studies and Sign Language Studies, the UK has now caught up with Prof. Kusters’ pioneering achievement. Deaf Studies, a discipline that has existed since the 1970s, focuses on understanding the lives of deaf and hearing-impaired individuals across the globe.

Prof. Kusters’ research has taken her to various countries, including Ghana, India, Surinam, Brazil, Kenya, Italy, Denmark, and France. Her interests lie in observing deaf people in their daily lives, exploring their modes of communication, and understanding their social interactions.

Aside from her academic pursuits, Prof. Kusters recently participated in a cabaret show at The Stand comedy club in Edinburgh. While using British Sign Language (BSL), she presented to the audience with the assistance of a translator conveying her message in verbal English.

Originally from Belgium, Prof. Kusters obtained her master’s degree from the University of Leuven before pursuing her Ph.D. in Deaf Studies at the University of Bristol. At Heriot-Watt, she is especially passionate about supporting other deaf scholars in their careers and leads a group called ‘Signs@HWU,’ which focuses on Deaf Studies, sign linguistics, and sign language interpreting studies within the university.

Prof. Kusters assumes various responsibilities at Heriot-Watt, including her role as co-director of engagement in the School of Social Sciences. She acknowledges the challenges of balancing her professional life with personal responsibilities, as she cares for her family with two children.

Prof. Jemina Napier, chair of intercultural communication at Heriot-Watt University, expressed immense pride in having the UK’s first deaf full professor. Recognising the significance of this milestone, Prof. Napier remarked that deaf scholars should have been leading in this field long ago. Prof. Kusters herself acknowledged the overdue nature of her achievement, emphasising that many of her deaf peers, including those who mentored her, could have occupied this pioneering position.

Prof. Kusters’ groundbreaking accomplishment not only marks a significant step forward for Deaf Studies in the UK but also serves as an inspiration for deaf academics around the world, highlighting the importance of inclusivity and representation in academic disciplines.