Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
Social media users who have reported shadow banning and AI restrictions of Palestinian content on platforms like Facebook and Instagram have found an ingenious way to elude these censorial algorithms. In recent days, an increasing number of Arabic-speaking users online have been reverting to at least a thousand-year-old version of the language, which eliminates all dots (diacritics) from the modern alphabet.
As recently revealed by BuzzFeed News, Instagram has removed posts and blocked hashtags related to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of Islam’s holiest sites, because it was deemed as a “terrorist organization” by the company’s moderation system. When trying to share footage of the Israeli raid on the mosque earlier this month, Instagram users said that their posts were restricted from view or removed entirely. Facebook, which owns Instagram, called the removals “enforcement errors” in response to complaints by dismayed employees. However, Israeli officials have announced that the country works closely with Facebook to monitor and remove “inflammatory content” (from Israel’s perspective) on the platform.
Diacritical points (dots above or below letters) were introduced to the Arabic script between the 8th-11th century, as the Islamic Empire grew in size. The practice is believed to have been borrowed from the Syriac script for clarity and more accurate pronunciation of consonants.
In an article on the independent Egyptian news website Mada Masr, written in the dotless Arabic script, activist Muhammad Hamameh describes how he came up with the idea, saying that he had previously considered using Morse code or replacing some letters with symbols.
“It’s not a new idea,” Hamameh wrote. “The original Arabic script did not know pointing and Diacritics until decades after the passing of the prophet Mohammad.”
“It’s an easy technique, even for handwriting,” Hamameh continued. “We draw our letters, so we can simply ignore adding the points. But it’s much more challenging to the AI machine, which has a [binary] code for each letter.”
Those who are interested in converting Arabic text to the dotless script can do so on the website www.dotless.app. But how long will it take before Facebook’s programmers develop an algorithm to identify the ancient script?
“Of course, it is only a matter of time before the automated systems also understand dotless Arabic script,” an article on the website Arabic for Nerds says. “But there are many other possibilities,” the article suggests. “Dialects in non-uniform transcription, for example, are still difficult for computers.”
Fun fact: the word Algorithm itself originates from Arabic, named after the 9th-century mathematician Abu Ja‘far Muhammad ibn Musa, who was more commonly known as al-Khwarizmi.
The University of Virginia researchers wrote that the data “provides compelling evidence that these symbols are associated with hate.”
We are waiting for spectacle and when the quotidian, yet incongruous actions occur I wonder whether there is any real payoff coming.
Hear from Holly Jean Buck, Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas, Simon Denny, Elizabeth Hoover, Renee Kemp-Rotan, Joseph Kunkel, and more at this free public event.
Tanega’s approach to mark-making comes across as stream of consciousness, as if she’s engaged in a conversation with herself.
Starting Monday, readers can borrow one of 50 rare and out-of-print titles, mailed to them completely free of charge, from Saint Heron Library.
EFA Open Studios offers a portal into the creative habitats of over 65 artists working in Manhattan’s longest-running studio program, including Dannielle Tegeder, Wafaa Bilal, Cui Fei, and Anina Major.
This is Yuskavage’s great gift, turning upside down our settled ways of thinking and seeing and, with ease, transforming the vulgar and ridiculous into the sublime.
51 international publishers and galleries showcase their latest editions in prints and artists’ books at this free public fair, which is fully online this year.
While hardly about the pandemic, or any of the other crises so afflicting us, all are invoked in this exhibition, which is also often tender and profoundly soulful.
These glowing, dynamic artworks reproduce something of Bosch’s chaotic energy, but on an immersive, multi-sensory scale.
This week, addressing a transphobic comedy special on Netflix, the story behind KKK hoods, cultural identity fraud, an anti-Semitic take on modern art, and more.