- Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov was released Tuesday after Russian officials dropped drug charges that had been brought against him last week.
- Golunov said that he had been framed because of his reporting on government corruption.
- Russian journalists responded by launching a multi-day protest, and prominent Russian newspapers called for his release in a move experts have said was unprecedented.
Russian government authorities dropped drug trafficking charges against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov Tuesday, following significant backlash and protests from Russian journalists and media over his arrest.
Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev said in a statement that the charges had been dropped because of a lack of evidence.
“According to the results of biological, forensic and fingerprint examinations and DNA testing, a decision was made to terminate the criminal prosecution of citizen Ivan Golunov due to the lack of evidence of his participation in the crime,” Kolokoltsev said in the statement.
Golunov was arrested and detained by police on Thursday, and after an invasive search, the officers claimed to have found drugs in his backpack. The police also said they found more drugs and other paraphernalia when they searched his apartment.
He was later charged with drug trafficking and taken to prison, though he denied the charges and said he was framed because of his reporting on high-level Russian corruption.
Suspicion Around Arrest
Others were quick to echo Golunov’s accusation against the police.
Golunov, who is well-known in Russia for his investigative work, had been writing for an online publication called Meduza, which is Russian-owned but is operated in Latvia to avoid persecution.
Following Golunov’s arrest, Meduza published a statement online defending him and arguing that his imprisonment was politically motivated. “We are convinced that Ivan Golunov is innocent,” the statement said. “Moreover, we have reason to believe that Goll-Loo-Noff is being persecuted because of his journalistic activities.”
Meduza also outlined suspicious activities surrounding Golunov’s arrest. According to the statement, Golunov’s lawyers requested that the police test his hands and nails to see if he had touched narcotics. The police refused.
Meduza also said that Golunov had been beaten by police when he was detained, but when he and his lawyer requested he go to a hospital he was again denied. Meduza additionally noted that Golunov had received threats over his work in recent months
Following the arrest, the police launched their own publicity campaign, publishing nine “incriminating” pictures of drugs and a pharmaceutical scale that they claimed they took at Golunov’s apartment.
However, several journalists quickly established that the pictures were not actually taken in his apartment. Shortly after, the police backtracked and admitted that most of the pictures were in fact taken elsewhere.
After the police fumble, even the Russian government acknowledged that there was conflicting information in the case.
“We have paid attention to the corrections that were later published, and we also proceed from the fact that there are several issues that are in need of a clarification,” a Kremlin spokesman said.
On Friday, Russian journalists launched a protest in front of the police headquarters in Moscow.
Under Russian law, protestors are required to get permits two weeks before planned demonstrations, but the protestors came up with a clever solution. Instead of all protesting together, activists took turns standing one at a time and holding a sign for 15 minutes or so and then passing the post off to the next person.
People lined up down the block to take turns to be the one-person protest. Reportedly, the line was so long that people waited for hours.
Unsurprisingly, police special forces moved quickly to detain about a dozen protestors, including some prominent Russian journalists who were held in custody for a little while before being released.
However, the line kept getting longer and longer, and those protests continued all weekend, even moving to the court where Golunov was set to appear for a hearing.
At the same time, a number of Russian celebrities and artists took to social media to call for Golunov’s release, and argued that his arrest was a violation of freedom of speech and an important test case for rule of law.
Russian Newspapers Express Support
The most surprising move came on Monday, when three leading Russian business newspapers published the same exact front pages with the headline: “I/We are Ivan Golunov.”
While all three of those newspapers are private rather than state-owned, all of them are usually very loyal to the Russian government.
After that, even a few very prominent pro-government broadcasters express skepticism about the case. Additionally, a petition calling for Golunov’s release reportedly received 7,500 signatures from other journalists, including those who worked for state-owned outlets.
As a result, experts have described the act as an unprecedented expression of solidarity with another journalist, as well as an unprecedented defiance of the Kremlin.
While Golunov’s release is an exciting and watershed moment for journalists in Russia, many wonder if it is just a one-off occurrence. Russia has long been criticized for its treatment of independent journalists, and just recently, have significantly ramped up their censorship efforts in the past few months.
In March, Vladimir Putin signed two new laws that would punish anyone who spread “fake news” or insulted the government with heavy fines and jail time. Under those laws, online media can be reported to the government, which then can block access to websites if the content that violates the law.
Golunov’s arrest was also not an isolated incident. On Friday, Meduza published an article listing 8 other journalists and activists who have gotten prison time for “drug charges” over the last few years.
See what others are saying: (The New Yorker) (CNN) (BBC)
Meghan Rienks’ Channel Hack Highlights YouTube Support Issues
- For two months, YouTuber Meghan Rienks has been struggling to get YouTube Support’s help to recover her hacked vlog channel.
- After several confusing email exchanges with the company that presented her with no real solutions, Reinks said she only began to see more helpful and rapid responses when Shane Dawson and Gigi Hadid spoke up or offered their own connections.
- Rienks said she spoke on the phone with YouTube on Wednesday and learned she may not be able to get her videos back. She also said that she worries about smaller creators who are left with even fewer options when they have issues with their channels.
Rienks Battles with YouTube After Hack
After months of battling with YouTube to regain access to her hacked channel, YouTuber Meghan Rienks said that a call with the company revealed that she may not be able to get her videos back.
On Tuesday, she confirmed via Twitter that YouTube agreed to talk over the phone. The sudden help from the platform came just one day after she posted a 45-minute video detailing the company’s disappointing response to her vlog channel being hacked in January. That call, however, did not go in the direction she was hoping.
She posted on Twitter that the call “wasn’t great.” On a Wednesday night Instagram story, she told her followers that she would likely lose the content she had on the channel, some of which is a decade old.
Her problems with YouTube’s support stem back even further than this phone call. Rienks’ Monday video starts with her explaining that in October, she realized her main channel was not appearing online for viewers, despite it looking fine from her end while logged in. Solving this with YouTube took roughly two weeks. During that time, they had back and forths where they told her nothing was wrong with her channel.
The company eventually realized they had been looking into her vlog channel instead and had also sent her the wrong link to solve her main channel issues. During this time, she did notice a suspicious upload on her vlog channel but kept that on the back burner so she could focus on her main channel.
Her vlog channel came back to the forefront on January 2, when Rienks realized it had been fully hacked and rebranded. Her videos were gone, and even though the channel still had her URL, it was now called “Beauty Dior” and has new logos and images.
The page was now full of several newly posted videos, all of which appeared to be re-uploads of beauty tutorials which she suspects are also stolen. On top of that, the email she had associated with the channel was deleted, preventing her from recovering it and regaining control of the account.
Exchanges With YouTube Continue For Two Months
Rienks reached out to YouTube the following morning, thinking this would be an easy fix seeing as the hacking was very obvious. Instead, it led to a series of seemingly empty-worded exchanges between YouTube, Rienks, her manager, and others on her team. In some emails sent from YouTube, Rienks was not even included and had to be kept in the loop via her manager.
In one, the YouTuber support person addresses the email to “Alex.” However, no one involved in these communications is named Alex, or even a name remotely similar to Alex. Rienks stated multiple times that she felt she was not in contact with a real person.
Substantial news did not come from YouTube until February 22, when YouTube told Meghan they found no signs of abnormal activity on the channel. When she followed up, emphasizing that the channel had been fully rebranded, they maintained their findings in a grammatically messy email.
“Hi there, thanks for your reply. I understand why you’re wondering that the investigation resulted that no highjacking activity happened on the channel,” they wrote. “However, I can assure you that our internal team carefully investigated this and didn’t found any.”
They advised that she increase her password and account security, a measure she had actively been taking on all of her channels and social media accounts since the original incident in October.
Rienks Takes to Twitter
The next morning, she emailed them at 9 AM to request a phone call so she could guarantee swift, immediate contact with a real person. She also hopped on Twitter to express her frustrations.
At around the same time she sent her email, she shared YouTube’s response alongside proof that her account had been clearly hacked on Twitter. She also said she had seen a substantial loss in subscribers on the channel since January.
While those posts gained a decent amount of traction when she uploaded them, they blew up when YouTuber Shane Dawson shared one a little after 2 p.m. Dawson mentioned several YouTube Twitter accounts in his message, which included a plea for help.
Just 45 minutes after Shane sent his tweet out, Rienks saw action from YouTube. She received an email saying that phone support was not an option, but her case was now being marked high priority. She also began direct messaging Team YouTube, which led to more confusing back and forths.
After initially claiming that YouTube had looked into her main channel instead of her vlog, an excuse similar to one give during the first situation in October, Team YouTube they were “not sure why [internal teams] came to that conclusion” that there was no abnormal activity on her vlog. They assured Rienks that she had been in contact with real people at YouTube, and apologized for the delay in solving her problem.
“I am sorry you had to take to twitter to get more help with this,” one of the messages read. “That shouldn’t be the case at all.”
Around the same time, another well-known face slid into Rienks’ DMs –supermodel Gigi Hadid. Hadid, who is a follower of Reinks, told her that she was sorry about her situation, and had a friend at YouTube who could be able to help.
“This is the only time that I’m getting help,” Rienks said frustratedly in her video. “Is when Shane Dawson and Gigi Hadid help me. Thanks guys.”
On this day, Beauty Dior was still posting content on her channel. She also noted she saw that the account was being sold on a site for $500.
Rienks’ Frustrations with YouTube
While Rienks was recording her video, she got an update from YouTube.
“The email YouTube just sent is that I can have my channel transferred over to me, I just have to agree to not sue them,” Rienks explained. “And also, I can’t have any of the videos that were privated. Which is all of them.”
She spoke to her attorney about the email, who said that nothing in their message to her contained a legal document or legally binding clauses.
“This is a failed system and it’s not working,” she said, explaining her overall anger about YouTube’s response. “And also through all of this I found, if it’s not working for me, it is not working for so many creators who have much smaller channels.”
In the description of the video, she further expressed that while she wants her channel back, she also wants larger-scale change at YouTube.
“I want a meeting at Youtube. With REAL HUMANS. With the ‘people’ who run the support team & *personally* investigate hijacked channels,” she wrote. “Because it is a broken system and it needs to be changed. I know this is a long shot, but this has been happening for far too long, to far too many creators.”
“There’s no way that Youtube has coded & built software to pickup on less than 10 seconds of skewed pitch copyrighted song, yet they’re still unable to accurately verify a compromised channel,” she added. “This needs to change.”
When heading to Rienks’ vlog channel today, viewers can still find it as Beauty Dior.
Update: This article was updated from its original form to include new information about Rienks’ phone call with YouTube.
An Activist Hedge Fund Wants Jack Dorsey Out as Twitter CEO. Could That Change the Site?
- Last week, it was reported that conservative activist investor Elliott Management had purchased over $1 billion in Twitter shares, or about 4% of the company.
- Now, Elliott Management wants to replace Twitter’s co-founder, Jack Dorsey, as CEO.
- This is largely viewed as an attempt to boost Twitter’s stock, which has been underperforming since Dorsey reclaimed his CEO position in 2015.
- According to Fox News, a Dorsey ousting by Elliott Management could “raise the prospect that some of the changes to Twitter could make the platform a friendlier place for pro-Trump users.”
Hedge Fund Plans to Push Dorsey Out of Twitter
Twitter employees took to the platform Monday night in support of CEO Jack Dorsey after it was reported that an activist investment fund was trying to unseat him.
Last week, the fund known as Elliott Management announced it had bought roughly $1 billion in Twitter stock. According to Business Insider, that’s nearly 5% of the company and also enough to allow it to pressure Dorsey out of his CEO role.
Elliot Management wants to oust Dorsey for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most significant reason is that Twitter is underperforming. Dorsey previously served as CEO of Twitter until being fired in 2008. He then returned in 2015. Since then, Twitter’s shares have fallen by 6.2%. Facebook, by contrast, has gained more than 121% in that same timeframe.
In November, Dorsey also announced that he’s preparing to move to Africa for 3-6 months this year.
That’s on top of Dorsey already splitting his time between Twitter and Square, Inc., where Dorsey is also CEO.
Elliott Management’s main argument here will be that a full-time CEO would be able to devote more time to the company to help raise its stock value and grow the company.
This, however, isn’t the first time someone has announced a plan to oust Dorsey. In fact, such a move seemed bound to happen because unlike Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel, Dorsey does not have voting control of Twitter.
In December, New York University marketing professor Scott Galloway penned a letter calling for Dorsey’s removal.
“As of 12/6 I am the direct and beneficial owner of approximately 334,000 shares in Twitter,” Galloway said. “To be clear, my primary objective is the replacement of CEO Jack Dorsey.”
“Weak governance, a part-time CEO, relocation to Africa, damage to the commonwealth, and poor returns,” he added. “Stakeholders deserve a board and CEO that command the opportunity Twitter occupies.”
Could A Dorsey Oust Make Twitter More “Trump Friendly?”
The reasons why Elliott Management is trying to push Dorsey may not stop there.
The hedge fund is owned by Paul Singer, a conservative billionaire mega-donor. In 2016, Singer donated $24 million to Republican and right-leaning groups.
It is possible, as Fox News points out, that Elliot Management’s increased presence within Twitter could, at least in part, ease conservative’s concerns that Twitter has a left-leaning bias.
Elliott Management’s stake “[raises] the prospect that some of the changes to Twitter could make the platform a friendlier place for pro-Trump users. ”
Last year, California GOP Representative Devin Nunes filed a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter and several users. In that lawsuit, he accused the platform of “shadow-banning conservatives” and hiding their posts.
#WeBackJack Trends on Twitter
Following all of this, many Twitter employees supporting Dorsey in his role as CEO posted stories of their interactions with Dorsey using the hashtag #WeBackJack. Later Monday night, that tag began to trend.
“I’ve worked [for] many major corporations,” one user said. “Never did the CEO take 3 minutes to talk with me 1:1. Jack did (more than 3 mins might I add) & he didn’t treat me like someone below him. Ppl speak highly of him in rooms he’s not in. He’s not pretentious or egocentric. So yea #WeBackJack”
Telsa CEO Elon Musk also offered his support for Dorsey on Twitter Monday night, saying Dorsey “has a good [heart].”
Elliott Management Nominates Four Directors
While Elliott Management has not yet ousted Dorsey, it has nominated four people to Twitter’s board of directors.
Notably, there’s only going to be three seats available at this year’s annual meeting, but Elliott Management reportedly wants to ensure that it nominates enough people to fill all three seats and any vacancies that may unexpectedly arise.
Elliot Management’s move to remove Dorsey comes in the face of several major events including the worsening situation with the coronavirus, U.S. presidential elections, and the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Those events will likely attract more users to the site and could, in turn, drive more advertisers, thus increasing the company’s stock value.
Twitter, however, has fallen behind other social media platforms despite its widespread use. Reportedly, it has decided to focus on its core services even though other platforms have added features such as filters and stories.
It is unknown if a Dorsey ousting could change that policy as Twitter’s board of directors tries to increase its stock value.
See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (Business Insider) (Fox News)
Pokémon, Star Wars & Candy Crush: How DLCs & Microtransactions Changed The Gaming Industry
While DLC’s (downloadable content) and microtransactions are a commonly accepted practice in the gaming community, they are also still highly controversial. Some lawmakers around the world have even condemned these types of business models, likening them to child-targeted gambling. In the United States, Republican Senator Josh Hawley has proposed a bipartisan bill that would ban a type of microtransaction in games aimed at minors.
The topic of DLC’s and microtransaction is also a hot topic among fans, with many saying that while these features can help a game, a lot of times, they feel like companies abuse these practices. We want to know: What are YOU, as a consumer, willing to pay for?