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Influencers Face Backlash for Saudi-Sponsored Tourism Posts

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  • As Saudi Arabia opens its doors to leisure tourism, it has promoted itself by giving several popular influencers all-expenses-paid trips to the country.
  • Those influencers, who then posted Instagram advertisements of their trips, are facing backlash from online critics who say the posts were tone-deaf to Saudi Arabia’s human rights issues. 
  • The campaign comes as Saudi Arabia continues to open up the country through tourism and major entertainment acts like BTS.

Influencer Ad Campaign

A group of Instagram influencers and some YouTubers are facing criticism after agreeing to a tourism-inspired ad campaign sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government.

The trips, gifted by Saudi Arabia’s tourism board and travel program called Gateway KSA, are part of a larger effort to open up tourism as the country seeks to lessen its dependence on oil. On Sept. 28, the kingdom began offering travel visas, allowing leisure travel. Historically, the Saudi government has limited access to business and religious travel. 

The influencers included Lana Rose, Tara Whiteman, and Alyssa Bossio, all of whom boast over a million followers on Instagram.

“When I was a kid, I used to watch Aladdin,” Lana Rose said in a sponsored post. “Never did I think I could live it too 😍 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦”

Rose then ended her post with the hashtag #WelcomeToArabia and linked to the account VisitSaudi.

Source: lanarose786

Many of the influencers posted photos from a site known as the “Edge of the World,”  a dramatic series of cliffs overlooking the desert. 

“For all the flat earthers out there, we found the edge of the world! Turns out it’s in Saudi Arabia,” Whiteman said. “Feeling so lucky to be a part of this exciting event, as Saudi Arabia opens its doors to tourists for the first time. This beautiful country has so much to offer. I’m so grateful to be here and to see what’s to come.”

Like Rose, she also tagged the post #WelcomeToArabia and linked to the country’s tourism account; Whiteman also directly tagged the content as an ad.

Source: taramilktea

New York-based Bossio praised the country while addressing its plans to advertise itself as a tourist destination.

“One of my goals for this year was to learn, experience and be open minded about other countries and cultures,” she said. “Every place has such a unique story. Saudi Arabia is opening to tourists from across the world for the first time. There is a lot changing within the country. The hospitality, warmth and vibrant culture has made me appreciate this country and all of its beauty. I was not sure what to expect traveling here, but being here has brought me a new sincere appreciation for this place! 🐫 #WelcomeToArabia”

Source: lyss

Other major YouTubers like Caspar Lee and Daniel Supertramp also joined the campaign, Supertramp saying he felt like Indiana Jones after exploring ancient tombs with locals.

Source: caspar_lee
Source: devinsupertramp

Reportedly, Gateway KSA said the influencers can post whatever they want about their trip; however, they were also reportedly not allowed to deviate from their approved itineraries.

Online Response

While the posts seemed to be an ad campaign aimed at promoting the culture and the natural beauty of the country, many Instagram users were quick to paint a very different story of Saudi Arabia.

Writing in the comments section, those users referred to the April execution of 37 people the Saudi government claimed to be terrorists, though most were reported to be of the Shiite minority. 

“Life is not a fairy tale,” one user wrote. “The Saudi government executed 37 people in a single day in April. It systematically brutalizes its own people; needless to say it has a horrible record regarding basic human rights. I will never visit it. Shame on you for normalizing them.”

Source: lanarose786
Source: micksalas
Source: micksalas

Another travel blogger by the name of Travellingjezebel wrote, “While the biggest travel bloggers & influencers in the industry are taking money from the Saudi government to showcase the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a good light, let us take a moment to remember how SAUDI bloggers are treated.” 

She then discusses Raif Badawi, a Saudi writer sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for talking about religious freedom and women’s rights.

“For a blogger to take money from a government that locks up and tortures its own bloggers and journalists (Raif is not the only one by a long way), it is shameful,” she continues. “Just remember people like Raif when you see these influencers’ glamorous pictures. #welcometoarabia”

Several other users, however, noted the situation in Saudi Arabia but continued to support the influencers associated with the campaign.

Some, including other influencers, then expressed their interest in visiting. 

Saudi Arabia Relaxes Travel Visas

The new visa program will allow women to now travel alone without restrictions. Female tourists will also no longer be required to wear all black dress robes called abayas.

All of this is part of a massive change as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s opens Saudi Arabia to previously-banned types of industry and entertainment. Notably, that includes scheduling major acts like Nicki Minaj, BTS, and Mariah Carey.

Minaj, however, later canceled her concert because of backlash because fans were quick to point out Saudi Arabia’s negative track record with women and the LGBTQ community. They also pointed to the death of Jamal Khashoggi, where the CIA concluded his death was a hit by MBS.

Similarly, BTS has now faced some criticism and backlash over their upcoming Oct. 11 performance, with rapper RM saying the decision was not easy to make.

“If there’s a place where people want to see us, we’ll go there,” Jimin said. “That’s really how we feel.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (The Guardian) (Bloomberg)

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Twitch Sues Two Users for Creating Hate Raid Bots That Targeted Black and LGBTQ+ Streamers

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Twitch said the two users were so relentless in their racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ+ hate raids that they forced some creators to stop streaming.


Twitch Sues Two Users

Twitch has filed a lawsuit against two of its users for allegedly creating hate raid bots that targeted Black and LGBTQ+ streamers with racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ+ content. 

The users named in the lawsuit, filed late Thursday, are CruzzControl and CreatineOverdose. While their legal names are currently unknown, Twitch said it traced one to the Netherlands and the other to Austria. It added that it will amend the suit to include their real names once it learns them. 

Twitch said both users began using bots to flood streamers’ chats with hate-filled messages in August. Despite multiple suspensions and bans, Twitch said the two continually created new accounts to continue their hate raid crusades. 

According to the lawsuit, CruzzControl operated nearly 3,000 bots that were used to spam the discriminatory and harassing content. Meanwhile, CreatineOverdose used “their bot software to demonstrate how it could be used to spam Twitch channels with racial slurs, graphic descriptions of violence against minorities, and claims that the hate raiders are the KKK.”

Twitch didn’t just stop at accusations of hateful actions and rule-breaking. It even claimed the two users were so forceful in their efforts to attack creators that they pressured some to stop streaming altogether, “eliminating an important source of revenue for them.”

Twitch Users Demand Change

Twitch creators have long complained about hate raids, but a number of small creators began organizing a cohesive movement in early August following what appeared to be a growing number of hate raids. 

Many demanded that Twitch address the situation by holding round tables with affected creators and enabling different features that would give them the ability to shut down incoming raids. Critics also called on the platform to provide detailed information about how it plans to protect creators moving forward. While Twitch did promise to implement fixes, a large portion of users weren’t satisfied with its messaging. 

The bulk of users’ efforts culminated on Sep. 1 when various creators participated in #ADayOffTwitch, a one-day walkout designed to reduce traffic on the platform. 

Despite Twitch’s lawsuit, a number of users have still said they won’t be completely satisfied with the platform’s actions until more is accomplished. For now, their primary goal is to have Twitch directly outline what steps it’s taking to prevent hate raids.

In its lawsuit, Twitch does make a cursory mention of several changes it said it’s introduced recently, including “implementing stricter identity controls with accounts, machine learning algorithms to detect bot accounts that are used to engage in harmful chat, and augmenting the banned word list.”

“Twitch mobilized its communications staff to address the community harm flowing from the hate raids and assured its community that it was taking proactive measures to stop them,” it added. “Twitch also worked with impacted streamers to educate them on moderation toolkits for their chats and solicited and responded to streamers’ and users’ comments and concerns.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BuzzFeed News) (Kotaku)

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Streamers Protest Racist and Homophobic Hate Raids With #ADayOffTwitch

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The creators participating in the walkout want Twitch to implement policies that actively combat hate-raiding.


#ADayOffTwitch

Numerous Twitch streamers went dark on the platform Wednesday as part of a movement called #ADayOffTwitch, which participants have described as a way to stand “in solidarity with marginalized creators under attack by botting & hate-raids.” 

The protest was organized last month after a smaller creator by the name of RekItRaven, who is Black and uses they/them pronouns, had their streams flooded with racist messages twice.  

“This channel now belongs to the KKK,” dozens of users commented during the streams. 

Source: @RekItRaven

For RekItRaven, those messages also came at a particularly disparaging time, as they had just finished talking about how several traumatic experiences had shaped their life. 

Following the stream, RekItRaven began using #TwitchDoBetter, saying, “I love Twitch. I love the community that I built there… BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN I HAVE TO ACCEPT BEING TREATED LIKE SHIT ON THE PLATFORM.”

Soon, RekItRaven’s concerns gained traction, prompting a number of other smaller creators to step forward with their experiences about being on the receiving end of hate-raids. Eventually, that morphed into Tuesday’s #ADayOffTwitch protest, which has been spearheaded by RekItRaven and two other small creators known as ShineyPen and Lucia Everblack.

Protesters’ Demands

The protesters are demanding that Twitch make several concessions moving forward. Those demands include the platform:

  • Holding round-tables with affected creators to assist with the creation of tools that combat abuse on the platform.
  • Enabling creators to select the account age for prospective chatters.
  • Allowing creators the ability to deny incoming raids.
  • Removing the ability to attach more than three Twitch accounts to one email address since hate-raiders can currently use a single email to register unlimited accounts. 
  • Providing transparency into the actions being taken to protect creators, including giving a timeframe for that implementation.

For its part, Twitch has already promised to implement fixes, saying on Aug. 20, “Hate spam attacks are the result of highly motivated bad actors, and do not have a simple fix.”

“We’ve been building channel-level ban evasion detection and account improvements to combat this malicious behavior for months,” it added. “However, as we work on solutions, bad actors work in parallel to find ways around them—which is why we can’t always share details.” 

However, for now, creators must still deal with potentially being hate-raided while streaming, which is why their anger toward Twitch has persisted.

Do Small Creators Have a Big Enough Voice?

The protest led by mostly smaller creators is also almost entirely composed of them. Because of this, the vacuum of silence from large creators, who hold a disproportionate amount of influence on the platform, has also led to frustration.

Many have pointed out that large creators will publicly show their support for minority causes during events such as Black History Month and Pride Month, but smaller users said they feel abandoned when those same creators don’t also actively participate in causes that directly combat minority hate. 

“Nobody gives a fuck if you take the day off. Nobody knows who you are That’s the truth,” streamer Asmongold, who has 2.4 million followers on Twitch, on a stream last month. “If people got together and they said, we’re all going to collectively do it, I would do it in a heartbeat. Right, I would do it. I’ve got no problem because I do believe in power in numbers, I absolutely do, which is why I don’t believe in this. Like, you can’t get a bunch of 20 Andy’s together and think that you’re going to do anything. Nobody gives a fuck.”

That said, some influential streamers have added their voices to #ADayOff Twitch. For example, both Rhymestyle and Meg Turney participated in Tuesday’s protest; however, both creators have hundreds of thousands of more followers outside of Twitch rather than on it. 

A number of smaller creators have also argued that it’s not feasible for them to take a day off even though they want to support the cause. For example, taking a day off could jeopardize them keeping their affiliate or partner status, which could, in turn, jeopardize their channels.

Meanwhile, others have argued that outcomes such as those are exactly what hate-raiders want to achieve, so logging off Twitch for a day could be playing into their hands. 

Others still said they wanted to participate but are contractually obligated to stream every day either because of sponsorships or other deals.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Engadget) (NBC News)

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CallMeCarson Announces Return to Streaming Following Grooming Allegations

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In his return announcement, the YouTuber promised to donate 100% of his proceeds to charity in hopes that he can turn a negative situation with a lot of eyes on it into something positive.” 


CallMeCarson Returns

Popular “Minecraft” YouTuber and streamer Carson King, known online as CallMeCarson, announced Wednesday that he will return to streaming following accusations he faced earlier this year of grooming and sexting underage fans.

In a video titled “Moving Forward,” King said he would begin streaming on Twitch again on Sept. 1 as part of what he is calling a “Year of Charity.” For the next 12 months, King plans to donate 100% of his proceeds to different charities, selecting a new one each month. 

“Before you start looking at this as an excuse to sweep things under the rug, that’s not what this is,” he explained in his video. “I’m doing this to turn a negative situation with a lot of eyes on it into something positive that can help a lot of people.” 

King did not address the details of the allegations that have been levied against him. Instead, he said he wanted to focus on what he can do in the future. 

“I’ve learned a lot this past year,” King said. “I’m not seeking forgiveness nor am I looking to make excuses.”

Grooming Allegations Made Against CallMeCarson

In January, members of his YouTube group The Lunch Club told “DramaAlert” that in March of 2020, King had admitted to grooming underage fans. They claimed to not know many details but stated that his confession ultimately led to the group disbanding. One former member, known as “Slimecicle,” even said he reported Carson to authorities.

The victims themselves ended up coming forward online. One, who identified herself as Sam, said Carson sent her sexually suggestive messages in 2019 when he was 19 and she was 17. She also posted Discord messages the two exchanged where King said he could not “control” himself and asked when she turned 18. 

Another girl, who went by CopiiCatt, said King sent her nude photos when she was 17 and he was 20. 

Following this, King took a hiatus online, and now, his return has been met with mixed reactions.

His “Moving Forward” video has been viewed over 1.2 million times, receiving 252,000 likes and just 14,000 dislikes. 

On Twitter, however, more people expressed frustration with his return and were upset by the swell of support for King despite the accusations against him. 

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (Dot Esports) (HITC)

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