- 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.
“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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.”
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)
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Says Trump Ban Was the “Right Decision” But Sets “Dangerous” Precedent
- While defending Twitter’s decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump, CEO Jack Dorsey noted the “dangerous” precedent such a move set.
- “Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation,” Dorsey said in a lengthy Twitter thread on Wednesday. “They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning.”
- Dorsey’s message came the same day Twitter fully reinstated Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Co.) account, hours after locking it for violating Twitter rules. A Twitter spokesperson later described the lock as an “incorrect enforcement action.”
Dorsey Describes Trump Ban as a Double-Edged Sword
In a lengthy Twitter thread published Wednesday, CEO Jack Dorsey defended his platform’s decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump, while also noting the “dangerous” precedent such a unilateral move sets.
Twitter made the decision to ban Trump on Jan. 8, two days after pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol complex in an assault that left multiple dead.
“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban [Trump] from Twitter, or how we got here,” Dorsey said in the first of 13 tweets.
Nonetheless, Dorsey described Trump’s ban as “the right decision for Twitter.”
“Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all,” he added.
“That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications,” Dorsey continued.
“[It] sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”
Dorsey described most bans as a failure of Twitter to “promote healthy conversation,” though he noted that exceptions to such a mindset also exist. Among other failures, Dorsey said extreme actions like a ban can “fragment public conversation,” divide people, and limit “clarification, redemption, and learning.”
Dorsey: Trump Bans Were Not Coordinated
Dorsey continued his thread by addressing claims and criticism that Trump’s ban on Twitter violated free speech.
“A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same,” he said.
Indeed, multiple legal experts have stated that Trump’s ban on social media does not amount to First Amendment violations, as the First Amendment only addresses government censorship.
“If folks do not agree with our rules and enforcement, they can simply go to another internet service,” Dorsey added. However, Dorsey noted that such a concept has been challenged over the past week.
This moment in time might call for this dynamic, but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet. A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
Trump has now been banned or suspended from a number of platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. On Wednesday, Snapchat announced plans to terminate Trump’s account in the “interest of public safety.” Previously, Snapchat had only suspended his account, but as of Jan. 20, it will be permanently banned.
Addressing criticism of the swift bans handed down by these platforms in the wake of the Capitol attack, Dorsey said he doesn’t believe Trump’s bans on social media were coordinated.
“More likely: companies came to their own conclusions or were emboldened by the actions of others,” he said.
Twitter Reverses Course of Locking Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Account
Dorsey’s thread regarding the fragile nature of regulating users’ privileges on the platform seemed to play out earlier the same day.
On Wednesday, newly-elected Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) posted a screenshot to Instagram showing that her Twitter account had been locked for six days. The screenshot stated that she had violated Twitter’s rules and would be unable to tweet, retweet, or like until her account was unlocked.
Hours later, Twitter reversed course and fully reinstated her account.
“In this instance, our teams took the incorrect enforcement action. The Tweet in question is now labeled in accordance with our Civic Integrity Policy. The Tweet will not be required to be removed and the account will not be temporarily locked,” a spokesperson for the platform told Insider.
It is unknown what tweet caused that initial ban, as Twitter refused to say.
The latest tweet from Boebert’s account to be tagged with a fact check warning is from Sunday. In that tweet, she baselessly and falsely accuses the DNC of rigging the 2020 Election, a claim that largely inspired the Capitol attacks.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (CNN) (Associated Press)
Uber and Lyft Drivers Sue To Overturn California’s Prop 22
- A group of Uber and Lyft drivers filed a lawsuit Tuesday against California’s controversial Prop 22, a ballot measure that was approved by nearly 59% of state voters in the 2020 election.
- While Prop 22 does promise drivers wage guarantees and health insurance stipends, it also eliminated some protections as well as benefits like sick pay and workers’ compensation.
- In their lawsuit, the drivers argue that Prop 22 “illegally” prevents them from being able to access the state’s workers’ compensation program.
What’s in the Lawsuit?
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, a group of Uber and Lyft drivers asked California’s Supreme Court to overturn the state’s controversial Prop 22 ballot measure.
The drivers behind the lawsuit, along with Service Employees International Union, allege that Prop 22 “illegally” bars them from being able to participate in the state’s workers’ compensation program.
Additionally, they argue that the measure violates California’s constitution by“stripping” the state legislature of its ability to protect who unionize.
“Every day, rideshare drivers like me struggle to make ends meet because companies like Uber and Lyft prioritize corporate profits over our wellbeing,” Plaintiff Saori Okawa said in a statement.
Conversely, Uber driver and Prop 22 activist Jim Pyatt denounced the lawsuit, saying,“Voters across the political spectrum spoke loud and clear, passing Prop 22 in a landslide. Meritless lawsuits that seek to undermine the clear democratic will of the people do not stand up to scrutiny in the courts.”
California ballot measures have been occasionally repealed in the past; however, most of the time, they’ve only been repealed following subsequent ballot measures. If this lawsuit fails, such an initiative would likely be the last option for overturning Prop 22.
What is Prop 22?
Prop 22, which was approved by 59% of state voters in the 2020 Election, exempts app-based transportation and delivery companies from having to classify their drivers as employees. Rather, those drivers are listed as “independent contractors,” also known as gig workers.
Notably, Prop 22 was supported by major industry players like DoorDash, Uber, Lyft, and Instacart, which launched a massive $200 million lobbying and advertising campaign.
While those companies did promise wage guarantees and health insurance stipends for drivers, Prop 22 also eliminated a number of protections and benefits drivers would have seen under an “employee” status, including sick pay and workers’ compensation.
Because of that, many opponents have argued that the measure incentivizes companies to lay off their employees in favor of cheaper labor options.
Last week, it was reported that grocery stores like Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions began laying off their delivery workers in favor of switching to ”third-party logistics providers.” According to Albertson’s, unionized delivery workers were not included in the layoffs.
In recent coverage from KPBS, one San Diego Vons delivery worker detailed a situation in which he and delivery workers were called into a meeting with management.
“I thought they were going to give us a bonus or a raise or something like that,” he said.
Ultimately, that employee was told he would be losing his job in late February, even though he had been with the company for two-and-a-half years.
“I didn’t want to tell them,” the employee said of his parents, one of whom is disabled. “I’m the breadwinner for the family.”
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Daniel Silva Blames Cory La Barrie for His Own Death in New Legal Filing
- Popular Tattoo artist Daniel Silva said the death of YouTuber Cory La Barrie was due to La Barrie’s “own negligence,” in response to a wrongful death lawsuit from his family.
- La Barrie died last May after Silva lost control of the sports car they were in, crashing into a street sign and tree.
- La Barrie’s family has accused Silva of negligence, saying his excessive speeding caused the crash. They also claim he was under the influence, though he was never formally charged with a DUI.
- According to TMZ, Silva filed documents saying La Barrie “assumed the risk of death when he jumped into Daniel’s car that fateful night back in May.”
Corey La Barrie’s Death
Popular tattoo artist Daniel Silva has blamed YouTuber Corey La Barrie for his own death in response to a wrongful death lawsuit from La Barrie’s family, according to TMZ.
The tabloid says he filed legal documents saying, “the car crash that led to Corey’s death was due to his own negligence, and he assumed the risk of death when he jumped into Daniel’s car that fateful night back in May.”
La Barrie died on May 10, his 25th birthday, after Silva was speeding and lost control of the sports car they were in, crashing into a street sign and tree.
Police say Silva tried to leave the scene but was stopped by witnesses. He was later arrested and charged with murder. Silva eventually reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead no contest to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.
In August, Silva was sentenced to 364 days in jail, with credit for 216 days served because of California sentencing guidelines, even though it had only been 108 days since the crash at the time.
He also earned five years of probation, 250 hours of community service, and a suspended prison sentence of four years, which would be imposed if he violates the terms of his probation.
Wrongful Death Suit
Silva still faces the family’s lawsuit, which they filed the same month their son died.
In it, La Barrie’s family has accused Silva of negligence, saying his excessive speeding caused the crash. They also claim he was driving under the influence.
It’s worth noting that people close to Silva have disputed that claim and he was never charged with a DUI. However, the first police statement about the crash labeled it a “DUI Fatal Traffic Collision.” Witnesses have said the two were partying earlier that night, though