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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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Shane Dawson Says Hurtful Comments Are the Reason He Doesn’t Upload More

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  • Shane Dawson uploaded a video to his new YouTube channel dedicated to makeup videos and other “random” posts.
  • Shortly after his latest video went live, Dawson shared a comment someone left about his weight, saying that comments like these are what keep him from uploading more. 
  • After a flood of support, Dawson apologized for posting the screenshot and said he was taking a break from the internet.

Shane Glossin 

Long-time YouTuber Shane Dawson opened up on Wednesday about negative comments that make him hesitant to upload more content. 

As you probably already know, Dawson has a massively successful channel with over 23 million subscribers. And while fans love when he drops a new docuseries, he regularly hears complaints that he doesn’t upload enough. 

At some point during the process of his recent makeup collaboration with Jeffree Star Cosmetics, he was inspired to create a new channel, ShaneGlossin, which is named after a lip gloss included in his collection. Dawson does already have a second channel, Shane Dawson TV, though he hasn’t uploaded through that account in several years. 

In January, Dawson made his followers aware of the third account, calling it a low-pressure place to post makeup videos and other random content. 

Shane Tweets About Negative Comments

While his main channel has remained inactive over the past two months, Dawson has uploaded a few videos to his new channel, which currently sits at just over 3 million subscribers. On Wednesday, he uploaded a light-hearted video about his bedazzling obsession and shortly after the video went live, he shared a screenshot of a comment someone left under it.

The comment he shared read: “I love Shane but it’s a damn shame to watch him putting all this weight back on while everyone around him laughs and enables it.”

“Hey Shane why don’t u post more? Why don’t u upload more? Well… this 🙃,” Dawson wrote in the tweet that accompanied the screenshot. “You would think after 13 years on youtube comments wouldn’t get to me but damn… they still feel like the very first time haha.”

It’s no secret that for years, Dawson has been open about his weight insecurities, body image issues, and mental health struggles. After sharing the comment, fans quickly flooded him with messages of love and support. 

In a follow-up post, Dawson apologized for sharing the screenshot “Thanks for the nice tweets. I appreciate it a lot,” he wrote. “Sorry I got sensitive and posted that. I usually just ignore stuff but I’m just in a weird headspace lately :/ I think I’m gonna take a break from the internet for a bit. Thanks for being supportive and having my back.” 

While Dawson has been met with kindness from friends and fans, his post highlights the impact hate comments on social media can have on a person, no matter how big or small their following.

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (Pop Buzz) (Distractify)

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Ninja Sparks Conversations About Dealing With Gaming Losses

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  • Ninja tweeted that the phrase “it’s just a game” signals a weak mindset and was critical of players who are not angry after a loss. 
  • Some saw it as a message about improvement and taking the game seriously, while others used it as an opportunity to make jokes. 
  • But many said the comments send a bad message to his young audience and argued that you do not need to become angry to learn from a loss.

Ninja’s Message 

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, one of the Internet’s biggest gamers, called out players who aren’t angry after a loss, sparking conversations about healthy ways to deal with failure. 

On Tuesday, Ninja tweeted, “The phrase ‘it’s just a game’ is such a weak mindset. You are ok with what happened, losing, imperfection of a craft. When you stop getting angry after losing, you’ve lost twice.”

“There’s always something to learn, and always room for improvement, never settle,” he added.

Reactions 

Many interpreted his tweet as an inspirational message about taking gaming seriously and agreed with him. 

Others used it as an opportunity to crack jokes about his intense remarks, including Lil Nas X and KSI.

But plenty of others thought his comments actually sent a dangerous message about dealing with and learning from failure. 

Gaming YouTuber Ohmwrecker, also known as MaskedGamer, disagreed with Ninja. In a response tweet, he said, “You don’t have to be a sore / salty loser and get all toxic to learn from a loss. I feel strongly losing helps you get better, especially in competitive games.  Anyone doing anything competitive should find value in a loss, but don’t need anger to benefit.”

He also said it actually was weak to suggest that managing your emotions is “losing twice” and accused Ninja of trying to justify his own internal challenges.

Thousands of other users chimed in expressing similar sentiments about managing emotions.

Ninja Says He Never Suggested Violent Rage Was Appropriate 

In a now-deleted tweet, another person called Ninja’s stance disappointing, “particularly from someone with an audience who will take this as ‘it’s ok to smash my keyboard/scream at my loved ones/punch a hole in the wall just because I lost a game.’”

@zhiana

Ninja responded to that user with, “Where in this tweet do I say punch a wall and smash a keyboard/rage? It’s the way you perceived the message 🤔”

When someone argued that Ninja was essentially telling kids to keep playing until they win otherwise they are failures, Ninja said, “‘There is always room for improvement, never settle’ is bad advice?”

The wave of backlash doesn’t seem to have changed Ninja’s mind about his long-running issue with people who say “its just a game.” One user even shared a clip of Ninja once commenting on this topic. “Imagine telling Lebron James, Tom Brady, that when they’re pissed off after losing a game that ‘its just a game,” he says in the clip. 

“Are you kidding me? You’re so stupid. It’s the competitive nature bro. It’s about respect bro. It’s about pride. It’s so much bigger than a fucking video game, and anyone that ever users the excuse ‘it’s just a game’ is a horrible human being and is lazy.” 

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (GameRevolution) (CCN)

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Jake Paul Criticized for Tweets About Anxiety

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  • YouTuber Jake Paul tweeted, “remember anxiety is created by you,” before advising his followers who might be struggling to remind themselves to be happy, relax their minds, and talk to a friend. 
  • Many found his comments insulting and dangerous, but others defended him for what they felt was a well-intentioned tweet with advice that some might find helpful.  
  • In a follow-up tweet, Paul opened up about his own anxiety issues and explained that he was trying to say there are ways to help cope, but he eventually deleted that post along with his initial tweet.

“Anxiety is Created by You”

Internet users are slamming YouTuber Jake Paul over a tweet about mental health that many found dangerous and insulting. 

On Monday the 23-year-old tweeted, “remember anxiety is created by you. sometimes you gotta let life play out and remind yourself to be happy & that the answers will come.”

“Chill your mind out,” he added before recommending that those struggling “go for a walk” or “talk to a friend.” 

@jakepaul

Backlash 

The tweet prompted thousands of responses from internet users. Many, of course, joked that Paul had “cured” their anxiety. 

Meanwhile, others fired back with more serious responses, including people who suffer from anxiety themselves. 

Fellow YouTubers like Sierra Schultzzie also chimed in writing, “This is actually really harmful. Anxiety can be incredibly physical as well as mental. Mental illness is not the fault of the sufferer.”

“Please delete this, you are doing actual harm to your followers who very well may need to be seeking professional help for their problems,” she added.

Colleen Ballinger tweeted, “telling people with anxiety to just stop having anxiety does not help them with their anxiety.” 

Andrea Russett wrote, “i can’t believe i’m paying $200 an hour for therapy when i could just remind myself to be happy.”

Paul Tries to Clarify 

After seeing some backlash, Paul went back to Twitter with a follow-up post to expand on what he meant. “What I meant is that your anxiety can build up if you let it,” he wrote, “it doesn’t just go away.”

“Mine never does but there’s days where it’s really bad and then there’s days when it’s not as bad so if anxiety starts to build up there ARE ways to help it chill out.” 

@jakepaul

In another tweet, he wrote: “everyone is clowning my tweet but not it’s spreading more awareness about anxiety which I didn’t even know was a thing till I was 18 but had it my whole life & never knew how to deal with it.”

“If u think u have it or wanna deal with it try reading this,” Paul added along with a link to an article about coping with anxiety from Healthline.com.

In response to those comments, more influencers explained what exactly their issues were with his initial post.

Taylor Nicole Dean said, “ur tweet spread bAD info about anxiety bc it can stop people from getting help when it’s needed thinking they can just walk it off and chill :/ it was also a lil insulting to those who deal with it.”

Sky Williams responded by telling Paul his tweet was dangerous to his young audience. “Anxiety is bad enough as it is, but now you’re trying to make it seem like its our fault that we feel anxious. it’s just so invalidating and shortsighted. You should delete it.”

Paul eventually deleted his initial post as well as his follow up tweet, but left up think link he shared about coping with anxiety. 

Some Defend Paul

Despite the widespread backlash against Paul, many felt that his tweet was well-intentioned and could be helpful advice for some. 

Others argued that he shouldn’t be attacked for trying to share advice that has helped him. Instead, those who took issue with his phrasing or message should use this as an opportunity to educate.

See what others are saying: (Mashable) (Newsweek) (BBC)

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