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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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Following Ninja Deal, Gamers Flock to Mixer but Viewership Falls, According to New Data

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  • Following Mixer’s exclusive acquisition of Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, a new report shows that the number of unique channels on the platform has nearly doubled, but viewership has fallen.
  • In contrast, Blevins’ former platform Twitch has gained viewership but seen a decrease in channels and number of hours streamed.
  • Last week, Blevins’ wife and manager, said he made the decision to move to Mixer because his chatroom on Twitch became “toxic” and because Twitch’s contract with him would have limited his licensing deals. 

Mixer’s Growth Since Ninja Deal

A new report shows some of the contributions Ninja’s exclusive streaming deal with Mixer may have generated, including a major increase in the number of streamers and content on the platform, though overall views have decreased.

Ninja — whose real name is Tyler Blevins — joined the platform in August after leaving Twitch, a move that sent shockwaves through the gaming community, with many wondering how the switch would affect not only Blevins’ career but also Twitch and Mixer.

The report, published by Streamlabs and Newzoo, found that the number of unique channels on Mixer had doubled from 1.96 million in the second quarter to 3.92 million when Blevins joined in the third quarter.

Source: Streamlabs

Streamlabs attributed the massive gain to Blevins’s relocation to the platform, which it said likely encouraged other gamers to make a similar switch.

Because of the influx of new streamers, the number of hours users streamed on Mixer tripled from 11 million hours to just under 33 million.

Source: Streamlabs

Even though the number of streamers skyrocketed, Streamlabs actually reported that Mixer lost viewership in its third quarter, dropping from 100 million hours watched to 90 million hours watched. 

Source: Streamlabs

Since 2018, Mixer has consistently risen in viewership, with this quarter tracking the only dropoff within the past two years. Nonetheless, the yearly growth for Mixer has more than doubled. Experts have also noted the third quarter is usually the weakest part of the year for streaming platforms.

Metrics for Twitch and YouTube Gaming

Conversely, the Streamlabs report found that Twitch suffered the opposite problem: gaining viewership but losing streamers and content. 

Many have attributed Twitch’s loss of streamers in Q3 partially to those users moving to Mixer following its deal with Blevins; however, Twitch has been losing users for two quarters now. Since Q1, Twitch has actually lost about 2 million streamers and now sits below Mixer at 3.77 million users.

Twitch currently still dominates the streaming community, however, logging 2,551 million hours viewed for Q3.

Regarding users and hours streamed, YouTube Gaming has also seen a dropoff since Mixer’s acquisition of Blevins, but the number of hours viewed on the platform remained relatively unaffected between quarters. 

Source: Streamlabs

The Mixer-Ninja Deal

While the report indicates Blevins may not have had a substantial impact on bringing viewers to Mixer, it is unlikely his deal with the platform will change because of that. 

In an interview with Business Insider last week, Ninja’s wife and manager — Jessica Blevins — discussed why he decided to move to Mixer. She said part of his decision stemmed from toxicity in Blevins’ chatroom while streaming.

“I could tell, as his wife, the last few months on Twitch, he just didn’t seem like the Ninja that I knew,” she told the news agency, “He didn’t seem as enthusiastic, as loud, as hyped-up about wins and motivated to stream. It really seemed like he was kind of losing himself and his love for streaming.”

She also said they had tried to make a deal with Twitch but said they felt like they weren’t being listened to. She specifically pointed to the fact that Twitch’s contract would have limited Ninja’s licensing deals.

She then went on to say that Microsoft aligned with their ideals, calling it a warm and friendly environment. 

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (Digital Trends) (The Esports Observer)

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Trisha Paytas Accused of Exploiting Transgender Community

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  • Trisha Paytas posted a vlog titled “I AM TRANSGENDER (FEMALE TO MALE)” and specifically claimed to identify as a gay man. In the video, Paytas said: “So do I think I’m transgender? Yes. 1,000 percent. Do I identify with my natural-born gender? 1,000 percent.” 
  • Among the reasons listed for coming to this realization, Paytas included not wearing makeup every day, not having a ton of female friends, being attracted to gay men, and having “penis envy.”
  • Paytas received backlash from people who said the video dangerously equated gender stereotypes to gender identity and accused the YouTuber of trolling people for clicks.
  • Paytas apologized for the wording in the video, and added that the intent behind it was sincere. The YouTuber claimed that this has been an ongoing journey since childhood and that a therapist is currently helping with it. 

Paytas Posts Video

Trisha Paytas’ latest vlog titled “I AM TRANSGENDER (FEMALE TO MALE)” has landed the YouTuber into a pool of criticism, with many saying the video exploits the transgender community for attention.

Paytas opened Monday’s video by talking about being called names in school for having masculine features. The YouTube star also claimed to never love being a woman and described feeling most empowered when wearing masculine clothes and short hair. Paytas then claimed to identify as a man, specifically, a gay man. 

“Here’s the thing, I identify with men better,” Paytas said. “People always think there’s something wrong with me because I don’t have that many girlfriends. Like, I love girls, I do love girls and I love their sensitivity and stuff like that but that’s why identify more as a gay man because I like guys  but I also identify as a guy if that makes sense.” 

Paytas added that the one hang up in coming to this conclusion was loving glam and getting dolled up. Paytas then compared this identity to that of a drag queen. 

“So, in my head, I feel like I am a transgender female to male, but also a drag queen. That’s how I’ve rationalized it in my head,” Paytas added

Paytas then listed several reasons for making the announcement. This list included not loving being the center of attention unless specifically seeking it, not wanting to wear make-up on a day-to-day basis, being attracted to gay men, and having a distaste for straight men’s masculinity.

Paytas also talked about feeling “penis envy.”

“And then the final thing that kind of brings it full, I feel transgender almost is I’ve always had penis envy,” Paytas explained. “Like, this sounds so crazy to say out loud. I just always thought my life would be easier if I had that part. That if I asserted myself I wouldn’t be a bitch, but like, a man.” 

As far as pronouns, Paytas never specifically declared what to use going forward. However, Paytas did say that they/them pronouns are “confusing.” 

“That sounds like plural people,” Paytas commented. “And while people think I am schizophrenic or have multiple personalities, I choose not to identify as multiple personalities.”

The YouTuber continued to talk about gender fluidity and the idea that someone can feel male one day and a female the next, noting that this should be more widely accepted. Paytas also added that the intent behind this video is sincere and not to offend the trans community.

“I know that’s such a misconception, that transgender people are confused,” Paytas said. “And it’s not that I’m confused it’s that I identify as both. I just don’t necessarily like the term they or them.”

“So do I think I’m transgender? Yes. 1000% Do I identify with my natural-born gender? 1000%,” Paytas added.  

Video Gets Backlash

This video generated widespread backlash because people thought it could do a lot of harm to the trans community. Some were worried that Paytas was trolling to get more views, while others were just upset with the way the video presented the idea of being trans. 

Pride.com wrote a piece on the video, noting some of the specific ways Paytas’ rational could be dangerous. 

“While we’re always happy to support someone’s coming out journey, there’s a lot of problematic things to unpack with Trisha’s latest vlog,” the post read.

“The likes of which include: The fact that they don’t wear makeup or do their hair every day, which must mean they’re trans; That they’re “not catty” like “most women; Their attraction to gay men must mean they themselves are a gay man.”

“As many of us know, there’s more to being transgender than hair and makeup,” the article continues. 

Many others were also afraid that Paytas was equating gender-based stereotypes to gender identity, and conflating this idea with a sexual attraction to gay men. 

“Every single reason she gave for being trans was 100% invalid, offensive, & stereotype driven,” one user wrote. 

“Just because you were a tomboy, don’t wear makeup, and have a fetish for gay men doesn’t mean your trans,” said another. 

Drag queen Vicky Vox accused Paytas of using gender identity for clickbait. 

Others did attempt to be more sympathetic with their criticism. YouTuber Jake Edwards acknowledged that some of Paytas’ language could be harmful, but said people should still not turn to sending hate. 

This should be met with allowing Trisha the space to learn,” Edwards wrote. 

YouTuber Gigi Gorgeous said she talked on the phone with Paytas after being incredibly confused by the video. While Gigi did think some of the comments were problematic, she still said she wanted to respect Paytas’ identity, transition, and journey.

“I firmly believe that someone tells you who they are, what their label is, how they want to be identified, you have to believe that person,” she said in a response video.

Trisha Responds to Backlash

Paytas did respond to some of the backlash that the video received. 

“You don’t know me, my journey , my struggle, my transition,” Paytas wrote in response to Vox. “I’ve been with a gender identity therapy specialist for the past 6 months cause I hated who I was since I was 3.”

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Paytas also clarified that this was not meant to be a joke.

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Paytas also took to Instagram to further address the widespread responses. 

Screenshot via Instagram @trishapaytas

“I’m sorry that offended you but that is my truth and my reality that I have been facing,” Paytas wrote in an Instagram story. “It’s honest and it’s the difficulty I’m facing while transitioning. People don’t have the right to be offended by my truth. Men reject me because I’m too feminine. It’s not fair but it’s my reality and it’s my struggle that I’m going through.”

It has put me in a severe depression. I’m sorry,” Paytas added. “You don’t know my struggle. What I face may not be the same for other [female to male] but its what I have to hear and deal with on the regular for years.”

Paytas Posts Apology Video

On Tuesday morning Paytas posted another video called “apology.” In it, the YouTuber mentioned Gigi and her video, and said that their phone call was very impactful. Paytas also added that the backlash the video received was not expected, as the intent behind it was genuine. Paytas claimed that this has been an ongoing struggle since childhood that a therapist has been helping with. 

“I hated my breasts. I hated my vagina,” Paytas explained. “I hated going into the female bathroom. I hated being classified as a female. I hated being told to play with barbies and stuff like that.” 

Paytas then apologized for any offense the video may have caused. 

“I’m sorry if I offended people with my language and the way I said things,” Paytas said. “I’m so new to all of this. I’m so new to it.” 

“I would never mock a community that I’ve loved and has loved me and has been so open and accepting to me,” Paytas added. “I would never mock them, I would never do that disservice to myself.”

See what others are saying: (Pride.com) (Cosmopolitan) (Insider)

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Dobre Brothers Apologize After Underwhelming Meet and Greet Clip Goes Viral

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  • YouTube creators and social media users are slamming the Dobre Brothers for their lack of enthusiasm during a fan meet and greet. 
  • Critics noted that fans paid and waited months to meet the social media stars, only to be disappointed by their interaction with them.
  • Lucas Dobre apologized in a tweet saying that the brothers had endured “a long 48 hours of restless filming and touring” without sleep.

Meet and Greet Video Goes Viral

Four social media personalities known as the Dobre Brothers faced heavy criticism online this week after a viral video showed a fan meet and greet that some called “awkward” and “uncomfortable.”

The video, which seemed to have originally been posted to TIkTok, was reshared on Twitter where it has been viewed millions of times. In it, a fan approaches Lucas, Marcus, Darius, and Cyrus Dobre, for her turn to meet and take a photo with them. However, when she walks over to the group, the fan is met with some pretty unenthusiastic attitudes. 

The brothers have a massive following online. On YouTube alone, the Dobre Brothers have 7.7 million subscribers, while Lucas and Marcus – The Dobre Twins– have over 17 million subscribers on their separate channel. 

The creators, known for their stunts, sibling pranks, and music, are currently on a 21-stop live tour. Internet users pointed out that meeting the brothers for photos is a perk featured in special packages that fans must pay extra for.

According to the group’s website, General Admission is $29.99. Admission plus a meet and greet goes for $75.99. The next tier, “All Access VIP + Admission,” is sold for $199.99. Finally, their highest and most expensive tier, “Dobre Army Ultimate Fan Experience,” costs $599.99. 

It is unclear at this time what package the fan in the video paid for, but it had to have been higher than the general admission price. 

Outrage

After seeing the video, many took to Twitter to slam the group for their attitudes. “The dobre brothers do no desrve to have fans [if] this is how they are going to treat them,” one user wrote. 

Defense

Despite the backlash, many have come to the groups’ defense and said that the brothers could have been having a long day.

“Yo we don’t know what’s really going on in this though. They could have been there for hours and hours and maybe they got some bad news just before,” one user wrote.

Another said, “they work extremely hard to make their fans happy and if u guys were in the same position as they are u will be twice as exhausted…”

Apology

On Monday, Lucas Dobre apologized on the group’s behalf, writing, “After a long 48 hours of restless filming and touring then meeting thousands of fans with no sleep we were exhausted by the end of our show.”

The post was then retweeted by other members of the group. While some fans accepted the apology, others said the brothers should have canceled meet and greets if they were that tired. 

The brothers even saw comments and criticism from fellow internet stars. Beauty YouTuber James Charles, who has in the past been slammed for selling $500 tour tickets, tweeted, “what the actual fuck is this,” later adding, “Being tired is NOT an excuse to not smile and give a hug to people who pay to meet you.” 

YouTuber JC Caylen also tweeted “yo this is actually hella sad,” before noting that the fan probably waited months for this moment.

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