YouTube star Adam Saleh on calling out racism and celebrating his Arab roots

Adam Saleh
Updated 12 October 2017
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YouTube star Adam Saleh on calling out racism and celebrating his Arab roots

LONDON: In one of his most popular vlogs, viewed 40 million times, YouTube personality Adam Saleh plays a prank on an unsuspecting relative. The post, entitled “Killer Clown Prank Gone Wrong!!!” shows Saleh dressing up in a blood-stained clown costume and recording his young niece’s reaction.
The 24-year-old TV personality, vlogger, actor and rapper, is best know for humorous videos like these, mixing skits, pranks, songs and stand-up, much of it focused on his experiences as an American Muslim living in the US.
What began as an antidote to teenage boredom in 2012 has since become a successful career. Today he has over 2 million subscribers to his YouTube channel as well as 1.5 million followers on Instagram.
Much of his audience, Saleh says, is Arab, but his humor has a universal appeal. “Initially, I did YouTube videos for fun, to make my family laugh, but then more people started watching and people recognized me as I walked in the street,” he said.
Building on his budding fanbase, Saleh decided to raise awareness of issues he felt were overlooked in the media. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat at his manager’s home in North London, Saleh, who is of Yemeni descent, described his early experiences of discrimination and bullying at schooI in New York, where, he said, racism was rife in lower-income neighborhoods.
Saleh comes from a close-knit family. “In the beginning, you know how Arab parents are, they said you should be a doctor, a lawyer, or a judge, because my grandpa was a judge but my parents ended up supporting me.”
Saleh’s aim, he has said, is to dispel misconceptions around his faith and many of his vlogs feature incidences highlighting issues surrounding racism. For each comedy, skit, or inspirational talk, “there’s always a theme, a lesson,” Saleh said. “No matter what country you’re from, we’re all one, we’re all human. Show love to one another.”
His career has not been without controversy. In a widely publicized incident in December last year, the YouTube star was removed from a Delta Airlines flight after passengers reportedly complained.
Saleh said he was speaking to his mother on the phone in Arabic and tweeted afterwards: “Yes, we’re pranksters and it sounds like the boy who cried wolf but today you can clearly see it’s as real as it gets.”
Last year, Saleh performed in 40 cities around the world and says he is keen to add destinations in Saudi Arabia, where he has a large following. “The Arabic will forever live with me,” he said. “I want people to be proud of where they’re from and never let anyone bring them down.”
Saleh spent two years studying law at NYU before quitting to appear on The Ellen Show. “I took the risk and did it. I have no regrets,” he said. “I love doing what I do, filming, making music, being out there doing what I do and making people smile.”
Always on camera in one medium or another, Saleh is shortly due to release one of his latest projects, a 14-track album filmed in Dubai, out on Oct. 29. After that, he’ll be doing a Netflix documentary in which he explores anti-Arab sentiment across America and selects six of his interviewees to travel with him to Egypt in an effort to tackle prejudice and change their views.
“The Arab culture is a beautiful culture and I always want to show it through my videos and vlogs,” he said.
A version of this article was originally published in Asharq Al-Awsat


Facebook accused of discrimination with job ad targeting

Updated 19 September 2018
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Facebook accused of discrimination with job ad targeting

  • It charges that job ads on Facebook targeted male users only
  • Facebook lets advertisers target ads on the basis of gender and age, which is against the law in America

WASHINGTON: A complaint has been filed with the US government accusing Facebook and 10 other companies of using the platform’s job ad targeting system to discriminate on the basis of gender.
The complaint was announced Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, a union called the Communications Workers of America and a labor law firm, on behalf of three female job seekers and a group of “thousands” of members represented by the union.
It charges that job ads on Facebook targeted male users only. It also alleges that most of the listings were for jobs in male-dominated fields, so women and non-binary users were excluded from seeing these ads.
Facebook lets advertisers target ads on the basis of gender and age, which is against the law in America, the complaint reads.
“I shouldn’t be shut out of the chance to hear about a job opportunity just because I am a woman,” said Bobbi Spees, one of the three women named in the complaint.
Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said in a statement to CNNMoney that there is no place for discrimination on Facebook.
“It’s strictly prohibited in our policies, and over the past year we’ve strengthened our systems to further protect against misuse,” Osborne said.
Facebook will defend itself once it has reviewed the complaint, he added.
The ACLU noted that online platforms such as Facebook are generally not liable for content published by others.
“But in this case, Facebook is doing much more than merely publishing content created by others,” the advocacy group argued.
“It has built the architecture for this discriminatory marketing framework, enabled and encouraged advertisers to use it, and delivered the gender-based ads according to employers’ sex-based preferences.”
Last month the US Department of Housing and Urban Development accused Facebook of breaking the law by letting landlords and home sellers use its ad-targeting system to discriminate against potential buyers or tenants.
Facebook responded by cutting more than 5,000 ad-targeting options to prevent advertisers from discriminating on the basis of traits such as religion or race.