The Independent and SRMG announce major international expansion deal

The deal will see four new websites run exclusively by SRMG
Updated 19 July 2018

The Independent and SRMG announce major international expansion deal

  • Four new websites will be created under The Independent branding
  • The sites will be operated by the Saudi Research and Marketing Group

LONDON: The UK and US-based online publisher The Independent and the Middle East media house, Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), have announced a new licensing deal that will see the creation of a series of new websites in four different languages.

The sites will offer news, insight and analysis on global affairs and local events, and will be published in Arabic, Urdu, Turkish and Persian.

In addition, each site will feature translated articles from independent.co.uk alongside content from teams of SRMG journalists based in London, Islamabad, Istanbul, and New York, as well as operations teams in Riyadh and Dubai.

The new sites – Independent Arabia, Independent Urdu, Independent Turkish, and Independent Persian – will be owned and operated by SRMG. And all editorial practices and output will conform to the standards, code of conduct and established ethos of The Independent.

The Independent – which started life as a national newspaper in the UK, has, over many decades, established a global reputation for respected independent coverage of the Middle East.

And now the brand has a recently strengthened its team. This new project is part of the strategic growth of the title, which has recently expanded its overseas reporting, with correspondents in Jerusalem, Delhi, Moscow and Istanbul.

Further roles in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington and Seattle are planned, as well as additional staff in the main London and New York newsrooms, enriching the title’s international footprint at a time when many news publishers around the world are cutting back.

Zach Leonard, Managing Director, Independent Digital News and Media, said: “The Independent is known and respected around the world for the quality of its journalism and the trust and authority it has earned through 31 years. As a fully digital publisher, our influence and reach have never been greater, with a loyal user and subscriber base and a total readership in excess of 100 million each month.

“This new chapter brings an opportunity to build on that heritage and increase our reach at a fascinating time of rapid change in the Middle East. We look forward to showcasing new ideas and provoking debate with new audiences across the region and beyond.”

The four new websites – independentarabia.com, independenturdu.com, independentturkish.com and independentpersian.com – will launch later this year. Social media accounts will be publicized as the services are launched. The Independent will continue to publish its own content, as it does now, in the English language.

By 2022, it is expected that two-thirds of the world’s population will be using smartphone technology. And much of this growth will take place outside of the more mature markets of the UK and Europe. For news publishers with a strong legacy and reputation for international reporting, this represents a huge opportunity.

Dr. Ghassan Alshibl, the Chairman of SRMG, said: “We deeply believe that SRMG, through this comprehensive partnership forged with The Independent, is growing the level of its international licensing businesses to a higher altitude. Our reach, with this multilingual project targeting hundreds of millions of readers around the world, will be farther, and our audiences will be enormously wider.

“As part of SRMG’s global business initiatives we began in 2006 with a number of the biggest publishers in the world, we have been demonstrating in all our partnerships, like today with IDNM, SRMG’s eagerness and commitment to grow and strengthen its content platforms to be distinctly competitive in the wider space of the global media industry based on the strong professional pillars of credibility, authenticity and knowledgeable authority of quality journalism.”


Google says misinformation campaign used YouTube to target Hong Kong protests

Updated 23 August 2019

Google says misinformation campaign used YouTube to target Hong Kong protests

SAN FRANCISCO, US: Google on Thursday said it disabled a series of YouTube channels that appeared to be part of a coordinated influence campaign against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The announcement by YouTube’s parent company came after Twitter and Facebook accused the Chinese government of backing a social media campaign to discredit Hong Kong’s protest movement and sow political discord in the city.
Google disabled 210 YouTube channels that it found behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the Hong Kong protests, according to Shane Huntley of the company’s security threat analysis group.
“This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter,” Huntley said in an online post.
Twitter and Facebook announced this week that they suspended nearly 1,000 active accounts linked to a coordinated influence campaign. Twitter said it had shut down about 200,000 more before they could inflict any damage.
“These accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground,” Twitter said, referring to the active accounts it shut down.
Facebook said some of the posts from accounts it banned compared the protesters in Hong Kong with Daesh group militants, branded them “cockroaches” and alleged they planned to kill people using slingshots.
China has “taken a page from Russia’s playbook” as it uses social media platforms outside the country to wage a disinformation campaign against the protests, according to the non-profit Soufan Center for research, analysis, and strategic dialogue related to global security issues.
“Beijing has deployed a relentless disinformation campaign on Twitter and Facebook powered by unknown numbers of bots, trolls, and so-called ‘sock puppets,’” the center said on its website, referring to fake online identities created for deception.
“China’s behavior will likely grow more aggressive in both the physical and virtual realms, using on-the-ground actions to complement an intensifying cyber campaign characterized by disinformation, deflection, and obfuscation.”

Misused by autocratic regimes
While social media platforms have been tools for people to advocate for rights, justice or freedom in their countries, the services are being turned on them by oppressive governments, according to the Soufan Center.
“Autocratic governments are now using these same platforms to disparage demonstrators, divide protest movements, and confuse sympathetic onlookers,” the center said.
Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous southern Chinese city and one of the world’s most important financial hubs, is in the grip of an unprecedented political crisis that has seen millions of people take to the streets demanding greater freedoms.
China’s government has publicly largely left the city’s leaders and police force to try and resolve the crisis, but behind the scenes online, Beijing is seeking to sway public opinion about Hong Kong, according to Twitter and Facebook.
“We are disclosing a significant state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong, specifically the protest movement and their calls for political change,” Twitter said.
It said it had pulled 936 accounts originating in China that were spreading disinformation.
Twitter and Facebook are banned in China, part of the government’s so-called “Great Firewall” of censorship.
Because of the bans, many of the fake accounts were accessed using “virtual private networks” that give a deceptive picture of the user’s location, Twitter said.
Facebook said it had acted on a tip from Twitter, removing seven pages, three groups and five Facebook accounts that had about 15,500 followers.
“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government,” Facebook said.