Hate groups migrate online, making tracking more difficult

Members of the Proud Boys pose for a photo while flashing a gesture associated with the white power movement outside of Harry's bar during a protest on December 12, 2020 in Washington, DC (AFP)
Members of the Proud Boys pose for a photo while flashing a gesture associated with the white power movement outside of Harry's bar during a protest on December 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (AFP)
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Updated 02 February 2021

Hate groups migrate online, making tracking more difficult

Members of the Proud Boys pose for a photo while flashing a gesture associated with the white power movement outside of Harry's bar during a protest on December 12, 2020 in Washington, DC (AFP)
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center said it identified 838 active hate groups operating across the US in 2020
  • White nationalist organizations, a subset of the hate groups listed in the report, declined last year from 155 to 128

NEW YORK: During one of the most politically divisive years in recent memory, the number of active hate groups in the US actually declined as far-right extremists migrated further to online networks, a move that has made it harder to track adherents of white nationalist and neo-Nazi ideologies.
In its annual report, released Monday, the Southern Poverty Law Center said it identified 838 active hate groups operating across the US in 2020. That’s a decrease from the 940 documented in 2019 and the record-high of 1,020 in 2018, said the law center, which tracks racism, xenophobia and anti-government militias.
“It is important to understand that the number of hate groups is merely one metric for measuring the level of hate and racism in America, and that the decline in groups should not be interpreted as a reduction in bigoted beliefs and actions motivated by hate,” said the report, first shared exclusively with The Associated Press.
The Montgomery, Alabama-based law center said many hate groups have moved to social media platforms and use of encrypted apps, while others have been banned altogether from mainstream social media networks.
Still, the law center said, online platforms allow individuals to interact with hate and anti-government groups without becoming members, maintain connections with likeminded people, and take part in real-world actions, such as last month’s siege on the US Capitol.
White nationalist organizations, a subset of the hate groups listed in the report, declined last year from 155 to 128. Those groups had seen huge growth the previous two years after being energized by Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency, the report said.
The number of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ hate groups remained largely stable, while their in-person organizing was hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Bottom line, the levels of hate and bigotry in America have not diminished, said SPLC President and CEO Margaret Huang.
“What’s important is that we start to reckon with all the reasons why those groups have persisted for so long and been able to get so much influence in the last White House, that they actually feel emboldened,” Huang told the AP.
Last month, as President Joe Biden’s administration began settling in, the Department of Homeland Security issued an early national terrorism bulletin in response to a growing threat from home-grown extremists, including anti-government militias and white supremacists. The extremists are coalescing under a broader, more loosely affiliated movement of people who reject democratic institutions and multiculturalism, Huang said.

The SPLC’s report comes out nearly a month after a mostly white mob of Trump supporters and members of far-right groups violently breached the US Capitol building. At least five deaths have been linked to the assault, including a Capitol police officer. Some in the mob waved Confederate battle flags and wore clothing with neo-Nazi symbolism.
Federal authorities have made more than 160 arrests and sought hundreds more for criminal charges related to the deadly Jan. 6 assault. Authorities have also linked roughly 30 defendants to a group or movement, according to an AP review of court records.
That includes seven defendants linked to QAnon, a once-fringe Internet conspiracy movement that recently grew into a powerful force in mainstream conservative politics; six linked to the Proud Boys, a misogynistic, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic group with ties to white supremacism; four linked to the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary organization that recruits current and former military, law enforcement and first-responder personnel; four linked to the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia movement; and two leaders of “Super Happy Fun America,” a group with ties to white nationalists known for organizing a so-called “straight pride” parade in downtown Boston in 2019.
Bipartisan critics of Trump have blamed him for inciting the attack on the Capitol, which some far-right groups have declared a success and are using as a recruitment tool to grow membership, according to the SPLC.
The final year of the Trump presidency, marked by a wide-ranging reckoning over systemic racism, also propelled racist conspiracy theories and white nationalist ideology into the political mainstream, the law center said.
According to an SPLC survey conducted in August, 29% of respondents said they personally know someone who believes that white people are the superior race. The poll also found that 51% of Americans thought the looting and vandalism that occurred across the country around Black Lives Matter demonstrations was a bigger problem than excessive force by police.
Protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd last May spurred a push to make the November election a referendum on white supremacy. Nestled in Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud was a reality that turnout among Black and Hispanic voters played a significant role in handing victory to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman and first person of Black and South Asian heritage to hold that office.
During his inaugural address, Biden issued a strong repudiation of white supremacy and domestic terrorism, which is rare for such consequential speeches.
The SPLC made several recommendations for the new administration in its latest report. It called for establishing offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI to monitor, investigate and prosecute cases of domestic terrorism. It also urged improving federal hate crime data collection, training, and prevention; and for enacting federal legislation that shifts funding away from punishment models and toward preventing violent extremism.
People who support or express hatred and bigotry are not always card-carrying members of far-right groups. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be activated into violence, said Christian Picciolini, a former far-right extremist and founder of the Free Radicals Project, a group that helps people disengage from hate organizations.
It also doesn’t mean that they can’t be reached and deradicalized, he said.
“We have to have kind of a dual approach to stop what’s happening now, but also to make sure that we are not creating a problem for us in the future, to understand how the propaganda is spread that is recruiting these people,” Picciolini said.
“Right now, it’s in a very self-service format online,” he added. “We’re facing a really big problem.”


MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia

MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia
Updated 27 October 2021

MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia

MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia
  • Staff reportedly offered a choice of moving to Riyadh or resigning

LONDON: Saudi-owned broadcaster MBC Group announced on Wednesday that it plans to shut its office in Beirut “soon” and relocate to Riyadh.

The company said the reason for the move is a push by authorities in the Kingdom to relocate all state-owned media and broadcasting companies to Saudi Arabia.

While the headquarters of MBC is currently in Dubai, the Lebanon branch was a prominent production office. The company has reportedly offered staff the choice of moving to Riyadh or resigning.

The decision to move the offices of Saudi media companies to Riyadh from other cities in the region, such as Beirut and Dubai, is the result of plans by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to establish the Kingdom as a regional business hub.

News of the move comes a day after George Kordahi, the Lebanese information minister and a former MBC presenter, caused controversy with his comments about Saudi Arabia and the war in Yemen.

When asked during an appearance on Barlamanasha3b TV what he thinks about the situation in Yemen, Kordahi said: “They (the Houthis) are defending themselves.”

He added: “Are they attacking anyone? In my opinion, this Yemeni war is absurd and should stop.”


Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+

Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+
Updated 27 October 2021

Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+

Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+
  • Singapore-based data intelligence specialist acquires minority stake in a deal that values the company at more than $25 million

DUBAI: Singapore-based data intelligence company Near has acquired a minority stake in Middle Eastern SaaS provider of data-driven marketing solutions MEmob+ in a deal that values the company at $25 million.

MEmob+ is a part of Akama Holding, the Dubai-based family office with investments in media, tech and content. It was launched in 2019 by Alexandre Hawari, CEO of Akama Holding and Ihab El-Yaman, the then-head of mobile and performance director of Mediaquest, and current CEO of MEmob+.

The MarTech company has exclusive partnerships with global and regional first party data holders, giving it access to billions of device IDs globally, including more than 400 million in the MENA region. MEmob+ supports brands’ data-driven media activities, location measurement and footfall attribution, research and analysis with a roster of more than 50 major international and regional clients.

“Near, a global giant in the data intelligence market, and MEmob+, a regional leader, were destined to find a common ground and a shared ambition,” said Hawari. 

“Our technical collaboration has now evolved into a financial one. Together, we will capitalize on the attractive growth dynamics in the emerging markets in MEA to further build out MEmob’s leadership position and create the leading global location data intelligence platform,” he added.

In 2020, its second year in operation, MEmob’s turnover grew by 76 percent. Led by El-Yaman, the team behind this growth will continue to build on its track record of performance and innovation.

Near is the global leader in privacy-led data intelligence. The company provides the world’s largest source of intelligence on people, places, and products — processing data from over 1.6 billion monthly users in 44 countries. Founded in 2012, Near is headquartered in Singapore with offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Bangalore, Tokyo and Sydney.

This is Near’s first equity stake in the Middle East. It is the result of a year of research and negotiations to find the best partner to support its expansion in the Middle East and Africa. The cash-in transaction will see the funds injected into the business to accelerate its growth and development even further by increasing its customer base, backing product extension and supporting geographical expansion.

“Our investment in MEmob+ is at the intersection of our core values at Near: Innovation and scale,” said Anil Mathews, CEO of Near, who will join MEmob’s board of directors.

“We’ve watched them grow, in size and sophistication, and realized the opportunities that would come from a closer collaboration. We focus on partners with high growth and world-class management and are impressed by the leading position MEmob+ has built,” he added.


STARZPLAY signs new deal with Star TV

STARZPLAY signs new deal with Star TV
Updated 27 October 2021

STARZPLAY signs new deal with Star TV

STARZPLAY signs new deal with Star TV
  • Agreement will see STARZPLAY venturing into south Asian entertainment

DUBAI: STARZPLAY has signed a deal with the Star TV network to feature six of its popular entertainment channels on the platform.

The agreement will see STARZPLAY venturing into the south Asian entertainment market with plans for further expansion in the segment.

As part of the deal, the streaming platform has introduced a dedicated south Asian entertainment package featuring the channels Star Plus ME, Star Gold International, Jalsha Movies, Asianet Movies, Star Vijay International, and Asianet ME.

Chief executive officer of STARZPLAY, Maaz Sheikh, said: “Over the years, we have built strategic partnerships to offer rich and relevant content to our diverse audience. Our latest association with the Star TV network is an expansion of our content offering as we enter the Asian entertainment space, which is hugely popular and loved in this region.

“Star TV is a much-loved TV network in the region, and we are proud to associate with them to further expand their reach across the Middle East and North Africa region.”

Sudhir Nagpal, senior vice president and head of international business at Star India, said: “The MENA region has a large number of south Asian expatriates, and we are excited to bring our compelling and multilingual portfolio through the region’s leading streaming service STARZPLAY.”

The package for Star TV’s six entertainment channels is priced at 25 dirhams ($6.80). Three cricket channels, CricLife Max, CricLife, and CricLife 2, that STARZPLAY already has access to through a separate deal with Etisalat, will also be part of this package.


Twitter avoids revenue hit from Apple privacy changes

Twitter avoids revenue hit from Apple privacy changes
Updated 27 October 2021

Twitter avoids revenue hit from Apple privacy changes

Twitter avoids revenue hit from Apple privacy changes
  • Twitter saw a “modest” impact to ad revenue due to privacy changes Apple rolled out
  • Twitter has been working to add new features such as audio chat rooms to attract users, and also rolled out improvements to its advertising capabilities

LONDON: Twitter Inc. on Tuesday reported quarterly results that avoided the brunt of Apple Inc. privacy changes on advertising that hobbled its rivals, sending its shares up 3 percent.
The social networking site has been working to add new features such as audio chat rooms to attract users, and also rolled out improvements to its advertising capabilities to reach its goal of doubling annual revenue by 2023.
Advertising revenue was $1.14 billion during the quarter ended Sept. 30, in line with consensus estimates.
The company said it saw a “modest” impact to ad revenue due to privacy changes Apple rolled out, which prevent advertisers from tracking users on their devices without their consent.
Investors had expected Twitter would be relatively shielded from being hurt by the changes, because most of its advertisers do not rely on highly targeted ads.
Twitter’s tech peers Snap and Facebook said the Apple changes hurt their ability to target and measure digital ads, citing the updates as the reason why the companies fell short of revenue expectations.
Twitter said monetizable daily active users, its term for users who are served ads, was 211 million during the third quarter, missing analyst estimates of 212.6 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
While Twitter increased its number of users outside the United States by 5 million from the previous quarter, its US base remained flat.
Total revenue, which also includes money that Twitter earns from data licensing, was $1.28 billion, also in line with Wall Street targets.
Twitter said its costs this year from hiring and investing in a new data center will flow into next year, resulting in a mid-20 percent increase in total costs for 2022.
The company forecast fourth quarter revenue between $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion.
Twitter previously announced it would sell its advertising technology unit MoPub, and the deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022.
The company said it does not expect to be able to recoup the revenue loss next year from selling MoPub, estimated between $200 million to $250 million, though it added the sale does not affect Twitter’s goal of doubling annual revenue by 2023.


Trump tightens grip on social media company after SPAC deal success

Former US president Donald Trump announced plans on October 20 to launch his own social networking platform called TRUTH Social. (AFP)
Former US president Donald Trump announced plans on October 20 to launch his own social networking platform called TRUTH Social. (AFP)
Updated 27 October 2021

Trump tightens grip on social media company after SPAC deal success

Former US president Donald Trump announced plans on October 20 to launch his own social networking platform called TRUTH Social. (AFP)
  • Trump will be able to retain the ownership of his newly launched social media venture even if he chooses to make another White House run

LONDON: Former US President Donald Trump will be able to retain the ownership of his newly launched social media venture even if he chooses to make another White House run or is convicted by prosecutors who are looking into his business dealings.
Trump said last week that TRUTH Social would be created through a new company formed by a merger of the Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG) and blank-check firm Digital World Acquisition Corp.
According to regulatory filings issued late on Tuesday, Trump was referred to as the “company principal,” even though the exact size of his stake in the company was not disclosed.
However, the former president is set to keep his ownership in TMTG, even if the company faces a “material disruptive event” — the latest filings include a clause that is designed to shield his stake.
“In order to maximize business continuity and to minimize, mitigate, or eliminate any negative impacts on the Company from a Material Disruptive Event, the Company Principal’s ownership and position in the Company shall be structured in such a way as to eliminate the need for restructuring of ownership or changes in position were a Material Disruptive Event to occur,” according to the filing.
Since Trump was voted out of office in the last presidential elections in 2020, he has repeatedly dropped hints that he might seek the presidency for a third time in 2024.
Trump and his business interests are also the subject of numerous investigations from US authorities — in June, Trump’s namesake company and its chief financial officer were indicted, the first charges to arise from a more than two-year probe by New York prosecutors of Trump and his business dealings, Reuters reported.
In the latest filings, DWAC highlighted the risks of being associated with Trump’s company.
“The Purchaser hereby acknowledges the controversial nature of being associated with the Company Principal and the Company Principal’s family,” it said.
As part of an earnout clause in the deal, TMTG shareholders will receive an additional 40 million shares, based on the share price performance of DWAC, which on Tuesday closed down nearly 30 percent but are still trading well above the SPAC’s IPO price of $10 a share.
Earlier in October, Reuters reported that the merger with TMTG has delivered a potential windfall of $420 million for DWAC’s main backer, Patrick Orlando, who has been trying for a decade to reinvent himself as a serial dealmaker.