Are some Saudi social media influencers crossing the line?

Are some Saudi social media influencers crossing the line?
Many observers argue that influencers serve a positive purpose, others say they are simply filling the airwaves with nonsense. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 17 September 2021

Are some Saudi social media influencers crossing the line?

Are some Saudi social media influencers crossing the line?
  • Saudi social media stars are learning they must play by the rules — or pay the price

RIYADH: Saudi social media influencers have become a key element in the Kingdom’s advertising market in recent years, but many are increasingly aware they risk a backlash if their growing power is not used wisely.
While many observers argue that influencers serve a positive purpose, others say they are simply filling the airwaves with nonsense — but there can be no disputing the effect they have, especially when using the right tone to sell a product, brand or idea.
However, marketers warn that this can be a double-edged sword, with influencers naively thinking they can get away with simple advertising techniques or using a convincing sales pitch, while others break established rules and even laws in a bid to gain followers.
Either approach can land influencers in trouble and, thanks to the internet’s long memory, the damage can linger for years.




Some influencers do not think except to rush behind their interests and gain from advertisements or the number of followers  — Dr. Abdulrahman Alazmi, Associate professor of psychology at Naif University

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce has strict and clearly defined rules for online advertisements, and regularly updates “red-flagged” establishments and shady businesses. The ministry also issues warnings against spreading rumors or promoting products that fail to comply with the relevant authorities’ standards. Firms or individuals who breach regulations are subject to legal action, including hefty fines.
Some marketing and advertising outfits told Arab News that they face difficulty at times over influencers’ failure to comply with the rules, “interacting with the spirit of the law rather than its text.”
Nafel Al-Nabhan, a Snapchat influencer, said that he does his best to comply with legal and ethical standards. “I do not target a specific category in my posts; they’re just moments that I share and consider as a daily diary with both good and bad,” he said. “I made many mistakes because I did not study the media, but I learned from my mistakes, and that was fun.”
Al-Nabhan said that his views on social media platforms have changed over time. “After Twitter deleted former US President Donald Trump’s account, social media became more powerful than bombs and bullets,” he said.
Deena Alardi, an Instagram and Snapchat influencer, said that “being present in the largest media source today is a great responsibility, so I must act within the laws, regulations and conditions (outlined) by official and private bodies in this field.”
Asked about the challenges she faces, Alardi admits that communicating her message to the public can be difficult, but said she is determined to maintain her standards.
“I have not and will not allow myself to resort to methods that are an embarrassment in front of the community.” The influencer said that content must be studied and planned professionally. “My high regard for people has put me in some bad situations that I do not want to repeat. You should not trust easily,” she said.
“It is normal for thinking to change over time,” Alardi said, adding that some influencers lower society’s view of their lives, interests and priorities because they present unrealistic, exaggerated and sometimes false claims.
“The audience believes everything it sees, and this is one mistake that can backfire.”
Nourah Al-Salem, another Snapchat influencer, said: “There is no doubt that the influencer is a byproduct of their environment and culture, and they have moral standards and responsibilities to highlight the positive aspects of society.”




There are standards that we adhere to with influencers, and the most important are ethical behavior and good reputation. We are also interested in adhering to the customs, traditions and culture of society — Moustafa Reda, Managing director at the First Exhibitor marketing agency

She added: “As for delivering messages to my audience, the challenges are simple since they have a high level of awareness and deep understanding. I do not need to pretend or resort to devious methods that leave me embarrassed in front of my followers or society.”
Dr. Abdulrahman Alazmi, an associate professor of psychology at Naif University, told Arab News that some influencers resort to dishonest behavior to gain followers, especially those in adolescence and childhood.
“The influencer at this age is looking for enjoyment because it is compatible with his audience in their age group. Bad behavior can be comedic, prompting followers to publish, spread and follow an influencer, and giving the influencer negative support to make them interact more and behave in a way that attracts the attention of children and teenagers,” he said.
“Some influencers do not think except to rush behind their interests and gain from advertisements or the number of followers.”
Alazmi, who specializes in family counseling, said that an influencer’s mistakes in the short term are usually limited to fame, advertisements and interests. “However, in the long run, the impact is very painful, because this person documents himself through videos that do not correspond to his stage after the age of 40, for example, and his sons will not accept them in the future. He reveals to himself and his family that he is superficial, and he has a behavioral deviation that is not appropriate for him when he grows older.”
Nasser Alodah, general manager at advertising and digital marketing specialists the NOB Agency, told Arab News that the firm insists influencers agree with the conditions requested by a client, such as advertising the work, obtaining approval and adhering to the number of views.
At least 95 percent of influencers agree to these conditions, he said.
“In the past we had difficulty dealing with influencers when signing the terms. Some did not want to sign, perhaps because they see that signing with others is a big responsibility and it is frightening for them. The professionalism and knowledge of most distinguished influencers today has made signing contracts an easy matter,” Alodah said. As for influencers with bad reputations, Alodah said that the agency steers away from them and advises clients to do the same.
“When an influencer violates one or more conditions, it is discretionary. For example, if the mistake is out of the influencer’s control, we move past it, and sometimes we see that we are partners in the mistake, like having to postpone shooting or something, and so we resort to discussions with the influencer and the matter is often settled amicably.”




If the mistake is out of the influencer’s control, we get past it, and sometimes we see that we are partners in the mistake — Nasser Alodah, NOB Agency general manager

He added: “As for whoever makes a mistake intentionally, we cancel the deal with them and inform the party with which we are contracted that we are canceling the contract with this person. I think this is one of the strongest punishments an influencer can receive.”
Moustafa Reda, managing director at the First Exhibitor marketing agency, said: “There are standards that we adhere to with influencers, and the most important are ethical behavior and good reputation. We are also interested in adhering to the customs, traditions and culture of society.”
The agency is also keen to main influencers’ “credibility” on social media. Reda said that influencers could be divided into two groups: “Some understand the nature of the work, and the culture and environment in which they are located, while others violate these agreed conditions.”
Only a small number fell into the second category, he said.
He agreed that some influencers’ love of image and fame leaves them vulnerable to unintentional mistakes. “Still, as professionals, we remind them to follow guidelines and go by the book.”
According to Ahmed Nazzal, CEO of Wajahah Marketing, working with influencers demands high standards. “The most important is reputation, society’s view of this person, his view of society, and respecting the culture, and respecting customs and traditions.” He said that influencers, like everyone, are prone to error and many receive insufficient training for their role.


Anghami launches new original podcast ‘Shagaf’

Anghami launches new original podcast ‘Shagaf’
Updated 35 sec ago

Anghami launches new original podcast ‘Shagaf’

Anghami launches new original podcast ‘Shagaf’
  • Streaming platform’s latest production shares the journey of Arab women entrepreneurs

DUBAI: Audio streaming platform Anghami has launched a new original podcast, “Shagaf,” featuring Arab women entrepreneurs from the fields of business and technology.

The show is hosted by female entrepreneur Emon Shakoor, who is the founder and CEO of Blossom Accelerator, Saudi Arabia’s first female-focused accelerator. “As an entrepreneur running an accelerator with a focus on women, empowering female founders is what I strive for,” said Shakoor.

The weekly podcast’s guests include Yara Ghouth, founder of online marketplace Naseej Market, and designer Nasibah Hafiz, who has her own fashion brand, among others.

Shakoor added that working with Anghami on the podcast is a “great way to get our literal voices heard” and share the realities of starting a business. “We want to share real stories with real women,” she added.

In Saudi Arabia, 67 percent of podcast listeners tuned in at least once a week, 30 percent of them listened to podcasts on a daily basis, while 22 percent did so three times a week, according to a report by podcast network Rising Giants Network.

The report also found that Anghami was growing in popularity in the Kingdom with 32 percent of those questioned saying it was their favorite platform.

“Podcast consumption is growing fast in MENA (the Middle East and North Africa),” said Zeina Tabbara, Anghami’s podcast lead.

“We’re developing podcasts in key categories such as lifestyle, sports, and tech (and are) truly excited to work with Emon who is passionate about the startup landscape in Saudi and MENA,” she added.

“Shagaf” is part of a bigger series of podcasts that Anghami aims to produce and stream, the company said in a statement.

The show is now available to stream on Anghami with new episodes dropping every Sunday.


Al-Hokair partners with dentsu’s Merkle in Saudi Arabia

Al-Hokair partners with dentsu’s Merkle in Saudi Arabia
Updated 19 min 17 sec ago

Al-Hokair partners with dentsu’s Merkle in Saudi Arabia

Al-Hokair partners with dentsu’s Merkle in Saudi Arabia
  • Merkle will offer performance media services for retail giant’s brands

DUBAI: Merkle Saudi Arabia, public relations firm dentsu’s data-driven customer experience management company, has been selected by Al-Hokair to deliver its performance marketing strategy across its fashion, beauty, and sport retail brands including Decathlon, Aldo, Gap, and Flormar in the Kingdom.

Merkle was selected after a competitive pitch in a bid to consolidate performance marketing for Al-Hokair’s retail arm with a scalable strategy and an overarching account structure, while still maintaining the requirements for individual brands under the group.

Hassan Al-Redha, head of marketing for Al-Hokair Fashion Retail, said: “We were looking for a new agency partner to deliver across all performance marketing capabilities, consolidating our pay-per-click, social, and digital media efforts across numerous distinct brands.

“Merkle’s approach is helping us to integrate our tools and augment our data assets, delivering people-based insights that will ultimately lead to more meaningful customer engagement across all touchpoints,” he added.

The agency’s remit is to deliver personalization through performance marketing and granular feed management for the premium franchise retailer across various categories including women’s wear, menswear, children and baby goods, shoes and accessories, cosmetics, food and beverages, and sports and entertainment.

Vimal Badiani, head of Merkle in the Middle East and North Africa region, said: “We are looking forward to leveraging our expertise in customer experience management to support its (Al-Hokair’s) objective of targeting audiences more efficiently and effectively by delivering personalization at scale.”


Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online

Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online
Updated 07 December 2021

Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online

Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online
  • Move comes after the social media platform came under scrutiny

DUBAI: Instagram has announced new additions to its safety features for teens, which will be rolled out next year.

The move comes after the social media platform came under scrutiny following research that was revealed by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on how the platform affects teens.

The leaked research documents showed that 32 percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse; 13.5 percent of teen girls said Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17 percent of teen girls said Instagram makes eating disorders worse.

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post: “Every day I see the positive impact that Instagram has for young people everywhere. I’m proud that our platform is a place where teens can spend time with the people they care about, explore their interests, and explore who they are.

“I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram.”

The new features seek to implement tighter controls on what is recommended to teens, barring people from tagging or mentioning teens who don’t follow them, nudging teens towards different topics if they’ve been dwelling on one topic for a long time, and tightening controls on search, explore, hashtags and suggested accounts recommendations. Teens will also be able to bulk delete content they have posted.

The new features aim to help parents to be more involved in their teens’ Instagram experience, starting March 2022, Mosseri said. Instagram has created an educational hub for parents and guardians, which will include additional resources, such as product tutorials and tips from experts, to help them discuss social media use with their teens.

In addition, Instagram is piloting a tool that will give teens the option to notify their parents if they report someone, thereby providing their parents the opportunity to talk about it with them.

Mosseri announced the launch of “Take a Break,” a new feature for teens, in US, UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It is not being launched in the Middle East currently but will be introduced later as part of a phased rollout.

If someone has been scrolling for a certain amount of time, Instagram will ask them to “take a break” from the platform and suggest that they set reminders to take more breaks in the future. Instagram said early test results seem to be promising with 90 percent of teens keeping the reminders on once they set them.

“As always, I’m grateful to the experts and researchers who lend us their expertise in critical areas like child development, teen mental health and online safety, and I continue to welcome productive collaboration with lawmakers and policymakers on our shared goal of creating an online world that both benefits and protects many generations to come,” Mosseri said.


Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar violence

Rohingya Muslim children refugees, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait squashed against each other to receive food handouts at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh on Oct. 21, 2017. (AP)
Rohingya Muslim children refugees, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait squashed against each other to receive food handouts at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh on Oct. 21, 2017. (AP)
Updated 07 December 2021

Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar violence

Rohingya Muslim children refugees, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait squashed against each other to receive food handouts at Thaingkhali refugee camp, Bangladesh on Oct. 21, 2017. (AP)
  • Facebook has said it is protected from liability over content posted by users by a US Internet law known as Section 230, which holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties

CALIFORNIA: Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing Meta Platforms Inc, formerly known as Facebook, for $150 billion over allegations that the social media company did not take action against anti-Rohingya hate speech that contributed to violence.
A US class-action complaint, filed in California on Monday by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, argues that the company’s failures to police content and its platform’s design contributed to real-world violence faced by the Rohingya community. In a coordinated action, British lawyers also submitted a letter of notice to Facebook’s London office.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment about the lawsuit. The company has said it was “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar and has said it has since taken steps to crack down on platform abuses in the region, including banning the military from Facebook and Instagram after the Feb. 1 coup.
Facebook has said it is protected from liability over content posted by users by a US Internet law known as Section 230, which holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties. The complaint says it seeks to apply Burmese law to the claims if Section 230 is raised as a defense.
Although US courts can apply foreign law to cases where the alleged harms and activity by companies took place in other countries, two legal experts interviewed by Reuters said they did not know of a successful precedent for foreign law being invoked in lawsuits against social media companies where Section 230 protections could apply.
Anupam Chander, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said that invoking Burmese law wasn’t “inappropriate.” But he predicted that “It’s unlikely to be successful,” saying that “It would be odd for Congress to have foreclosed actions under US law but permitted them to proceed under foreign law.”
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 after a military crackdown that refugees said included mass killings and rape. Rights groups documented killings of civilians and burning of villages.
Myanmar authorities say they were battling an insurgency and deny carrying out systematic atrocities.
In 2018, UN human rights investigators said the use of Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence. A Reuters investigation https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/myanmar-facebook-hate that year, cited in the US complaint, found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments and images attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims on Facebook.
The International Criminal Court has opened a case into the accusations of crimes in the region. In September, a US federal judge ordered Facebook to release records of accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media giant had shut down.
The new class-action lawsuit references claims by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who leaked a cache https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-whistleblower-says-transparency-needed-fix-social-media-ills-2021-12-03 of internal documents this year, that the company does not police abusive content in countries where such speech is likely to cause the most harm.
The complaint also cites recent media reports, including a Reuters report https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/information-combat-inside-fight-myanmars-soul-2021-11-01 last month, that Myanmar’s military was using fake social media accounts to engage in what is widely referred to in the military as “information combat.”


Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE

Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE
Updated 06 December 2021

Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE

Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE
  • Located in Al Quoz Creative Zone, the hub will support social media content creators

DUBAI: Dubai-based production and public relations company ThinkSmart has launched a creative content hub called the ThinkSmart Hub in Dubai’s Al Quoz Creative Zone.

Featuring a first-of-its-kind infrastructure, the hub aims to support and boost content creation for social media users on platforms including Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, YouTube, and podcast platforms.

The launch of the hub comes after Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum announced that residents of the zone renovating their properties would be exempt from rent for up to two years.

“We endeavor to provide a thriving space that optimizes the creative bent of content creators,” said Lina Nihad Husri, CEO, ThinkSmart Hub.

The hub provides “novel ideas and support” to anyone in the social media space — from brands to individual creators — and houses “diverse themes and decorations under one roof to suit content needs,” she explained. The decor will change every quarter based on occasions and festivals to ensure that creators have enough diversity in their shoots.

Commenting on the location of the hub, Husri said: “We chose to be at the Al Quoz Creative Zone following its announcement and launch in April 2021 by Sheikh Hamdan…because it is an incubator for everyone in the field of content and art creation, and we want to be an integral part of this ecosystem and will offer complete support to all content creators and artists.”