Vistas Media Acquisition Co. shareholders approve business combination with Anghami

Vistas Media Acquisition Company shareholders have approved a business combination with Anghami. (Supplied)
Vistas Media Acquisition Company shareholders have approved a business combination with Anghami. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 January 2022

Vistas Media Acquisition Co. shareholders approve business combination with Anghami

Vistas Media Acquisition Company shareholders have approved a business combination with Anghami. (Supplied)
  • Vistas Media Acquisition Co. shares rose more than 20 percent in premarket trading on Friday

NEW YORK: Shareholders of Vistas Media Acquisition Co. on Wednesday voted to approve a business combination with Anghami, one of the leading music streaming platforms in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The proposal was supported by approximately 98 percent of the publicly traded special-purpose acquisition firm’s shareowners.

The special meeting vote followed last year’s announcement by the companies of the launch of Vibe Music Arabia, a joint venture record label between Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, and Anghami.

Vistas Media Acquisition Co. shares rose more than 20 percent in premarket trading on Friday after the approval announcement, according to Market Watch.


Brand activism: why companies should think twice before practicing it

Brand activism: why companies should think twice before practicing it
Updated 30 November 2022

Brand activism: why companies should think twice before practicing it

Brand activism: why companies should think twice before practicing it
  • From missing cultural nuances in the Arab world to targeting women, here’s how products can lose popularity
  • Audi, Pfizer, General Mills, and Volkswagen are among some of the biggest brands to pause ads over concerns about brand safety and content moderation

DUBAI: The last two years have seen consumers go from #BrandLove to #Boycott in a matter of seconds. People have always cared about what brands stand for, but the pandemic has made a brand’s social values even more important to consumers.
Last year, ice cream maker Ben and Jerry’s announced it would stop selling its products in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The decision prompted both praise and hate online, with some consumers accusing the business of antisemitism. Either way, Ben and Jerry’s was very much in the public eye.
“Ben and Jerry’s has a very long history of political positioning and commitment to a variety of progressive causes,” Robert Haigh, strategy and insights director at Brand Finance, told Arab News, in a separate interview.
Some 48 percent globally said that brands’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic affected their brand choices, and 41 percent in 14 countries, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, said they are boycotting brands still doing business in or with Russia, according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer.
Moreover, the report also found that more than 80 percent of Gen Zs buy based on beliefs.
In March, users took to social media to call out big brands that continued to operate in Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, resulting in hashtags such as #BoycottCocaCola and #BoycottPepsi, among others, trending on Twitter.
Most recently, advertisers have paused, or at least dramatically reduced, their advertising spend on Twitter following Elon Musk’s takeover of the company.
Audi, Pfizer, General Mills, and Volkswagen are among some of the biggest brands to pause ads over concerns about brand safety and content moderation.
Nonprofits organizations such as the US-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have issued statements calling on advertisers to take action.
Following Musk’s possible reinstatement of former US President Donald Trump, President and CEO of the NAACP Derrick Johnson said: “Any advertiser still funding Twitter should immediately pause all advertising now.”
 


Earlier this month, too, the NAACP issued a statement asking advertisers to pause all advertising on Twitter.
“It is immoral, dangerous, and highly destructive to our democracy for any advertiser to fund a platform that fuels hate speech, election denialism, and conspiracy theories,” the statement said.
It added: “Unlike Elon Musk’s past ventures, this one should not be rocket science.”
“Consumers want to build a relationship with purposeful and belief-driven brands, meaning that they want to buy from a brand that shares their values and beliefs,” Ahmad Abu Zannad, author of books like “Adman vs. Chomsky” and “De-Commoditizing the Ad Industry,” and founder of Native Communications, an advisory firm dedicated to helping brands find a “native” role in people’s lives, told Arab News.
Enter brand activism, the new frontier of corporate social responsibility.
“Brand activism is a relatively new practice, and often we are seeing brands misunderstanding its purpose and misusing it by taking a divisive sociopolitical stand,” said Abu Zannad.
As beneficial as brand activism can be, it can also backfire if brands aren’t careful. A 2021 GfK report found that while 75 percent noticed examples of companies being a force for good during the coronavirus crisis, an overwhelming 78 percent noticed examples of companies trying to take advantage.
Consumers feel like brands are pandering, virtue signaling or worse, taking advantage of the crisis to sell.
Abu Zannad, too, warned: “There are traps that brands need to be wary of, specifically in a region like the Arab world.”
Arab News spoke to Abu Zannad to learn more about what brands should be wary of when practicing brand activism.
There are three traps to watch out for, he said: brands do not go to heaven; cultures differ vastly; and some relationships are better kept light.
He added: “There’s no such thing as a purely selfless brand that is taking an action or a stand for a greater good beyond the business.”
Research by Razorfish and Vice Media showed that 2 out of 3 consumers have become cynical toward such initiatives, and less than half of consumers believe that brands are living their stated purpose.
“Brands need to stand for something before taking a stand,” Abu Zannad said.
For example, Dove often tackles conventional ideas of beauty through its campaigns. As a personal care brand, the topic is relevant to both the business and the consumer.
On the other hand, a beverage brand decided to tackle the issue of the gender pay gap in the UK by offering their drink at a 20 percent discount to women — reflecting the approximate pay gap between salaries for men and women.
The brand also repackaged the drinks in pink.
The stunt drew a massive backlash with many calling it a gimmick and accusing the brand of patronizing women and trying to capture the female consumer segment.
Similarly, Nike’s brand purpose is centered around encouraging people to push their limits and “just do it.”
In 2016, athlete Colin Kaepernick took the knee during the national anthem as a stand against racial police brutality. Nike supported him by releasing an advert with the message: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Although the campaign generated a lot of controversy, Nike’s stocks rose by 5 percent in the weeks after the ad was released.
“There is a very large constituency of people for whom the Nike brand was re-energized” as it aligned itself with a younger, more progressive audience, Haigh previously said.
“The brand did not discuss its own personal take on the controversy; it showcased how Nike’s general beliefs and purpose are aligned with those of Kaepernick,” Abu Zannad said.
The second factor for brands to keep in mind is cultural differences across the world.
For example, Disney and Pixar’s movie “Lightyear,” which was slated for a June 16 release, was banned in the UAE — one of the most liberal countries in the Arab world — over content, including a same-sex intimate scene.
Around 14 other countries across the Middle East and Asia, including Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait and Malaysia, have also banned the film.
On the other hand, Dove often localizes its campaigns based on cultural insight. In India, for example, the brand found that 3 out of 4 women are rejected for their looks during the arranged marriage process. So, it launched the “StopTheBeautyTest” campaign, encouraging women who have faced rejection to share their stories.
Lastly, Abu Zannad said, some relationships are better kept light.
In his book “How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know,” Prof. Byron Sharp applied years of statistical analysis of sales data to demonstrate that the majority of a brand’s business comes from what he refers to as “light buyers” — those who do not buy the brand very often and are enjoying a light and casual relationship with it.
“Such light buyers would still like to admire that brand for its beliefs,” Abu Zannad said.
He pointed out brands like Adidas and Nike, which encourage Arab women to exercise more often through empowering initiatives and messaging that challenges cultural notions that may be keeping them away from participating in activities.
However, they keep the messaging within the parameters of sport and do not engage in intense, political, or divisive stands.
Nike’s “What Will They Say About You?” film urges women to think about what people will say about them when they are playing sport.

 


Similarly, Adidas’ “Beyond the Surface” and “Liquid Billboard” campaigns encourage women to feel comfortable in their skin. The latter, which marked the launch of Adidas’ inclusive swimwear collection, was based on the insight that globally 32 percent of women are uncomfortable swimming in public, and in the Middle East the proportion rises to 88 percent.
Adidas, therefore, created the world’s first “swimmable billboard” in Dubai, which encouraged women to dive in, regardless of body shape, ethnicity or ability.
Whether it is being inclusive or challenging conventional ideas of beauty, a brand’s purpose must be aligned with its business and consumers.
Abu Zannad said: “A brand purpose is not a tool for a brand to be selfless; it is there for the brand to serve its audiences, its community, and consequently, its business.”

 

 


Twitter not safer under Elon Musk, says former head of trust and safety

Twitter not safer under Elon Musk, says former head of trust and safety
Updated 30 November 2022

Twitter not safer under Elon Musk, says former head of trust and safety

Twitter not safer under Elon Musk, says former head of trust and safety
  • Twitter under Musk began to stray from its adherence to written and publicly available policies toward content decisions made unilaterally by Musk, which Roth cited as a reason for his resignation

CALIFORNIA: Twitter's former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth on Tuesday said the social media company was not safer under new owner Elon Musk, warning in his first interview since resigning this month that the company no longer had enough staff for safety work.
Roth had tweeted after Musk's takeover that by some measures, Twitter safety had improved under the billionaire's ownership.
Asked in an interview at the Knight Foundation conference on Tuesday whether he still felt that way, Roth said: "No."
Roth was a Twitter veteran who helped steer the social media platform through several watershed decisions, including the move to permanently suspend its most famous user, former U.S. President Donald Trump, last year.
His departure further rattled advertisers, many of whom backed away from Twitter after Musk laid off half of the staff, including many involved with content moderation.
Before Musk assumed the helm at Twitter, about 2,200 people globally were focused on content moderation work, said Roth. He said he did not know the number after the acquisition because the corporate directory had been turned off.
Twitter under Musk began to stray from its adherence to written and publicly available policies toward content decisions made unilaterally by Musk, which Roth cited as a reason for his resignation.
"One of my limits was if Twitter starts being ruled by dictatorial edict rather than by policy ... there's no longer a need for me in my role, doing what I do," he said.
The revamp of the Twitter Blue premium subscription, which would allow users to pay for a verified checkmark on their account, launched despite warnings and advice from the trust and safety team, Roth said.
The launch was quickly beset by spammers impersonating major public companies such as Eli Lilly, Nestle and Lockheed Martin.
Roth also said Tuesday that Twitter erred in restricting the dissemination of a New York Post article that made claims about then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son shortly before the 2020 presidential election.
But he defended Twitter's decision to permanently suspend Trump for risk of further incitement of violence after the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
"We saw the clearest possible example of what it looked like for things to move from online to off," Roth said. "We saw people dead in the Capitol."
Musk tweeted on Nov. 19 that Trump's account would be reinstated after a slim majority voted in favor of the move in a surprise Twitter poll.

 


Twitter blue verified set to launch on Apple’s iOS app — Information

Smartphone with displayed Twitter app is seen placed on Apple logo in this illustration taken, November 29, 2022. (REUTERS)
Smartphone with displayed Twitter app is seen placed on Apple logo in this illustration taken, November 29, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 30 November 2022

Twitter blue verified set to launch on Apple’s iOS app — Information

Smartphone with displayed Twitter app is seen placed on Apple logo in this illustration taken, November 29, 2022. (REUTERS)

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter Inc’s Blue verified service is scheduled to roll out on Friday, but only on Apple’s iOS mobile software, the Information reported on Tuesday, citing a person briefed on the plans.
As Twitter plans to launch the subscription offering via an update to Twitter’s iOS app, it needs Apple’s approval as part of the standard app review process, the report said, adding that the company would update its Android app later.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
This comes a day after new owner Elon Musk accused Apple of threatening to block the Twitter from its app store without saying why in a series of tweets that also said the iPhone maker had stopped advertising on the social media platform.
The billionaire CEO of Twitter and Tesla said Apple was pressuring Twitter over content moderation demands.

 


Leading media outlets urge US to end prosecution of Julian Assange

Leading media outlets urge US to end prosecution of Julian Assange
Updated 29 November 2022

Leading media outlets urge US to end prosecution of Julian Assange

Leading media outlets urge US to end prosecution of Julian Assange
  • Guardian, NYT, Le Monde, El País and Der Spiegel editors and publishers said the indictment threatens freedom of the press.

WASHINGTON: The United States should end its prosecution of Julian Assange, leading media outlets from the United States and Europe that had collaborated with the WikiLeaks founder said on Monday, citing press freedom concerns.
“This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” editors and publishers of the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País said in an open letter.
Assange is wanted by US authorities on 18 counts, including a spying charge, related to WikiLeaks’ release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables. His supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimized because he exposed US wrongdoing, including in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Monday marked 12 years since those media outlets collaborated to release excerpts from over 250,000 documents obtained by Assange in the so-called “Cablegate” leak.
The material was leaked to WikiLeaks by the then-American soldier Chelsea Manning and revealed the inner workings of US diplomacy around the globe. The documents exposed “corruption, diplomatic scandals, and spy affairs on an international scale,” the letter said.
In August, a group of journalists and lawyers sued the CIA and its former director, Mike Pompeo, over allegations the intelligence agency spied on them when they visited Assange during his stay in Ecuador’s embassy in London.
Assange spent seven years in the embassy before being dragged out and jailed in 2019 for breaching bail conditions. He has remained in prison in London while his extradition case is decided. If extradited to the United States, he faces a sentence of up to 175 years in an American maximum security prison.
His legal team has appealed to the High Court in London to block his extradition in a legal battle that has dragged on for more than a decade.
“Publishing is not a crime,” the media outlets said in their letter on Monday.


Twitter owner Musk signals new ‘war’ against Apple

Twitter owner Musk signals new ‘war’ against Apple
Updated 29 November 2022

Twitter owner Musk signals new ‘war’ against Apple

Twitter owner Musk signals new ‘war’ against Apple
  • Musk on Monday also called Apple’s fee on transactions through its App Store a “secret 30 percent tax”

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter owner Elon Musk on Monday opened fire against Apple over its tight control of what is allowed on the App Store, saying the iPhone maker has threatened to oust his recently acquired social media platform.
Musk also joined the chorus crying foul over a 30 percent fee Apple collects on transactions via its App Store — the sole gateway for applications to get onto its billion plus mobile devices.
A series of tweets fired off by Musk included a meme of a car with his first name on it veering onto a highway off-ramp labeled “Go to War,” instead of continuing onwards toward “Pay 30 percent.”
The billionaire CEO also tweeted that Apple has “threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why.”
Apple did not immediately reply to an AFP request for comment.
Both Apple and Google require social networking services on their app stores to have effective systems for moderating harmful or abusive content.
But since taking over Twitter last month, Musk has cut around half of Twitter’s workforce, including many employees tasked with fighting disinformation, while an unknown number of others have voluntarily quit.
He has also reinstated previously banned accounts, including that of former president Donald Trump.
Yoel Roth, the former head of trust and safety at Twitter who left after Musk took over, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “failure to adhere to Apple’s and Google’s guidelines would be catastrophic,” and risk “expulsion from their app stores.”
Describing himself as a “free speech absolutist,” Musk believes that all content permitted by law should be allowed on Twitter, and on Monday described his actions as a “revolution against online censorship in America.”
He also tweeted that he planned to publish “Twitter Files on free speech suppression,” but without clarifying what data he had in mind to share with the public.
Though Musk says Twitter is seeing record high engagement with him at the helm, his approach has startled the company’s major moneymaker — advertisers.
In recent weeks, half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers have announced they are suspending or have otherwise “seemingly stopped advertising on Twitter,” an analysis conducted by nonprofit watchdog group Media Matters found.
Musk on Monday accused Apple of also having “mostly stopped advertising on Twitter.”
“Do they hate free speech in America?” he asked, before replying with a tweet tagging Apple CEO Tim Cook.
In the first three months of 2022, Apple was the top advertiser on Twitter, spending some $48 million on ads which accounted for more than 4 percent of the social media platform’s revenue, according to a Washington Post report citing an internal Twitter document.
Sarah Roberts, an information studies expert at University of California, Los Angeles, told AFP that “Musk didn’t understand that Twitter itself was a brand, had cachet.”
“Now companies don’t even want to be associated with it. It’s not even that they worry about the content. Twitter is a tainted brand, a brand non grata companies don’t want to be associated with,” she added.

Musk on Monday also called Apple’s fee on transactions through its App Store a “secret 30 percent tax.”
He shared a video released last year by Fortnite maker Epic Games that portrayed Apple as an oppressor in a mocking spin on a famous “1984” ad for Macintosh computers.
Apple has clashed in court with Epic, which has sought to break Apple’s grip on the App Store, accusing the iPhone maker of operating a monopoly in its shop for digital goods or services.
A federal judge last year ordered Apple to loosen control of its App Store payment options, but said Epic had failed to prove that antitrust violations had taken place.
Musk’s controversial moves at Twitter, along with the possibility he will need to sell more Tesla shares to keep the social media platform afloat, has taken shine off of the electric car company and its stock, according to Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.
“The Musk vs Apple new battle is not what investors want to see,” Ives said in a tweet.
“(Wall) Street wants less drama, not more as this Twitter situation remains the gift that keeps on giving for the Tesla bears with every day a new chapter.”