Trump’s QAnon posts highlight Truth Social’s extremist presence

Trump’s QAnon posts highlight Truth Social’s extremist presence
“Truth Social is pretty much MAGA-only territory,” Mike Rothschild, the author of a book on the QAnon conspiracy theory. (AFP)
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Updated 04 September 2022

Trump’s QAnon posts highlight Truth Social’s extremist presence

Trump’s QAnon posts highlight Truth Social’s extremist presence

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump promised his Truth Social platform would offer a home for free speech, an unfiltered way to reach people.
Six months later, the former US president’s amplification of conspiratorial memes and messages after the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago estate indicates that extremist content has flourished.
Still, with midterm elections looming, an AFP analysis shows his new bullhorn may be far less politically relevant than his past pronouncements on Twitter and Facebook.
“His reach is much smaller,” said Mike Rothschild, the author of a book on the QAnon conspiracy theory. “Truth Social is pretty much MAGA-only territory.”
Trump’s August 30 posting spree on Truth Social indicates a lurch toward the darkest corners of conspiracy theory, almost two years after he lost the presidency to Joe Biden.
Trump interacted with a meme that was shared in reply to a post highlighting the writings of “Q,” the anonymous persona whose posts on fringe forums gave rise to QAnon and its baseless claims about a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles including Hillary Clinton.
“Trump has certainly amplified Q content before. He had retweeted Q believers or memes over 300 times on Twitter,” Rothschild said. “But he had never shared something directly connected to a Q drop before.”
The meme Trump shared referenced “the storm,” a mass unsealing of indictments promised in QAnon lore that would culminate in his return to the White House.
He also re-posted images that put the words “your enemy is not in Russia” over the faces of top Democrats, including Biden.
It was a sign of what Truth Social — and Trump’s potential 2024 campaign — could look like as the November 8 midterms approach.
“Trump’s most ardent supporters will follow him wherever he goes,” said Caroline Orr Bueno, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Maryland.
“So although his messages may be reaching a smaller audience, those who are still following him are likely a more hardcore group of supporters who may be more easily incited to violence.”
Truth Social launched in February 2022 as Trump’s response to his ban from Twitter and two-year-suspension from Facebook following the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
But Trump has just four million followers on Truth Social — a far cry from the 88.8 million he had on Twitter or the 35.4 million he had on Facebook.
“It’s almost entirely Trump supporters,” said David Thiel, a researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory, of Truth Social’s user base.
Trump’s Truth Social posts are regularly promoted on other platforms popular with his supporters, such as Telegram and the far-right forum “The Donald,” as well as on mainstream sites. Major Republican Party players also repeat his talking points.
But the direct pipeline to the public he had as president is gone.
Truth Social had 1.19 million monthly active users on Apple iPhones in July, according to data.ai, a company that tracks app metrics, compared with the 237.8 million daily active users Twitter counted in its latest quarterly report.
The app has been downloaded 3.08 million times globally since February, while Twitter and Facebook have logged 97 million and 341 million downloads respectively in the same time frame — and billions more in their existence.
“Even though Trump has this megaphone and is able to get attention for whatever new crazy thing he posts on Truth Social, it is several multiples less powerful than Twitter, several multiples less powerful than Facebook,” said Jared Holt, senior research manager at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a nonprofit London-based think tank focused on extremism. “It is a very closed feedback loop.”
A loyal base of Truth Social users who express support for Trump and share misinformation about topics such as the 2020 election remains.
“Truth Social has become a refuge of sorts for people and content that have been banned from other platforms,” Orr Bueno said.
NewsGuard, a service that tracks online misinformation, found 88 QAnon-promoting accounts with over 10,000 followers on Truth Social, including 32 that were previously booted off Twitter. Forty-seven of those accounts were verified by the Trump platform.
At least one app provider seems to have taken note. Google has not approved Truth Social for its store used by Android smartphone users, citing problems with content moderation.
“It appears to attract people with extremist views and then provides a safe haven where they can feed off each other without worrying about being reported or banned,” Orr Bueno said. “It’s an environment that can be easily exploited by those seeking to incite violence or radicalize people.”
Truth Social did not immediately reply to a request for comment.


Tech giants in Europe could pay for 5G, fiber networks under fresh EU plans

Tech giants in Europe could pay for 5G, fiber networks under fresh EU plans
Updated 31 January 2023

Tech giants in Europe could pay for 5G, fiber networks under fresh EU plans

Tech giants in Europe could pay for 5G, fiber networks under fresh EU plans
  • Proposal aims to offset costs of data-heavy companies including Google, Netflix
  • But ‘fair share’ vision could threaten net neutrality, civil society groups warn

LONDON: ‘Data-heavy’ tech companies in Europe recording high levels of internet data traffic could be required to contribute to telecom infrastructure costs under new EU plans, sources said on Monday.

Under the proposal, companies including Netflix and Google will be required “to help pay for the next generation of internet infrastructure” across the continent.

The initiative to charge companies over their bandwidth usage — data transfer measured in bits per second — is part of the “fair share” vision being pursued by the EU.

“Fair share,” also known as the sender-pays principle, is based on the argument advanced by leading European telecom carriers that online platforms fail to contribute to network expenses while benefiting from the digital economy.

A draft document suggested that tech firms might contribute to a fund to offset the costs of building 5G mobile networks and fiber infrastructure, as well as take part in the creation of a mandatory system of direct payments to telecom operators.

The European Commission, which is developing the proposal with industry players, is reportedly floating a “threshold” proposal that would help identify companies that generate large amounts of data traffic, similar to the concept of “gatekeeper” companies introduced as part of the Digital Markets Act.

According to a European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association study, a small number of internet companies — including Google, Apple, Meta, Microsoft and Netflix — account for more than 56 percent of global data traffic.

The proposal to force tech giants to contribute to telecom costs was first brought forward in May 2022 but was met with skepticism by some members of the EC, who called for broad consultations with relevant stakeholders.

Tech companies and civil society organizations have also expressed alarm about the move, warning that it might jeopardize net neutrality, which promotes the democratization of the internet and freedom for individual users.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen said in December that the EU “intends to launch a thorough discussion on the future of Europe’s connectivity infrastructure,” adding: “The amount of data exchanged and harvested is larger than ever and will increase.”

EU lawmakers are aiming to move ahead of the curve with legislation focusing on the growth of the data-intensive metaverse and virtual worlds.


SRMG Academy launches registration for journalism boot camp

SRMG Academy launches registration for journalism boot camp
Updated 31 January 2023

SRMG Academy launches registration for journalism boot camp

SRMG Academy launches registration for journalism boot camp
  • Classes start on April 30 in Riyadh and run for six months
  • The program features lectures by a group of SRMG journalists

RIYADH: SRMG Academy has announced that registration for its signature journalism boot camp is now open until Feb. 18, 2023.

The six-month program, which kicks off in Riyadh on April 30, seeks to discover new media talents and develop emerging journalists in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

The SRMG Academy Boot Camp offers 20 participants hands-on classroom training and the opportunity for work experience at SRMG’s most prominent publications.

The rigorous program is led by world-class Arab and international journalists who have experience in regional and global news organizations. It will also feature lectures by a selection of SRMG’s leading journalists.

“I can’t think of a better gateway to begin a career in journalism in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world than taking part in this unique program,” said SRMG Academy Managing Director Alaa Shahine Salha.

“Each day, the training will offer new challenges to the participants,” he added. “They will be presented with real-life situations that are faced by journalists and the students will have to make quick decisions…about how to address them.”

The first edition of the program is open to residents of Saudi Arabia who are recent university graduates or have a maximum of two years of work experience.

The best-performing trainees will receive job offers from SRMG publications. The selection will be based on a combination of talent and the needs of the business.

Launched in December last year, the SRMG Academy is the editorial training arm of the Saudi Research and Media Group, which owns more than 30 leading publications and platforms across the Middle East and North Africa region, including Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Asharq News and Independent Arabia.

The SRMG Academy Boot Camp is designed to offer participants a gateway to building a career in the industry by equipping them with the skills needed in today’s media world. The course will include fundamental skills, such as writing, editing and beat reporting, in addition to different story formats, such as mobile journalism, podcasting and broadcast journalism.


Advisory firm Salient launches in Saudi Arabia

Advisory firm Salient launches in Saudi Arabia
Updated 31 January 2023

Advisory firm Salient launches in Saudi Arabia

Advisory firm Salient launches in Saudi Arabia
  • Industry veterans behind company hail Kingdom’s ‘leading role on global stage’

LONDON: Newly formed communications advisory firm Salient has launched in Saudi Arabia.

The company was launched by industry veterans Andrew Bone and Sean Trainor. Salient specializes in corporate reputation and organizational culture management.

“Saudi Arabia is the most exciting market globally for communications professionals,” said Abdullah Al-Muzaini, co-founder and non-executive director.

“Salient is committed to building local capacity to enhance the reputation of leading organizations and increasing familiarity and favorability toward the Kingdom.”

Headquartered in Riyadh, Salient combines global expertise and local insights to build the reputations of organizations in the region.

The two veterans behind Salient said that the company will provide communication expertise to corporates operating across a wide range of industries, and will support organizations in the country as the Kingdom continues to implement its far-reaching Vision 2030 national transformation program.

“Guided by Vision 2030, the pace of change is accelerating every day as Saudi Arabia takes a leading role on the global stage,” Trainor said.

“The communication challenges and opportunities are unprecedented, and Salient is committed and well positioned to support the country in this dynamic marketplace.”

Bone said that Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is an ambitious project “the likes of which has never been witnessed before worldwide.”

He added: “Collectively we have been working at the center of government in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade helping the nation to tell its compelling story.”

The company aims to support a new generation of Saudi industry leaders by blending global talent and local professionalism, the pair said.

“Our fresh, innovative approach to communication is the perfect learning environment for nurturing Saudi talent to become global communication consultants,” Salient general manager Osamah Alqusayer said.

“Blending the best of global talent with smart, inquisitive young Saudis is an attractive proposition for organizations looking for standout communications with impact.”


Russian court fines Amazon’s Twitch $57,000 over Ukraine content

Russian court fines Amazon’s Twitch $57,000 over Ukraine content
Updated 31 January 2023

Russian court fines Amazon’s Twitch $57,000 over Ukraine content

Russian court fines Amazon’s Twitch $57,000 over Ukraine content
  • Court said Twitch failed to remove “fakes” from its platform

LONDON: A Russian court on Tuesday fined streaming service Twitch 4 million roubles ($57,000) for failing to remove what it said were “fakes” about Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, the Interfax news agency reported.
Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Moscow has long objected to foreign tech platforms’ distribution of content that falls foul of its restrictions, with Russian courts regularly imposing penalties.


Peter Smith to depart from MBC Studios

Peter Smith to depart from MBC Studios
Updated 30 January 2023

Peter Smith to depart from MBC Studios

Peter Smith to depart from MBC Studios
  • Smith will stay as adviser to the group

LONDON: Peter Smith, the managing director of MBC Studio, is stepping down from his role, the company announced.

“Peter Smith is stepping aside as managing director of MBC Studios,” said MBC CEO Sam Barnett.

“Pete has made invaluable contributions to the growth of MBC Studios during his four-year tenure, leading the production of numerous flagships, including ‘Rashash,’ ‘Rise of the Witches,’ ‘The Devil’s Promise,’ ‘Slave Market,’ and the launch of MBC’s slate of long-running dramas including ‘Al Mirath’ and ‘West Al Balad.’ 

“On behalf of the group, I would like to express my gratitude to Pete for his hard work and dedication during his tenure.”

The veteran TV executive is stepping down from the role after four successful years during which he assisted in the launch of the production arm of the free-to-air network MBC.

Over this time, the former president of NBCUniversal supervised an expansion in production activity as the company ramped up its investment in Saudi Arabia as part of the Kingdom’s ongoing attempt to support the growth of its film and media industry.

In a statement, Barnett said Smith will continue to act as an adviser to the group, particularly on the production of “Desert Warrior” and the distribution of premium content.

Smith’s successor has not been named yet, but the company said the new managing director will be announced “in due course, in coming days.”

The news comes a few days after the leading media and entertainment group in the Middle East and North Africa region announced a new partnership with next-gen platform Vice Media, which will see the American-Canadian company creating Arabic content exclusively for MBC Group.