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‘This is my life’: Russian influencers take stock after Instagram access blocked | Instagram

There was a solemn mood on the Instagram stories of Russia’s influenceri over the weekend, as they prepared to be disconnected from the social media app.

“This [Instagram] is my life, this is my soul. This is what I have been waking up to and falling asleep with for the last five years,” said the fashion blogger Karina Nigay, who boasts nearly 3 million followers, through tears. “I’m in a state of resentment and nowhere near a state of acceptance.”

Russian prosecutors demanded on Friday that access to Instagram be blocked after the app’s parent company, Meta, confirmed it was relaxing its policies on hate speech towards Russian soldiers and Vladimir Putin within certain countries in relation to the country’s war in Ukraine.

By Monday morning Instagram – the most popular social media platform among young Russians – was no longer accessible.

Karina Istomina, a popular DJ and Instagram influencer with more than 400,000 followers, said: “Roughly half of all my income came through Instagram advertising. To be honest with you, I am absolutely devastated that I am losing my page. I ran my profile for over 10 years. Most likely I will have to find new sources of income, will have to rediscover myself.”

The move to block Instagram came as the app had emerged as one of the last platforms for Russians to voice their opposition to the invasion of Ukraine, with Russian artists, bloggers and athletes using the social network to speak out against the war. Russia had already launched an unprecedented crackdown on independent media and anti-war dissent after the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow had already blocked access to Facebook and Twitter earlier this month before Meta’s designation as an “extremist organisation”, accusing the two platforms of violating the “rights and freedoms of Russian nationals”. Russian regulators said the messaging service WhatsApp, which is also owned by Meta, will not be impacted as it is “a means of communication, not a source of information”.

“Putin has invaded a sovereign nation and is waging a war there … It is clear that Putin does not care about people for a long time now,” wrote Yuri Dudt, one of Russia’s most popular media personalities, in a widely shared post days after the invasion that has received more than 1.5m likes.

But for many small and medium-sized Russian businesses, Instagram was also a leading platform for advertising, organising sales and communicating with clients, and the move to block the app will likely further undermine the business climate in the country.

“Instagram became our house, our bridge with the outside world,” said Dilyara Minrakhmanova, who runs the clothing brand Outlaw in Moscow. “Since our inception seven years ago, we managed to bring together a large community of like-minded thinkers.

“It pains to think that we will lose that all,” Minrakhmanov said, adding 96% of all her social media traffic was linked to Meta apps.

Karina Istomina
Karina Istomina: ‘Roughly half of all my income came through Instagram advertising. To be honest with you, I am absolutely devastated that I am losing my page.’ Photograph: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Kilian

Many influencers and businesses like Outlaw on Sunday were posting links to their Telegram and VKontakte channels, two Russian-founded platforms that will welcome the influx of new users.

Telegram, which says it prioritises users’ privacy and security, was founded by the Russian self-described libertarian Pavel Durov in 2013 and maintains a hands-off moderating philosophy.

Durov, who previously founded VKontakte, Russia’s biggest social network, left the country for Dubai after being pushed out under government pressure.

With many Kremlin critics now moving to Telegram, experts say the messaging app might soon also be blocked or seized by the Kremlin.

“I do not quite understand why Telegram has not been banned. One explanation could be that the Kremlin thinks it can use Telegram for their own propaganda purposes,” said Andrei Soldatov, a Russian technology analyst and censorship expert.

Telegram has emerged as an information battleground during the conflict, with pro-Kremlin channels sharing the country’s supposed military successes, while Ukrainian officials have turned to the app to publish videos and photos showing captured Russian troops.

“With the way things are going at the moment in Russia, I don’t think the app can exist in this form for much longer,” Soldatov said.

Durov has so far vouched to keep the app independent and told Ukrainian users their data is safe. “I stand for our users no matter what. Their right to privacy is sacred – now more than ever,” he wrote last week.

Russia moved to restrict access to Telegram in 2018 but lifted the ban two years later after failing to thwart the operations of the widely used messaging app.

Nevertheless, Kremlin critics have recently accused the app of bowing down to the authorities after it blocked a bot that told supporters of the jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny which candidate they should back to unseat Kremlin-aligned politicians during the 2021 September parliamentary election. The government-controlled Russian Direct Investment has also invested in the messaging app.

On Sunday, as some people were busy setting up new channels on Telegram, others said they were not yet ready to let go of Instagram, seeking ways to evade the social media ban.

Internet searches for VPN services in the country almost doubled over the last week compared with the previous week, according to Top10VPN, a UK company that researches and recommends private network services.

Tanya Mingalimova, a blogger with more than 250,000 Instagram followers, wrote on Sunday afternoon: “My plans for the evening are to grab dinner and then install a VPN.”



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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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