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Chinese State Media Reacts to Biden Victory With Cautious Optimism – The New York Times

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HONG KONG — The Chinese state news media reacted with cautious optimism to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the United States presidential election, expressing hope that he would stabilize the fast-deteriorating relations between the two countries.

But many outlets also continued to warn of future tensions between the superpowers, and to suggest that American democracy was in decline.

Under President Trump, trust and cooperation between the United States and China ebbed to their lowest levels in recent history, as a trade war raged and officials on both sides hurled recriminations about espionage, protest movements and the coronavirus pandemic. China’s state-controlled news outlets had criticized Mr. Trump and the United States with increasing stridence in recent months.

But the immediate reaction to Mr. Biden’s victory on Sunday was measured, indicating that China was willing to attempt, and indeed was eager for, a thaw.

“The outcome could usher in a ‘buffering period’ for already-tense China-U.S. relations, and offer an opportunity for breakthroughs in resuming high-level communication and rebuilding mutual strategic trust,” Global Times, a fiercely nationalistic tabloid, wrote in an article, citing Chinese experts.

The article suggested that the two countries could work together on combating climate change, containing the coronavirus and developing vaccines, saying that Mr. Biden would be “more moderate and mature” than Mr. Trump on foreign affairs.

That echoed the response in much of the rest of the world, where many world leaders breathed sighs of relief at the election’s outcome. Mr. Biden has promised a restoration of normalcy and a renewed commitment to multilateralism.

Global Times noted that international sense of relief in a tweet, noting that the leaders of Canada, Britain, France, India and Germany had already congratulated Mr. Biden. “The Trump era is seemingly over,” it said.

But even as Chinese propaganda signaled a new phase in U.S.-China relations, it also continued to push a narrative of American decline — a constant refrain in recent months, as an increasingly wealthy and confident China has tried to market itself to the rest of the world as a viable alternative for global leadership.

In particular, the state media has fixated on protests in American cities — starting this summer with the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, through the protests surrounding the election — as proof that American democracy is chaotic.

After Mr. Biden won Pennsylvania, and thus the presidency, CCTV, the state broadcaster, aired videos of large crowds in Philadelphia on Saturday evening and a heavy police presence. An anchor declared that there had been “not only verbal attacks but also even physical clashes” between Trump and Biden supporters. (In reality, there were few reports of violent confrontations.)

Hu Xijin, the editor of Global Times, pointed to Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede, writing on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, that “American society is now highly divided, which creates the soil for further political derailment.”

The outlets had been emphasizing the potential for political violence all week as the vote counts trickled in. Since Election Day, the Chinese state media had shared photos of boarded-up businesses and police officers on watch at poll sites.

At the time the race was called, the second top trending topic on Weibo was the drive-by shooting of two people attending a pro-Trump rally in Florida on Friday. Few posts mentioned that the shots fired were pellet rounds, or that the two people were treated for minor injuries and released.

Some state-controlled outlets had seemed to revel in the instability. Just minutes before the race was called for Mr. Biden on Saturday, People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, had mocked Mr. Trump’s declared refusal to accept the election results.

Mr. Trump, about an hour earlier, had tweeted, falsely, that he had won the election. The People’s Daily account retweeted that post, adding the comment, “HaHa” and a laughing emoji.

That provocative rhetoric had largely ebbed by Sunday, in a reflection of the hopes for a reset. Many major state-controlled outlets offered straight news coverage of Mr. Biden’s victory speech in Delaware. China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately offer a comment on the outcome. People’s Daily deleted its tweet.

Still, those that did venture optimism also warned against excessive expectations. Though Mr. Trump had made demonizing China a central plank of his campaign rhetoric — especially as he tried to deflect blame for his disastrous response to the coronavirus outbreak — public opinion toward China in both parties has increasingly soured.

And geopolitical tensions between the two countries will most likely continue to simmer. The Global Times article pointed to unresolved disputes over the democracy movement in Hong Kong, the trade war and Taiwan.

Southern Daily, an official newspaper for the southern province of Guangdong, wrote on Weibo that while Mr. Biden would most likely treat Russia, not China, as the biggest foreign threat to the United States, “we don’t have to have illusions.”

“One thing is for sure, things will never return to the way they were before,” the post continued. “The world is not the world it was before.”

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Engine Media Teams with Panasonic System Solutions Company on the Panasonic UMG Collegiate Clash Esports Tournament – Canada NewsWire

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University of Texas at Dallas Esports wins $5K in scholarships

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 23, 2020 /CNW/ –Engine Media (TSX-V: GAME; OTCQB: MLLLF) partnered with Panasonic System Solutions Company of North America to deliver the UMG Collegiate Clash Esports Tournament, an interactive remote-based esports tournament, exclusively sponsored by Panasonic.

The Collegiate Clash Esports Tournament was hosted live on November 8, 2020 from the Panasonic Esports Arena at Black Fire Innovation Lab located at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). The tournament featured 11 collegiate esports teams:

  • University of Missouri Esports
  • University of Georgia Esports
  • University of Central Florida Esports
  • University of Akron Esports
  • University of Texas at Dallas Esports
  • Illinois Wesleyan University Esports
  • Arizona State University Esports
  • University of Tulsa Esports
  • University of Arkansas Esports
  • Grand View Esports
  • University of Ottawa (Kansas)

The teams competed in the single elimination Fall Guys competition. Fall Guys is one of the top multiplayer games on streaming platforms. University of Texas in Dallas edged out the University of Central Florida to take home the $5K scholarship.

As a comprehensive supplier with game-winning AV solutions for Esports, Panasonic offers an extensive portfolio of laser and LCD projectors; professional displays; 4K and HD production switchers; 4K and HD PTZ, studio and cinema cameras and camcorders, creating high-quality engaging and immersive visual experiences.

Engine Media’s UMG Gaming platform provided end-to-end support including tournament operation, administration, and broadcast. Engine Media’s leading analytics solution, Stream Hatchet, provided comprehensive reporting across the tournament.  This included Stream Hatchet’s new Campaign Management solution, which seamlessly integrated Panasonic branding into the broadcast.

“Panasonic was excited to work with Engine Media to create the first Engine Media’s UMG Collegiate Clash Powered by Panasonic,” said Rob Goldberg, Sales Director–Visual Systems, Panasonic System Solutions Company. “As esports continues to gain popularity, Panasonic looks forward to providing our seamless 4K glass-to-glass solutions for this growing marketplace.”

The tournament was further enhanced and amplified by Engine Media’s, Winview, a fan engagement app, giving viewers the opportunity to directly engage with the competition.

“We were excited about the opportunity to combine Panasonic’s professional video production technology with Engine Media’s vertically integrated esports products,” says Jill Peters, Chief Revenue Officer of Engine Media, “We appreciate and support Panasonic’s dedication to enriching the opportunities and experience in collegiate esports. Engine Media is dedicated to growing the collegiate space by providing compelling opportunities to both fans and education institutions.”

The competition was broadcasted to esports fans globally via UMG Gaming and Panasonic on Twitch channels, which enabled students and fans to see player’s reactions and the heart pounding moment of the competition.

About Engine Media Holdings, Inc.
Engine Media is focused on accelerating new, live, immersive esports and interactive gaming experiences for consumers through its partnerships with traditional and emerging media companies. The company was formed through the combination of Torque Esports Corp., Frankly Inc., and WinView, Inc. and trades publicly under the ticker symbol (TSX-V: GAME) (OTCQB: MLLLF).  Engine Media will generate revenue through a combination of direct-to-consumer and subscription fees; streaming technology and data SaaS-based offerings; programmatic advertising and sponsorships; as well as intellectual property licensing fees.  To date, the combined companies have clients comprised of more than 1,200 television, print and radio brands including CNN, ESPN, Discovery / Eurosport, Fox, Vice, Newsweek and Cumulus; dozens of gaming and technology companies including EA, Activision, Blizzard, Take 2 Interactive, Microsoft, Google, Twitch and Ubisoft; and have connectivity into hundreds of millions of homes around the world through their content, distribution and technology.

About Panasonic System Solutions Company of North America
Panasonic System Solutions Company of North America, a division of Panasonic Corporation of North America, delivers game-changing technology solutions that deliver customized experiences to drive better outcomes—for our customers and our customers’ customers. Panasonic designs and manufactures reliable, flexible and dependable products and solutions to help create, capture and deliver information of all types, especially where, when and how it is needed. The complete suite of Panasonic professional solutions for government and commercial enterprises of all sizes addresses unified business communications, mobile computing, , retail point-of-sale, office productivity, audio and visual systems (projectors, displays & digital signage) and professional video production. To learn more and Panasonic’s business products and solutions visit: https://na.panasonic.com/us/audio-video-solutions.

Connect with Panasonic Professional Imaging & Visual Systems:
Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube

Cautionary Statement on Forward-Looking Information

This news release contains forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of Engine to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Often, but not always, forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of words such as “plans”, “expects” or “does not expect”, “is expected”, “estimates”, “intends”, “anticipates” or “does not anticipate”, or “believes”, or variations of such words and phrases or state that certain actions, events or results “may”, “could”, “would”, “might” or “will” be taken, occur or be achieved.  Forward-looking information contained in this news release include, but are not limited to, any regulatory or other approvals required in connection therewith and Engine’s expectations for growth in its operations and business. In respect of the forward-looking information contained herein, Engine has provided such statements and information in reliance on certain assumptions that management believed to be reasonable at the time, including assumptions as to obtaining required regulatory approvals. Forward-looking information involves known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements stated herein to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking information. Actual results could differ materially from those currently anticipated due to a number of factors and risks.  Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking information contained in this news release.

The forward-looking statements contained in this news release are made as of the date of this release and, accordingly, are subject to change after such date. Engine does not assume any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether written or oral, that may be made from time to time by us or on our behalf, except as required by applicable law.
Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

SOURCE Engine Media Holdings, Inc.

For further information: Jill Peters, [email protected], 404-580-9765; Kevin Webb, [email protected], 404-775-9099, https://www.engine.media

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Special Report: Ortega media enrich his family, entrench his hold on Nicaragua – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Drazen Jorgic and Ismael Lopez

MANAGUA (Reuters) – In early 2010, Nicaragua’s Canal 8, an independent television network, had a new owner.

Details of the deal – the identity of the buyer, the purchase price, an exact date for the transaction – remained secret. The seller died of cancer soon after.

But a familiar face soon took charge at Canal 8: the son of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. The leftist leader, who rose to prominence in the late Cold War with his Sandinista revolutionaries, had reclaimed the presidency three years before.

Canal 8 was long known for scrutinizing administrations both left and right. But new chief executive Juan Carlos Ortega Murillo, then 28 years old, quickly imposed orders for “good news” about his father’s government, according to several former employees of the station.

Many Nicaraguans quickly concluded the young Ortega’s appointment meant the first family or its allies were behind the acquisition. They were right.

According to previously undisclosed tax documents from earlier this year, Canal 8 is owned by Yadira Leets Marin, wife of Rafael Ortega Murillo, another son of the president. It isn’t clear whether Leets Marin was involved in the 2010 purchase, but the documents identify her as Canal 8’s majority owner now. She didn’t respond to requests from Reuters for comment.

The takeover of Canal 8 by the Ortega clan was the first step in a media strategy that over the past decade has saturated the Central American country’s airwaves, newsstands and smartphone screens with pro-government coverage.

The strategy was hinted at by Ortega’s wife, Rosario Murillo, in a public communique she issued as the president’s communications chief shortly after he began his second administration in 2007. The goal: not only ensure positive coverage, but also secure outright control of media properties by Ortega and allies.

In the years since, the president, his family and close associates have gained ownership or managerial control of at least a dozen TV channels, radio stations, and online news sites.

Some of the acquisitions, including the Canal 8 deal, were financed at least in part by funds provided by oil-rich Venezuela, said three current and former employees and people familiar with the acquisitions.

The Ortega family itself, according to 2020 tax and corporate registration documents reviewed by Reuters, controls ownership of Canal 8 and radio broadcaster Radio Ya.

Friends and close allies, according to the documents, own three additional television channels – Canal 4, Canal 13, and Canal 22 – all managed by children of the Ortegas. A fourth station, Canal 2, is also owned by an associate, according to people familiar with the channel, and the Ortegas manage its news operations.

Through state ownership, the Ortegas control TV broadcaster Canal 6, national network Radio Nicaragua, and online news portals like El 19 Digital. Associates of the first family own at least three other radio stations, all openly allied with the government.

Nicaraguans for years have speculated about the extent of the Ortegas’ control of their country’s media landscape. But the family has never officially disclosed what assets it owns or operates through allied investors.

Reuters interviewed current and former employees of outlets controlled by the family as well as dozens of government officials, people at rival media, and Nicaraguan tax and legal experts. They provide the fullest portrayal yet of how Canal 8 came under the Ortegas’ control and how the family went on to use budget and tax laws to squeeze rival media and tighten their own grip on power.

The office of the president didn’t return calls or emails from Reuters seeking comment for this report. Murillo, who is now vice president as well as government spokeswoman, didn’t respond to separate requests for comment. Juan Carlos, Rafael and other Ortega relatives named in this story didn’t respond, either. Canal 8 and other media properties run by the family didn’t respond to queries.

The clan’s media empire has crowded out voices opposed to Ortega. “Canal 8 was a space where different, independent journalism was possible,” said Carlos Fernando Chamorro, a prominent journalist who left the station because of the acquisition. “It was a key move toward concentrating control.”

As the media empire shores up the president’s power, his government is steering large sums of state money into the properties controlled by the family and its allies.

Over the past two years, Nicaragua’s government bought advertising worth an estimated $59 million from the three biggest TV channels owned or controlled by the Ortega family, according to data compiled by Media Guru, a consultancy that tracks media spending. The government spent an estimated $230,000, less than 1% as much, at channels not affiliated with the Ortegas.

In another benefit for the Ortegas and their allies, at least two of their channels, unlike rival media, don’t appear to have paid taxes in recent years, according to previously unreported tax documents reviewed by Reuters.

Over the past decade, Canal 8 hasn’t paid more than $4 million in tax and interest it should have under Nicaraguan law, according to the documents, a finding supported by local tax experts who examined the materials for Reuters.

“They’ve created a system in which the money comes out of the national budget, runs through their holdings, and all stays in their pockets,” said Alfonso Malespin, a media specialist at the University of Commercial Sciences in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital.

The media effort is a family affair.

Ortega has been aided by his wife, Murillo. Once a poet, she is widely considered the architect of the media strategy. Their children play key roles: In addition to Juan Carlos and Rafael, four other Ortega Murillo children run major media properties or hold stakes in them.

The Ortega family’s media activities appear to violate several Nicaraguan laws, according to local attorneys consulted by Reuters. By channeling state funds to family-controlled properties, the Ortegas flout legislation that governs behavior and procurement by public servants, the attorneys said.

Because some of the acquisitions were allegedly made in part through a joint venture controlled by Venezuela’s state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, lawyers said the purchases broke a law that forbids foreign ownership of Nicaraguan media outlets.

And by not paying taxes, the lawyers said, Canal 8 may be violating Nicaraguan tax laws – statutes that Ortega has used to confiscate assets, including studios and newsprint, from rival media. “If the rule of law were respected here, there would be clear criminal and civil penalties, with people arrested and companies impounded,” Alberto Novoa, a former solicitor general who reviewed the tax documents, told Reuters.

Political opponents, human rights activists, and foreign powers including the United States and the European Union say Ortega’s media might has made Nicaragua more autocratic. State propaganda, they argue, was instrumental in helping Ortega secure two re-elections, in 2011 and 2016, and weather a wave of bloody anti-government protests in 2018.

More than 300 people died during those protests, some killed by government snipers on rooftops. Police raided the newsrooms of rival media, arresting journalists and confiscating computers and other equipment, while Murillo went on family-run broadcasters to decry demonstrators as “coup-plotters” and “terrorists.” More recently, she has used the platforms to label independent media “termites” and “extremists.”

In a statement earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the attacks, “including the use of spurious revenue charges to shutter studios and seize equipment, demonstrate that Ortega, along with Vice President Rosario Murillo, are interested only in prolonging their rule.”

The media strategy has been cited by the United States among abuses for which it has sanctioned family members and associates including Murillo, Juan Carlos and Rafael, husband of Canal 8 owner Leets Marin. In a June statement, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against Juan Carlos for spreading “regime propaganda.”

Last year, the Treasury accused Rafael of using various companies, including a chain of state-run gas stations, to launder money and hide family assets. “Rafael Ortega is the key money manager behind the Ortega family’s illicit financial schemes,” it said in a statement.

Nicaragua’s government appears unchastened.

The National Assembly, the country’s pro-Ortega legislature, recently passed laws that further pressure rival media. One bill makes it a crime for anyone to spread “false” information via social media or in news outlets. Another imposes prison sentences of up to six years for anyone convicted of publishing information “not authorized” by the government.

With such measures, opponents say, reality has become increasingly distorted across the country of more than 6 million people. Nicaraguans will go to the polls again next year. They will have a diminishing number of independent sources covering the state of their country, the second-poorest in the Americas after Haiti, and its leadership.

“It’s the opposite of reality,” says Gioconda Belli, a novelist and poet once close to Murillo. “It’s totally Orwellian.”

“NEW AND BETTER WAYS OF COMMUNICATING”

Ortega, now 75, was once an icon for leftist revolutionaries worldwide and a symbol of hope for a Nicaraguan society long torn by inequality. With Coke-bottle glasses and a bookish demeanor, he was chosen by colleagues as Sandinista leader after they toppled Anastasio Somoza, the last in a string of dictators, in 1979.

Ortega, Sandinista colleagues said, appeared less power-hungry than more ambitious rivals at the time.

Nicaraguans elected Ortega president in 1984. He was plagued by economic and social problems, however, and voters denied him a second term five years later. He remained Sandinista chief but spent the next 16 years in the opposition, failing three times to return to the presidency.

For most of their first act, his wife, Murillo, lay low.

The 69-year-old first lady, fluent in English and French, at the time was known mostly for mystical writings and her kaleidoscopic wardrobe. “Rosario had no influence in the ’80s and ’90s,” said Victor Hugo Tinoco, a former Sandinista who served as United Nations ambassador and deputy foreign minister in Ortega’s first term.

More recently, Ortega has deployed Murillo’s communication skills. Her media savvy, people familiar with the couple said, helped him remake his image.

Ortega once sported military fatigues like those of Fidel Castro, his friend and mentor; the leftie look gave way to jeans and Oxford shirts. The couple mended fences with the Catholic Church and businesspeople their party once antagonized.

In 2006, the transformation carried Ortega back to victory.

Upon his inauguration in January 2007, Ortega made Murillo his communications chief. She told aides the government should find ways to publish news “uncontaminated” by critical media, according to several people familiar with the discussions.

In a “Communications Policy” statement that February, Murillo criticized what she saw as favoritism by previous administrations and their practice of having government agencies and state-owned firms place ads in friendly major media. Ortega’s government, she wrote, would “seek new and better ways of communicating.”

Right away, Ortega’s government began playing favorites of its own, according to journalists and media executives. It advertised with left-leaning newspapers and broadcasters and shunned outlets it deemed critical.

Murillo centralized the advertising budgets of all ministries and took full control of their communications, according to former government officials involved in the changes. She put Daniel Edmundo Ortega, another of the couple’s nine children, in charge of Canal 4, a channel owned by Sandinista allies that he continues to manage.

Ortega’s return came at the peak of the so-called “Pink Tide,” a wave of leftist victories that swept Latin America starting around the turn of the century. In the movement’s vanguard was Hugo Chavez, the late Venezuelan strongman, whose charisma and petro-dollar diplomacy inspired and financed like-minded leaders across the region.

In July 2007, the two countries announced the creation of a joint venture, Alba de Nicaragua SA, that would use Venezuelan oil funds to pay for infrastructure and social projects in Nicaragua. The venture, known locally as Albanisa, was meant to begin with $250 million in financing for a refinery west of Managua.

The refinery never started, but Venezuelan cash flowed in.

The International Monetary Fund, in a 2017 report, estimated that Nicaragua received as much as $3.2 billion from Venezuela before the South American country’s economy imploded in recent years. Nicaragua’s own central bank has said the figure reached as much as $5 billion.

But neither government has ever given a full accounting of the financing or how Ortega spent the money, which is equivalent to as much as a third of Nicaragua’s annual economic output.

Spokespeople at Venezuela’s information ministry and PDVSA didn’t respond to Reuters requests for comment.

By 2008, Ortega’s family and close associates had begun building what today is a business empire with assets in energy, security and other sectors. Juan Carlos that year launched Difuso Comunicaciones SA, an advertising agency.

The agency quickly attracted clients eager to do business with those in power. People familiar with the ad agency’s operations say it serves as a conduit for much of the government’s advertising. Difuso produces commercials for state tourism, the ports agency, the electricity authority and other agencies, these people say, and places the ads on channels controlled by the family.

Government documents reviewed by Reuters show that Difuso’s owners include Maria Luisa Mejia, who is regularly referred to in Nicaragua as one of first lady Murillo’s attorneys. Another Difuso owner is Nestor Moncada Lau, an advisor to President Ortega.

In 2018, the U.S. sanctioned Moncada for allegedly paying counter-demonstrators to clash with protestors that year and bribing other Nicaraguans to keep them from opposing the government.

Mejia has never publicly addressed her reported role as Murillo’s attorney. She didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story. Moncada, though widely considered a close aide of Ortega, has never given an interview. Reuters was unable to reach him.

When Juan Carlos took the reins at Canal 8, workers were surprised by what suddenly seemed like a bottomless budget, according to five former employees of the channel. He bought modern studio equipment, they said, and wooed rival journalists with good salaries. He sent iPads and other gifts to the heads of ad agencies from which he hoped to win non-government business.

Questions began circulating in Nicaragua about the source of the money in Canal 8’s newly fat wallet. Rafael Paniagua, the Venezuelan then in charge of Albanisa, told a Managua newspaper in 2010 that Canal 8 was purchased for roughly $10 million by the Nicaragua-Venezuela joint venture. Paniagua left Nicaragua abruptly afterward and never returned.

Reuters was unable to determine how ownership of the channel was transferred from Albanisa to Leets Marin. Paniagua couldn’t be reached for comment.

Rodrigo Obregon, another former Albanisa executive who retired in 2014, recently supported Paniagua’s assertion. The Canal 8 acquisition, Obregon told Reuters in an interview, was part of a plan by Ortega to replicate Chavez’s strategy of bringing the media under state control to “indoctrinate” the masses.

“They were interested in all the radio and TV broadcasters they could buy,” Obregon said.

“IGNORE EVERYTHING”

Throughout Ortega’s second and third terms, his family took control of more broadcasters, often with close associates as owners. Generous compensation made jobs at these outlets attractive for some journalists. The perks included discounted homes at subsidized housing developments, according to four people familiar with the benefits.

In exchange, Murillo expected reporters to toe the Sandinista line.

In 2011, Noel Miranda, a reporter at Radio Ya, a Managua station, asked Murillo at a press conference about allegations by local academics that the government was growing autocratic. Radio Ya is owned by Entretenimiento Digital SA, a company controlled by Rafael Ortega, according to previously undisclosed ownership documents reviewed by Reuters.

Murillo looked at the reporter’s identification card, stared him down, and ignored the question. The following day, Miranda said, he wasn’t allowed back at work. The station didn’t renew the six-month contract he was on, and Miranda is now a reporter for an online news site in Managua. “We knew there were limits,” Miranda told Reuters.

Miranda’s account was substantiated by several former colleagues. Executives at Radio Ya and Entretenimiento Digital didn’t respond to emails and phone calls from Reuters for comment.

That same year, the Ortegas launched a new television station, Canal 13, managed by three other Ortega Murillo children: Camila, Maurice and Luciana. One of the channel’s owners, according to government documents reviewed by Reuters, is Mejia, the attorney who also is part-owner of Difuso, the advertising agency.

Three years later, in 2014, Maurice Ortega also began managing the news operations of Canal 2, another major station owned by Ortega allies.

With more platforms in the hands of the family, the Ortega government increased state spending on advertising more than tenfold, according to data compiled by Media Guru, the advertising consultancy. The data, independently reviewed by Reuters, is based on market rates for advertising on channels across the country.

Media Guru, which has offices in Managua and elsewhere in Central America, declined to comment.

Between 2000 and 2010, according to a person familiar with the data, Nicaragua’s government spent an estimated $2.6 million a year on advertising. By 2019, the data show, the figure had soared to an estimated $29 million annually.

Last year, all but roughly $128,000, or 0.44% of that amount, went toward advertising with Ortega family outlets, according to a Reuters calculation based on the data. The ads are purchased by government agencies and by state-run companies like the gas-station chain controlled by Rafael Ortega.

At Canal 8 alone, advertising placed by the state jumped from roughly $400,000 in 2009 to an estimated annual average of more than $6 million over the past decade, according to the person familiar with the data. Last year, the government placed ads worth an estimated $16.8 million with the channel, the data show.

By comparison, Canal 10, Nicaragua’s most popular station and a channel not controlled by the Ortegas, in 2019 received less than $9,000 in state advertising, according to the data. Executives at Canal 10 didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The person familiar with the Media Guru data confirmed the accuracy of the spending figures reported here. Separately, three advertising executives in Nicaragua told Reuters the estimates are realistic.

With unrivaled reach, the Ortega family’s messaging permeated the country.

Murillo grew especially visible, appearing on family-run channels, often daily, and issuing orders about coverage and editorial priorities through offspring at the helm of each broadcaster. “She is like the head of an octopus, her children the tentacles,” said one journalist who formerly worked at one of the broadcasters.

In 2014, Sandinista legislators scrapped presidential term limits. Two years later, Ortega won a fourth term and Murillo, now his running mate, the vice presidency. Ortega barred international observers from the election.

In 2018, an Ortega plan to increase social security contributions and lower pension payouts sparked demonstrations.

At first, Murillo told state and allied outlets not to cover the unrest. “The order was to ignore everything,” said Carlos Mikel Espinosa, then an editor at El 19 Digital, a state-controlled online news portal. Espinosa quit when the upheaval intensified and the government response grew violent.

Foreign governments, the United Nations, and human rights groups denounced Ortega and Sandinista allies for reported killings, beatings, detentions and torture of many protesters. Police raided newsrooms of opposition media, seizing equipment and supplies needed for publishing.

They arrested Miguel Mora, founder of 100% Noticias, a Managua television station, and shut its broadcasts. The government, Mora told Reuters, claimed the channel owed unpaid taxes, an assertion he denied. “It was a brutal attack to make us change our editorial line or to make us bankrupt,” said Mora, who was released but has since left the media business.

Some outlets controlled by the Ortegas, meanwhile, are shortchanging the government on taxes, Reuters found.

Documents reviewed by Reuters from the General Revenue Directorate, Nicaragua’s tax collection agency, show that Canal 8 hasn’t paid taxes and interest amounting to about $4 million since 2010, the year Juan Carlos took over. Canal 4, the Sandinista channel managed by Daniel Edmundo Ortega, owes about $380,000 in back taxes, the documents show.

Nicaragua’s tax agency didn’t respond to requests for comment.

It isn’t clear why the taxes have gone unpaid or whether the government has sought to collect them. Tax specialists who reviewed the documents told Reuters both stations are in clear violation of Nicaraguan tax law. “Any other company would have already been seized,” one of the experts said.

Consider the case of Canal 12, a private television station owned by Mariano Valle, a Managua businessman. Valle has sought to keep his channel independent, and its journalists and on-air guests have criticized Ortega policies.

In September, Ortega’s government said the channel owes about $800,000 in unpaid taxes. A judge, pending ongoing litigation, authorized the state to seize the station’s offices and cars, and Valle’s home, and keep them if the channel loses in court.

The channel in a statement called the moves “arbitrary and illegal.” In September Valle told a local radio station, “we don’t owe anything.” He didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Eduardo Enriquez, editor of La Prensa, the last large independent newspaper still operating in Nicaragua, told Reuters that during the protests, tax authorities used their power to block imports of newsprint and ink.

The suffocating reach of pro-Ortega propaganda, Enriquez said, means La Prensa and the handful other independent outlets are operating in a “news desert.” If the Ortegas remain in power, he predicts, “independent media won’t survive.”

(Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington. Editing by Paulo Prada.)

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Right-wing Social Media Finalizes Its Divorce From Reality – The Atlantic

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When Fox News called Arizona for Democrat Joe Biden shortly after the polls closed there on Election Night, right-wing social media erupted in fury. Fox is the most conservative of the nation’s major news outlets, and its aggressive Arizona call—which most other national outlets did not follow for days—left true believers on the right feeling betrayed. On the social-media app Parler, which has been gaining popularity among supporters of President Donald Trump, posts alleging electoral irregularities mixed with assorted hashtags decrying Fox itself: #BOYCOTTFOXNEWS, #DUMPFOXNEWS, #FAKEFOXNEWS, #FOXNEWSISDEAD, and #FOXNEWSSUCKS. Throughout Election Day, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube had been cracking down on a flurry of allegations about voter fraud in Arizona; the platforms quickly applied warning labels to new posts containing false or disputed information and reduced the distribution of groups spreading them. In response, pro-Trump influencers exhorted their followers to congregate on Parler, which tells users to “speak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for your views.”

In the hours following the Arizona call, a paranoid conspiracy theory spread rapidly on Parler and in other right-wing online forums: Voters in conservative counties had been given felt-tip pens that supposedly made vote-counting machines reject the ballots that they marked for Trump. The following night, Trump supporters protesting what came to be called #SharpieGate gathered outside the Maricopa County ballot-counting facility in Phoenix. In a development previously unthinkable to liberals who have long dismissed Fox as state media for the Trump administration, the Arizona protesters began chanting, “Fox News sucks!”

Trump’s clear loss in the presidential election has precipitated a deep rift in the right-wing information ecosystem, as media outlets, tech platforms, and individual commentators have been forced to choose between upholding reality and indulging those who insist that the president actually won. On November 7, Fox News was among the major networks that called the election for Biden, its news stories now refer to him as “president-elect,” and even the pro-Trump Fox commentator Tucker Carlson has challenged absurd claims being made by the president’s lawyers. The major social-media platforms—which for years boosted sensational propaganda and Trump-friendly conspiracy theories such as QAnon—have been remarkably active and admirably transparent in preventing the spread of misinformation about the 2020 election. As the president continues to rail against his loss on Twitter, the mainstream social platforms have continued to label wild claims and false allegations and reduce their spread; Facebook has taken down some of the more extreme communities that have sprung up among its users.

Yet reducing the supply of misinformation doesn’t eliminate the demand. Powerful online influencers and the right-wing demi-media—intensely partisan outlets, such as One America News and Newsmax, that amplify ideas that bubble up from internet message boards—have steadfastly reassured Trump’s supporters that he will be reelected, and that the conspiracies against him will be exposed. No doubt seeing an opportunity to pull viewers from a more established rival, One America News Network ran a segment attacking Fox’s Arizona call and declaring the network a “Democrat Party hack.” The president himself, while tweeting about how the election was being stolen, amplified accounts that touted OANN and Newsmax as places to find accurate reporting on the truth about his election victory. And on Parler, the conspiracy-mongering has grown only more frenzied as Trump makes state-by-state fraud allegations: In addition to concerns about Sharpies, the social network abounds with rumors of CIA supercomputers with secret programs to change votes, allegations of massive numbers of dead people voting, claims of backdated ballots, and assorted other speculations that users attempt to coalesce into a grand unified theory of election theft.

How far these ideas spread depends in part on whether mainstream social-media outlets keep moderating content as closely as they did during this election season. For most of Trump’s term, Facebook and others had been loath to crack down on even baseless conspiracy theories, including those repeated by the president himself. Freedom of expression, the argument went, covers the right to think and say even floridly false things, which were best addressed through corrections and counter-speech. Yet the major platforms concluded that misleading theories about the election were a distinct class of misinformation because of their potential to cause significant harm to the body politic. As the split between reality-based information outlets and those catering to pro-Trump bitter-enders has widened, the distribution of their content is becoming significantly siloed. This could have two major effects: It may limit the spread of conspiracy theories and reduce the possibility that Facebook and YouTube recommendation algorithms will draw casual users into the world of QAnon. But the bifurcation also raises the possibility that, among those who gravitate to niche platforms like Parler, the discussion may grow even more extreme. People who sincerely believe that a CIA supercomputer changed votes for Biden in swing states will not do an about-face and accept him as the duly elected president on Inauguration Day. A persistent belief that the new president is illegitimate could cause political violence.

Parler, whose backers include the conservative donor Rebekah Mercer and the prominent pro-Trump activist Dan Bongino, was founded in 2018 and began marketing itself to a right-wing audience that felt victimized by supposed censorship on mainstream social platforms. The conspiratorial right-wing media outlet Epoch Times was an early adopter, but most prominent conservative media figures did not join until June 2020, when Twitter took the bold step of fact-checking the president’s tweets. That supposed injustice prompted a recruitment drive for Parler, where posts are neither fact-checked nor labeled, even when demonstrably false. Influential figures such as Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Representative Devin Nunes tweeted about the app. Senator Ted Cruz made a two-minute video declaring that he was joining Parler, and exhorting his followers to join him on the platform: “Let’s speak freely.” For some of American conservatism’s highest-profile figures to insinuate that they were being censored was patently absurd, but the publicity push still won Parler a few hundred thousand new users over a three-day span. By early July, the service claimed 2.8 million users. Parler attracted approximately 1 million downloads in the five days following November 3, and COO Jeffrey Wernick recently put the app’s user count at nearly 9 million. (By comparison, Twitter has 330 million active users globally; Facebook has 2.7 billion, and 255 million in the United States alone.)

In reality, Parler’s commitment to letting users speak freely hasn’t been absolute. Press coverage attracted trolls who posted pictures of poop—images that Parler chose to remove. Additionally, its most prominent converts instinctively understand that an app catering primarily to conservatives is intrinsically limited in its power. Cruz’s video extolling Parler was nominally true in that the Texas Republican did join up, but he, like most other influential conservatives, has posted only sporadically; the majority of their online speech continued apace on major social platforms.

A different type of influencer, however, was active on Parler: accounts that had been kicked off mainstream social communities because of assorted forms of bad behavior and terms-of-service violations. These included Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Laura Loomer, and leading QAnon acolytes. In October 2020, dozens of dubious accounts tied to GTV, a new media venture backed by the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, mass-posted a large collection of videos, still photos, and text messages meant to embarrass or even incriminate Hunter Biden and bemoaned the mainstream media’s failure to cover these materials. Although people who don’t use Parler likely saw none of the raunchy images associated with “LaptopGate” on the app, they were the dominant topic of conversation there for days; conventional wisdom within the community was that they were a knockout punch to Biden’s candidacy. Parler, in other words, was less of a free-speech platform than a right-wing echo chamber in which the highest-engagement posts primarily came from hyper-partisan influencers and media outlets. Within this echo chamber, Trump remains the undisputed winner of the 2020 election. Only the “fake news media” says otherwise. And as the #SharpieGate protest showed, what happens on Parler doesn’t stay on Parler.

If successful, the app is likely to reinforce hyper-partisan, bespoke realities, in which people inside each bubble barely even encounter information that might challenge their preconceptions. An open question, though, is whether the most extreme and conspiratorial communities can expand their membership if Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube refuse to let them spread misinformation. The content that people see has profound real-world consequences. Many of the echo chambers and bespoke realities prevalent today, such as the spaces devoted to QAnon and political extremism, exist because the largest social-media companies designed their platforms to maximize user engagement and ignored the unintended consequences of algorithmic recommendations, rankings, and curation. After being misused for purposes of election manipulation, political violence, and even genocide, mainstream platforms are reckoning more and more with the implications of their power.

Events since the election underscore both the ability of major platforms to limit the spread of misinformation and the continuing appeal of reality-defying ideas. On Facebook the morning after the Arizona rally, a group named “Stop the Steal” popped up, and it attracted more than 300,000 members in less than 24 hours. Then Facebook shut it down because of concerns about the threat of violence. Two days later, another group appeared, called “Nationwide Recount 2020.” It amassed more than 1 million followers within a few days. Member posts primarily cast doubt on the presidential election result and contemplate whether the nation is in the midst of a deep-state revolution foretold on Carlson’s Fox show. Moderators stress that they want to minimize the sharing of content that will get the group banned, while also urging members to create accounts on Parler.

A feedback loop is now at work: Mainstream platforms have come to the conclusion that certain content or behavior has serious downstream implications, so they moderate it with a heavier hand. That moderation, particularly when sloppily executed, is perceived as censorship by those affected, and the content or accounts taken down are recast as forbidden knowledge. The claim of censorship is turned into a mass-aggrievement narrative, deployed as a cudgel by politicians who use it cynically to rally their base, and various demi-media outlets  and grifters attempt to leverage it for profit. Ordinary people, meanwhile, are pushed deeper into echo chambers.

Whether they will stay there is not yet clear. Parler is one of a suite of social-media spaces built for conservatives. Others include the YouTube-like sites Rumble and BitChute and the Twitter-like Gab. Their founding is hardly surprising. If there is an audience to monetize, someone will try. In practice, though, few of these niche social-media properties take hold. People are joining Parler today to find like-minded users to validate their own beliefs, but ultimately some percentage will get bored and move on. That subset will ultimately drift away from the app. It’s less user-friendly than Facebook, and it lacks one of the primary appeals that Twitter affords its core users: the ability to criticize people at the other end of the political spectrum. For some Trump supporters, the whole point of politics is to “own the libs,” but on Parler, there are no libs around to own.

Yet the immediate danger persists. Democracy is built on dialogue—on the belief that even when citizens argue about the merits of a politician or the specifics of a policy, they ultimately use the act of voting to decide on a shared direction. Democracy also assumes that people on the losing side will accept the loss, not retreat into an alternate reality in which their candidate won. No amount of content moderation by Facebook can make up for the president’s refusal to concede and his most die-hard supporters’ inability to see any reason why he should. The conspiracy theory that the president-elect is illegitimate and the election was stolen is being reframed as reality, and millions of Americans keep buying it.

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Renée DiResta is the technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory.

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