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'Viva La VPN': Kashmiris use VPN apps to skirt social media ban – Al Jazeera English

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Last week, India restored limited internet access in Kashmir after close to six months – the longest in a democracy – but major social media sites remain blocked for seven million residents of the Muslim-majority region.

People have resorted to virtual private network (VPN) apps in a bid to bypass the firewall to access social media websites. VPNs use proxy servers that allow users to change their location to circumvent regional internet blockades.

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Widely popular social media sites like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram continue to be blocked.

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Authorities in India-administered Kashmir resumed slow-speed 2G services on Friday but granted access to only 300 odd “whitelisted” websites, which include tax collection, education, banking and government department websites.

Inside Kashmir’s media facility amid blackout

Sheikh Adnan, a film studies scholar based in the Indian capital New Delhi, could video call his parents back home in Kashmir for the first time in almost six months, thanks to VPN.

“It was very overwhelming. I hadn’t seen my parents all these months. When I learned about this VPN thing, I asked my friend to rush to my home and fix VPN for my parents. They downloaded half a dozen VPN applications before one eventually helped in connecting a video call through WhatsApp,” Adnan told Al Jazeera.

“I couldn’t hold my tears nor could I look into her eyes. The call was very brief owing to poor connectivity issues,” he said.

Fearing widespread protests, internet services had been suspended in the conflict-wracked region since August 5, when India revoked the region’s partial autonomy and statehood.

On Monday, many of the Kashmiris could be seen announcing their arrival on social media portals like Facebook and Instagram with messages like “Viva La VPN”.

“If you see this post, please rate VPN’s with 5 stars,” wrote Aaqib Junaid on his Facebook page.

“‘Which VPN you are using’ has replaced ‘Salam Alaykum’ [Muslim greetings] in Kashmir,” wrote another user, Irfan Mehraj, referring to the most asked questions on social media.

‘Audiovisual content’

Since authorities keep on blocking VPNs as well, many Kashmiris are downloading dozens of VPN apps on their gadgets in a bid to enhance and prolong their chance of using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Tafheem Qadri, an engineering student, says VPN has become necessary to access websites, most of which remain blocked [Courtesy of Tafheem Qadri]

“I downloaded many VPNs, and when one is blocked I will simply switch to the next one,” says Tafheem Qadri, a materials engineer from Srinagar who is travelling back to the Himalayan region from New Delhi.

Qadri has downloaded 14 VPN apps on his mobile to access the internet. “It is not only about social media. I am a student and need access to internet. What they [government] have done is that they have given us access to websites like Gmail.

“I have been looking at universities in order to apply for my master’s degree. Now, for instance, if I apply and I get an offer letter, I will have to go to the website of the university. What if that university has not been put in the whitelisted list? This is where VPN becomes absolutely necessary,” Qadri told Al Jazeera.

Gowhar Farooq Bhat, from AJK Mass Communication Research Centre in New Delhi, told Al Jazeera that the ban on social media is primarily aimed at stopping the audiovisual content from the conflict zone to come out.

“People must have shot videos and audios on their mobile gadgets about what has happened in the region in last six months. Such content is powerful and often leads to mobilisation and social media helps in easy dissemination, so obviously government wouldn’t want it to go viral,” he said.

Despite the increasing use of VPN, many people from the region complain that owing to poor speed of internet they can hardly access it, leave alone social media.

“The speed is so slow, it takes a few minutes for a picture to appear on screen. A simple 10MB file would take you an entire night to download,” said Oman Ahmed, a resident of Srinagar.

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16 Largest Media Companies in the World in 2023

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In this article, we will be taking a look at the 16 largest media companies in the world in 2022. To skip our detailed analysis, you can go directly to see the 5 Largest Media Companies in the World in 2023.

The global media industry is worth nearly $2.3 trillion and is among the biggest industries in the world. It is also easily among the most important industries in the world as it plays an integral role in the promotion and dissemination of information. The media industry consists of broadcasting companies which can include the internet, radio, television and print, though the latter is a dying industry with the introduction of technology and cheaper, more efficient methods of distribution.

The outlook of the entertainment and media company is quite positive, with PwC forecasting that the industry will be worth nearly $3 trillion in 2026. In fact, it is expected to grow much faster than the global economy. Just like any other industry, the media segment took a bit hit in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic but has shown a strong recovery since and is expected to post a CAGR of 4.6%.

One of the changes we’ve seen in the industry which has been accelerated recently by the pandemic is the consumption of media from home via digital channels. Even as the pandemic has started to wane, digital growth is continuing to increase. We’ve already seen a market shift in terms of media consumption with streaming emerging as the area with the highest growth. While Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) can be considered to be the pioneer in this regard, many other companies have realized the potential of engaging in streaming services. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) has now emerged as the biggest player in this market after the launch of Disney+, which combined with other streaming services offered by The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) means that its total number of subscribers in the world have crossed Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX).

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The biggest media companies in the world wield an incredible amount of power and influence. The companies in our list have a combined market cap of over $700 billion. This also raises an interesting question which many are grappling with nowadays: do media companies have too much power? Well, according to a PEW research, 72% of U.S. adults do believe that media companies have too much power as well as influence in politics today.

Photo by Ashley Byrd on Unsplash

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of these companies, starting with number 16:

16. RTL Group S.A.

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 6,465

Total sales of the company (in millions): 7,845

Total profits of the company (in millions): 1,538

Total assets of the company (in millions): 12,170

The Luxembourg-based media company currently has around 70 television channels as well as 31 radio stations in multiple European countries including Germany and France.

15. The Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (NYSE:IPG)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 13,808

Total sales of the company (in millions): 10,241

Total profits of the company (in millions): 953

Total assets of the company (in millions): 19,909

The Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (NYSE:IPG) is a leading advertising company in the U.S. The five major brands owned by The Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (NYSE:IPG) include IPG Mediabrands, McCann Group Worldwide, FCB and MullenLowe Group. The Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (NYSE:IPG) has around 54,000 employees.

14. Formula One Group (NASDAQ:FWONK)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 13,816

Total sales of the company (in millions): 11,400

Total profits of the company (in millions): 398

Total assets of the company (in millions): 44,341

Formula One Group (NASDAQ:FWONK) consists of companies which are responsible for the promotion of FIA Formula One World Championship. Bernie Ecclestone, considered to be one of the main drivers behind the popularity of F1, was the chief executive of Formula One Group (NASDAQ:FWONK) for 40 years. Formula One Group (NASDAQ:FWONK) is headquartered in London.

13. WPP plc (NYSE:WPP)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 11,363

Total sales of the company (in millions): 17,605

Total profits of the company (in millions): 877

Total assets of the company (in millions): 38,052

WPP plc (NYSE:WPP) is one of the biggest media companies in the United Kingdom. WPP plc (NYSE:WPP) is also considered to be the largest advertising company in the world. The major assets owned by WPP plc (NYSE:WPP) include Essence Global, Finsbury, Wavemaker and Mindshare among others.

12. Fox Corporation (NASDAQ:FOX)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 16,539

Total sales of the company (in millions): 13,591

Total profits of the company (in millions): 1,436

Total assets of the company (in millions): 22,878

Fox Corporation (NASDAQ:FOX) is controlled by one of the most famous personalities of our time, Rupert Murdoch. Fox Corporation (NASDAQ:FOX) owns the Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox News, Fox Business and Fox Television Stations. Fox Corporation (NASDAQ:FOX) was only established 3 years ago after 21st Century Fox was acquired by The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), with unacquired assets being spun-off to Fox Corporation (NASDAQ:FOX).

11. Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE:OMC)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 16,140

Total sales of the company (in millions): 14,273

Total profits of the company (in millions): 1,294

Total assets of the company (in millions): 26,146

Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE:OMC) is a global media and marketing company which is headquartered in New York City. Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE:OMC) is not just one of the biggest media companies in the world, but also one of the biggest advertising companies in the world. Established 36 years ago, Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE:OMC) has operations in over a hundred countries globally.

10. Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (NASDAQ:WBD)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 27,854

Total sales of the company (in millions): 12,180

Total profits of the company (in millions): 1,022

Total assets of the company (in millions): 34,427

One of the most influential media companies in the world, Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (NASDAQ:WBD) was only established 7 months ago in April 2022 after being spun-off from Warner Media and merging with Discovery. Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (NASDAQ:WBD) has several divisions including the Warner Bros film and television studio, among the most famous film studios in the world. Further, Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (NASDAQ:WBD) also owns many U.S. networks including Discovery and Scripps, as well as CNN.

9. Liberty Global plc (NASDAQ:LBTYA)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 9,418

Total sales of the company (in millions): 10,543

Total profits of the company (in millions): 13,427

Total assets of the company (in millions): 46,917

A British-Dutch-American multinational, Liberty Global plc (NASDAQ:LBTYA) maintains headquarters in Denver, London and Amsterdam. Liberty Global plc (NASDAQ:LBTYA) currently has operations in around half a dozen countries and more than 21,000 employees. In addition, Liberty Global plc (NASDAQ:LBTYA) has around 10.8 million cable subscribers and a total of 25.3 million revenue generating units.

8. Publicis Groupe SA

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 16,558

Total sales of the company (in millions): 13,874

Total profits of the company (in millions): 1,214

Total assets of the company (in millions): 37,352

Publicis Groupe is a French media company which is counted among the largest media companies in the world. Publicis is majorly engaged in public relations and multinational advertising and is considered one of the Big Four agency companies globally.

7. DISH Network Corporation (NASDAQ:DISH)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 8,491

Total sales of the company (in millions): 17,881

Total profits of the company (in millions): 2,411

Total assets of the company (in millions): 48,465

DISH Network Corporation (NASDAQ:DISH) owns the direct-broadcast satellite provider Dish in addition to the over-the-top IPTV service known as Sling TV. Like many other media companies, DISH Network Corporation (NASDAQ:DISH) has seen its share price nosedive in 2022. Currently, DISH Network Corporation (NASDAQ:DISH) employs over 16,000 people.

6. Naspers Limited

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 30,418

Total sales of the company (in millions): 7,009

Total profits of the company (in millions): 13,966

Total assets of the company (in millions): 70,813

The largest media company in South Africa, Naspers Limited was initially just a printing company, and the biggest such company in South Africa throughout the 20th century and currently owns Media24 and Takealot.com.

5. Paramount Global (NASDAQ:PARA)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 13,039

Total sales of the company (in millions): 28,586

Total profits of the company (in millions): 4,543

Total assets of the company (in millions): 58,620

Paramount Global (NASDAQ:PARA) is easily one of the biggest media companies in the world and owns Paramount Pictures, the CBS Entertainment Group, which includes CBS and the CW television networks, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1, BET, Paramount Network and Showtime. Paramount Global (NASDAQ:PARA) has more than 170 networks currently and has more than 700 million subscribers in around 180 countries.

 

4. Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 127,071

Total sales of the company (in millions): 30,402

Total profits of the company (in millions): 5,007

Total assets of the company (in millions): 45,331

Arguably the pioneer of global streaming, Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) has had a torrid year in 2022 after being the top-performing S&P 500 stock in the 2010s.

 

3. Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 60,729

Total sales of the company (in millions): 51,682

Total profits of the company (in millions): 4,654

Total assets of the company (in millions): 143,392

Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR) is an American mass media company which has more than 32 million customers in around 41 states.

 

2. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 176,087

Total sales of the company (in millions): 72,982

Total profits of the company (in millions): 3,082

Total assets of the company (in millions): 203,311

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) has been in the news recently its ex-CEO Bob Iger made a comeback to help the company turn around.

 

1. Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA)

Total market cap of the company as of 26th November 2022 (in millions): 154,130

Total sales of the company (in millions): 116,385

l profits of the company (in millions): 14,159

Total assets of the company (in millions): 275,905

Topping the list of the 16 largest media companies in the world in 2022 is Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA). Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is the second largest cable television and broadcasting company in the U.S. as well as the biggest Internet service provider in the nation.

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Putin decries media ‘lies’ at meeting with soldiers’ mothers

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday hit out at what he said were skewed media portrayals of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine as he met with mothers of Russian soldiers fighting there.

“Life is more difficult and diverse that what is shown on TV screens or even on the Internet. There are many fakes, cheating, lies there”, Putin said.

The meeting in the Kremlin with more than a dozen women came as uncertainty persists over whether enlistment efforts may resume in the face of recent battlefield setbacks.

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Putin said that he sometimes speaks with troops directly by telephone, according to a Kremlin transcript and photos of the meeting.

“I’ve spoken to (troops) who surprised me with their mood, their attitude to the matter. They didn’t expect these calls from me… (the calls) give me every reason to say that they are heroes,” Putin said.

Some soldiers’ relatives have complained of not being invited to the meeting and have directly criticized Putin’s leadership as well as the recent “partial mobilization” that defense officials said resulted in 300,000 reservists being called up.

 

Olga Tsukanova of the Council of Mothers and Wives, a movement formed by relatives of mobilized soldiers, said in a video message on the Telegram messaging app authorities have ignored queries and requests from her organization.

“We are here in Moscow, ready to meet with you. We are waiting for your reply,” she said, addressing Putin directly.

“We have men in the ministry of defense, in the military prosecutor’s office, powerful guys in the presidential administration… and mothers on the other side. Will you start a dialogue or will you hide?,” she said in her message. Unconfirmed reports by some Russian media outlets suggested that some of the women meeting with Putin on Friday were members of pro-Kremlin social movements, the ruling United Russia party, or local officials backing Putin’s government.

Valentina Melnikova from of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers, a Russian rights organization, told the independent Verstka publication earlier this week that its members were also not invited to the meeting.

Since October, relatives of mobilized soldiers have organized protests in over a dozen Russian regions, calling on the authorities to release their relatives from frontline duty and ensure they had appropriate food rations, shelter and equipment.

Reports by the AP, independent Russian media, and activists have suggested that many of the mobilized reservists are inexperienced, were told to procure basic items such as medical kits and flak jackets themselves, and did not receive proper training before deployment. Some were reported killed within days.

Concerns persist in Russia about whether the Kremlin may renew its mobilization efforts, as Ukrainian forces continue to press a counteroffensive in the country’s south and east. Moscow has suffered a string of battlefield setbacks, losing territory in the northeastern Kharkiv and southern Kherson regions.

 

While Russian officials last month declared the “partial mobilization” complete, critics have warned it could resume after military enlistment offices are freed up from processing conscripts from Russia’s annual fall draft.

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Jennifer Lopez returns to social media to announce ‘This Is Me…Now’

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CNN

Jennifer Lopez has used the 20th anniversary of the release of her “This Is Me…Then” to announce an update.

“This Is Me…Now” will be her next project and reportedly “chronicles the emotional, spiritual and psychological journey that she has taken over the past two decades.”

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Lopez’s social media had gone dark in recent days with much speculation that a big announcement was in the works.

“Featuring confessional songs, reflections on the trials of her past, upbeat celebrations of love with her signature powerhouse vocals, This Is Me…Now shines a spotlight on her tough childhood, unsuccessful relationships and the incredible emotional journey she has been on,” according to Rolling Stone, citing a press release.

The original album, “This Is Me…Then,” was released on November 25, 2002.

In a video posted on her verified social media, Lopez is shown morphing from the artist she was then to who she is today.

“This Was Me…Then” was dedicated to her then-fiance Ben Affleck. It featured her hit single “Jenny From the Block,” as well as a special song about Affleck, “Dear Ben.”

“This Is Me…Now” includes a track titled, “Dear Ben pt. ll.”

The new album was teased in Lopez’s recent Vogue interview in which the collection of songs was referred to “as a kind of bookend to This Is Me…Then, the album she released 20 years ago in the heady early days of her relationship with Affleck.”

“I’m not one of these tortured artists,” Lopez told Vogue. “Yes, I’ve lived with tremendous sadness, like anybody else, many, many times in my life, and pain. But when I make my best music or my best art is when I’m happy and full and feel lots of love.”

Lopez and Affleck are now married, almost 20 years after they first split as a couple.

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