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Weekly Digest: Telegram regulation, Nigeria lifts Twitter ban, new media launches

Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every week, we bring you important news stories from the world of media – and try to put them in a wider context.

Germany doesn’t rule out shutting down Telegram, the country’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said this week. The authorities are investigating how the platform is hosting extremist groups.

Although the statement obviously doesn’t mean that Telegram will necessarily be blocked in Germany (“shutdown would be grave and clearly a last resort,” the minister said), this news story highlights broader efforts to regulate Telegram in the West. 

Over the past year, Telegram showed phenomenal growth, having become the most downloaded app in January 2021 and having attracted 70 million new users in one day thanks to a Facebook outage. At the same time, Telegram provided refuge for far-right groups in the US and other countries after the “great deplatforming” in the wake of last year’s storming of the US Capitol.

More from The Fix: How Telegram harbours far-right groups / Not quite Signal, not yet WeChat: can Telegram fulfill its ambitious mission?

In the meanwhile, Nigeria has lifted its ban on Twitter. The ban was put in place in June last year after Twitter removed the country’s president’s post for violating the “abusive behaviour” policy.

As CNN reports, Twitter made a number of concessions to have the ban lifted. Among other steps, the company is opening an office in Nigeria, addressing tax issues, and perhaps most importantly, agreeing to “[manage] prohibited publication in line with Nigerian law.”

The news is significant both on the background of authoritarian governments from India to Russia trying to regulate big tech companies and because of the fact that, with over 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and among the largest countries in the world. 

More from The Fix: The power and perils of Twitter

In the United States, the first part of January has been rich in the news about new media launches.

Last week, Ben Smith, New York Times media columnist & BuzzFeed News chief editor, and Justin Smith, Bloomberg Media CEO, announced they would leave their current positions to found a global media company that would create competition to major English-language news companies like New York Times or CNN.

Although we are yet to learn more about just how the company will look like, the news attracted a lot of attention – and analysis about the potential of a US-based media company appealing to a global English-language audience.

More from The Fix: Ben Smith’s new venture and the deceptive appeal of educated, cosmopolitan audiences 

This week, a new media outlet went online. Grid is a news site whose goal is to become “a one-stop media shop for detailed renderings of the biggest stories of the day and why they matter,” New York Times reports

The outlet launched with a big team and about $10 million of capital. It’s headed by Mark Bauman, former ABC News reporter and media executives, and Laura McGann, formerly of Vox and Politico.

Contrary to the growing industry trend, Grid will not be paywalled; rather, the company plans to make money through a combination of advertising, subscription products, and potentially consulting and software, according to New York Times

The Joe Rogan Experience is the most popular podcast in the world. It’s also a “menace to public health,” according to a new letter by 270 doctors and scientists.

The letter criticizes Joe Rogan for helping spread COVID misinformation and asks Spotify, the platform where the show is exclusively distributed, to institute a clear misinformation policy. 

As The Guardian notes, “Rogan… has legions of devoted followers but throughout the pandemic has repeatedly spread misleading and false claims”. Spotify, which struck a centimillion-dollar deal with Joe Rogan in early 2020, has repeatedly faced calls to moderate the podcast but has largely chosen not to react

More from The Fix: The wonderful year of 2021 in podcasting 

Photo by Jonas Lee on Unsplash


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