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#InfluencerInc

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The broken influencer economy: who’s to blame?

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available.More than one fifth of children want to become influencers, and it’s easy to understand why. What if you could escape economic uncertainty by winning the internet’s attention? What if you could turn the adoration of your social media followers into a lucrative livelihood?The reality is much murkier. From IRL streamers in LA to Brazilian butt lifts, from sex workers on OnlyFans to fraudulent cryptocurrency schemes, these are the incredible stories that lurk behind the filtered selfies and gleaming smiles. Is our digital rat race costing us too much? And who falls victim? editor and invited experts Liz MoseleyEditor Oenone ForbatInfluencer, podcaster and comedian Symeon BrownChannel 4 News correspondent and author of “Get Rich or Lie Trying: ambition & deceit in the new influencer economy”

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Is Instagram bad for you?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn. Join us for a discussion about Instagram – especially its impact on young people, mental health and body image. How much was Facebook aware of the problems Instagram is causing, and to what extent did profit outweigh people when considering the influence the platform has on young people? Instagram’s latest global ad campaign is based on the strapline that a users’ identity is “yours to make”, a hollow claim when you see the pressure social platforms put on the self esteem and body image of young people. Is Instagram inherently flawed as an idea, or are there ways to fix the platform without damaging its popularity? As it turns a decade old, with popular competitors stealing its audience, is Instagram on its way out anyway? And how have the real impacts of Instagram on people escaped scrutiny for so long? editor and invited experts Luke Gbedemah Reporter Dr. Lis Sylvan Managing Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University Ian Russell Chair, Molly Rose Foundation Kyle Dent Head of AI Ethics, Checkstep

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Creative Sensemaker – #AllTogetherNow: is social media the new cultural venue?

Why this story? In his typically immodest way, Andrew Tate claimed earlier this year that he was more famous than either Joe Biden or Donald Trump. And the truth is that if you were a teenager with a smartphone Andrew Tate was probably not wrong. The story of how Tate, who was a relatively unknown online personality, exploded into the lives of billions of young people earlier this year is a fascinating one. Andrew Tate is a former kickboxer who was thrown out of the Big Brother house after a video emerged of him appearing to assault a woman. He argued it was consensual. Since then he’s built a career as the self declared “king of toxic masculinity” showing boys and men how to become wealthy and successful with women. Then in August he was banned from almost all the major platforms. But not before his brand of misogyny and braggadocio had accrued more than 13 billion views on TikTok alone. So what impact has Andrew Tate had on the lives of young people, and more perhaps even more important, why, when he’s been banned from so many platforms, do his videos and views persist? Jasper Corbett, Editor Transcript Emilio: Like February was, when I first started seeing him  Tim: He has been investigated for a number of different crimes, misdemeanours, et cetera.  Andrew Tate Clip: Bang out the machete, boom in her face, then grip her up by the neck Emilio: I’d scroll another video of Andrew Tate and scroll another video, scroll and another video  Andrew Tate Clip: All the roads you see, all the buildings you see, everything around you, men built. Ella: It’s scary that it’s become so normalized. Definitely with the rise of violence against women. Tate Clip: No, you stay in the house. You don’t go nowhere.  Nicky Woolf, narrating: That’s a guy called Andrew Tate. He’s a general-purpose misogynist and a celebrity who’s been knocking around for a while. But earlier this year, he exploded to social media prominence in a big way.  All the teachers and schoolchildren we’ve spoken to, said the same thing. Suddenly, Andrew Tate was everywhere. Including in schools. This summer, if you’re between the ages of 11 and 18, you will have almost certainly been fed Andrew Tate’s content. In August, he was banned by Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. But it was already too late. The secondary accounts still spread his videos widely.  On TikTok, the most popular social media app among schoolkids, videos featuring his name have been viewed more than 13 billion times. That’s billion, with a B. This week on the Slow Newscast from Tortoise, Toxic: The Making of Andrew Tate. The story of a man who got into everyone’s lives, and still has colossal ideological power, despite having been banned by all major platforms.  How did this happen? How did someone this gross and this niche, get to be such a ginormous presence? And what questions does it raise about the algorithms that rule our lives? Arthur: Hello, my name is Arthur. Uh, yeah.  Emilio: And my name is Emilio.  Nicky Woolf: And how old are you guys?  Emilio: I’m, we’re both 12.  Arthur: Yes. We’re both 12. Nicky: When did you first come across Andrew Tate? Emilio:  I came across him, quite like in the early stages of his kind of 2021 kind of uprising. Like February was when I first started seeing him.  Nicky: So, it was just like a big spring, sort of came out of nowhere. Emilio: And there was a phase like maybe late June/mid-July where it was just like I’d scroll another video of Andrew Tate and scroll another video, scroll and another video. Andrew Tate doesn’t even have TikTok. Nicky, narrating: Born in the US but raised in Luton, Andrew Tate started his career as a kickboxer. In 2016, he was a guest on Big Brother, but was kicked off the show after less than a week, after a video surfaced appearing to show him beating a woman with a belt. He claimed that the actions were consensual. He’s been knocking around for a while. But in the past year, he exploded in social media popularity, especially among schoolchildren. Nicky: And is this happening across everyone’s phones basically all at the same time?  Emilio: Uh, it’s happening across quite a lot of people. Like, I mean, some people use it like for fun, like they get like memes to the top of like a hashtag political. So, some people use it for fun. Some people like Andrew Tate use it to get views and therefore promote themselves. Nicky, narrating: It began, really, in early April. You can see on the trends searches for his name started to increase sharply.  And the main platform it seemed to be happening on, the platform all the school kids were using, was TikTok. Ella: It was just weird how suddenly so many people that I knew just started following this guy, reposting everything, had fan accounts. It was just kind of, it felt for me very much from nothing. But I guess if you are in that internet rabbit hole, then it’s normal.  Hi, I’m Ella. I’m 15 and I’m going to school in Oxford. Nicky: When was the first time you heard the name Andrew Tate?  Ella: Probably on TikTok or Instagram or people talking at school. I don’t know. But it was definitely, when I first heard about Andrew Tate’s like spiral, you know, you hear like something and then suddenly you just see it everywhere or him everywhere. It was unavoidable. Nicky: And could you just summarise for us kind of who he is and what he stands for, as you understand it.  Ella: Andrew Tate is a misogynist who hates all women and immigrants and kind of just preaches this whole ‘macho man’. And the majority of people were like, ‘Oh God, look at this guy’. But there are definitely a few guys who are super into the gym and were saying he’s so motivational, he’s so, I mean it’s ridiculous, Nicky: Were people that, you know, as it were falling for it. Like, did people start to… Emilio: Yeah, definitely. Uh, two of my friends I know for a fact, so they kind of have the same, they watch the same stuff as me, so the hashtags get mixed up for them as well, so they see the same stuff. And I think, like for me, I immediately found him, I just found him quite boring. But like, they immediately kind of got hooked and like the past few months they’ve been hooked. Arthur: We have kind of learned to associate him with misogyny, he’s very, his content can be very misogynistic towards women. Like just very hateful. Nicky: And what does that look like when people you know, start, when you say they were like fanboys, did they start treating women at school differently as well?  Emilio: They were kind of like kind of, they didn’t act differently at school, they more kind of like, you could kind of tell they were more drifting towards Andrew Tate, if you know what I mean.  Nicky: Yeah. Is it sort of like, is it like edge Lord stuff? Like are they doing it to get a rise out of people or would… Emilio: No, they genuinely think, he’s like, they genuinely idolize him. Nicky: What’s that been like for, for you guys to see? Cause you said they were friends of yours.  Emilio: I mean they don’t really go on about it, so I don’t really care. I mean, he comes up on my for you page as well, but I just don’t, like watch it. We like the same edits and stuff, so we just talk about that. We don’t really talk about him Nicky, narrating: Here’s the thing about this kind of influencer. There’s always a hook, and then a turn. Andrew Tate doesn’t lead with the misogynist stuff, though he doesn’t hide it either. His lead is Hustle inspiration. Go to the gym. Get fit. Get rich. Rise and grind. He has a wildly successful moneymaking scheme going based on that. Emilio: So, he runs like a pyramid scheme called Hustler’s university. And so, one of the things is like freelancing. So, he pays, like basically people get Hustler’s University for like 50 pounds a month, they advertise Andrew Tate through these Tik Toks and then they, the people who they refer, so people who joined through their account, they get 50% of whatever that person who they referred paid. Andrew Tate Clip: ‘I tell people don’t go University; you haven’t got that time to waste. They say to me ‘Well what do I do instead?’ And this is the answer, what you do instead is join my university programme. I’m gonna teach you everything from start to finish. Everything I’ve ever learned about business. I’ve run so many companies, from making money as a professional fighter is running a company, webcam girls is running a company….’ Nicky: So literally pyramid scheme Emilio: Yeah. Literally goes down and down, Pyramid Scheme and he runs that. And those people who post it use the same hashtags as the people you post the edits I like, same with the crispier fascist. They, you all use the same stuff, and it gets mixed up.  Nicky: And so, it’s that easy to slot something into you guys’ feeds just by using hashtags like…  Emilio: Yeah, same hashtag and it’s, you know, in Yeah. they post like clips of him on a podcast like this just speaking and um, like two minutes later he’s saying woman are property. So, it kind of very quickly can change. And I think to summarize him, I think it varies on like what side of him you watch cuz there is like a side where like he donates to charity or something and then there’s another side where he is saying, Women are my property. So, there’s two very different sides to the same person.  Nicky, narrating: So, who really is this guy? Tim: My name is Tim Squirrell the head of communications and editorial at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which is a think tank working on extremism, hate, and disinformation. Andrew Tate is American slash English former kickboxer, who in recent years has established himself as a sort of red pill, alpha male influencer. Um, and has in the last few years moved to Romania, where he claims that he is, at least in part, hiding from, the possibility of the police pursuing him, um, for a variety of different issues of which he has got himself into, um, in the UK and elsewhere. Um, he has been investigated for a number of, of different, crimes, misdemeanours, et cetera. Nicky: What is his content? Like, what format do they, they come in? What sort of things are, we’ve been speaking to a lot of, like school kids who have had this poured into their feed. What sort of things are they seeing?  Tim: Andrew Tate content is a mix of different things. So, a lot of it is about self-improvement, about masculinity, about, you know, getting rich, getting cars, getting money in women. But then addition to that, there’s a fairly poisonous, I wanna say undercurrent, but it’s actually just overtones of just misogyny. So, in addition to saying, it’s important to be rich. It’s important to improve yourself. He also says that women are worth less than men, that they ought to have fewer rights. Andrew Tate Clip: I don’t know, cos I think the women belong to the man Tim: He advocates for abuse. He, uh, you know, says a very large number of things that are not just, un-PC, but actively retrograde in terms of how he advocates treating women. So, it’s a mix of red pill culture and hustle culture. So, it’s kind of like a resurgence of early 2010s, men’s rights activist culture, which you would see on like Reddit, mixed with and filter through the lens of 2020s Instagram hustle, culture, you know, rising grind, Sigma Grind set stuff. Nicky, narrating: Red pill culture is a concept that comes from the movie The Matrix. The main character, Neo, is offered two pills: the blue one representing a return to a life of blissful ignorance, or the red one to wake up to the truth. To be “pilled” is now a verb meaning to wake up to an idea, while “red pill” has taken on a misogynist or right wing meaning specifically. Nicky: What is Sigma Grind Set? Tim: Okay, Sigma Grind Set, how do we unpack this, its roots are really important, because they’re tied to the rise of alpha male culture, the idea that, the debunked idea that wolves hunt is as sort of individual lone Alpha wolves, and that they have a hierarchy and pecking order, which has been fairly conclusively sort of undermined by subsequent scientific studies, but has nonetheless lodged itself like a like a worm in the brains of a large subset of men. And so, the idea is that there is an alpha wolf, and that there are Beta wolves who are dominated by the Alpha Wolf. And then below that, or aside that, the hierarchy and taxonomy has become ever expanded. So, you have Alphas, Betas, and then Incels often call themselves Omegas. That the idea is that they’re very bottom of the food chain. And then the last few years, people came up with this idea of a Sigma. And the idea is that it sits outside of the hierarchy, that they’re kind of these elusive men who don’t really care about society’s norms, who are just doing their own thing. And the examples they often give are people like John Wick, or Elon Musk, as Sigma males. And this has been combined with, again, hustle culture, the idea that you’ve got to constantly be entrepreneurial looking to make money out of things in order to talk about the sigma grind set. Nicky, narrating: The thing about Andrew Tate is he’s been banned from other platforms before, a year after his 2016 appearance on Big Brother, amidst the Harvey Weinstein scandal, he tweeted, ‘Women have been exchanging sex for opportunity for a very long time. Some did this weren’t abused.’ He continued, ‘If you put yourself in a position to be raped, you must bear some responsibility. I’m not saying it’s okay if you get raped.’ In fact, he got banned a further two times from Twitter after supposedly setting up new accounts. So how five years on from that, did he suddenly blow up again on the internet? Tate Clip: I didn’t put a magic spell on world. I’m not a magician. You’re right. There’s obviously a market for what I say. Every people talk about how I became the most viral person on the planet. I’ll argue the point not only that I become the most viral person on the planet, I did it while being heavily shadow banned. They’ve known about me for a while they’ve been trying to shut me up for a while, I’ve been shadow banned forever. So, I became the most viral person on the planet with all the algorithms working against me, unlike people like Logan, who have all the algorithms working for them, against me, because I’m resonating with people who are sitting there going finally, this makes sense to me. This is how I feel inside. And this guy is finally talking about it. Everything else I consume is telling me to do things that just don’t resonate with my truth. I’m only saying things that people agree with. So, to chop my head off and try to delete me is asinine in and of itself because there are billions of people out there and millions of people out there who feel the exact same way. Nicky, narrating: Andrew Tate argues the algorithm is against him, but is it? Tik Tok may be one of the most opaque of the major platforms. But one thing is known, its algorithm is very, very effective. Tim: Just watching one of something can result in you being served loads more of it. And so, the consequence of that is that YouTube Shorts these days is full of red pill content, black pill content, Jordan Peterson stuff, all the sorts of things that we used to complain about on standard YouTube back in 2017. But they’re being served partly because the moderation just isn’t up to speed yet, and nor is the automated moderation, but also because their algorithms optimise so quickly. And that kind of stuff is extremely engaging because it’s controversial. And so that’s where it becomes both platform specific and Tate specific. So, he’s managed to capitalise on a really, really particular moment in time with where we are at in terms of platform dynamics. And that’s why you suddenly start to see him everywhere. Nicky: Did something change the Tik Tok algorithm? And how much do we even know about Tik Toks algorithm that that suddenly he was everywhere. And then just as suddenly at the end of the summer, he was nowhere again. Tim: So, there’s a couple of things to unpack here. One is Tik Tok specific, and the other is Andrew Tate specific. So Tik Tok is kind of the apotheosis of the optimise algorithm. And what I mean by that is, it is constantly optimising for the things that it thinks you want to be watching. And what that means is you can very, very quickly end up with your feed in a particular place, because you watch one thing or liked one thing, and then Tik Tok says, ‘Well, there’s loads of people engaging in content just like this, who are a bit like you and have a history a bit like you, therefore going to serve you more of that.’ But it’s not that different, really, from any other recommendation engine in that sense. What is different is how aggressively optimises and what’s also different is the volume of people who are uploading similar kinds of content. So, this is where it becomes kind of Tate specific, which is that what he was doing wasn’t just uploading his own work, it was through his multi-level marketing scheme called Hustlers University, encouraging mostly young men to upload copies of his work in exchange for financial incentives. And with the kind of promise of fame. And the consequence of that was, the platform was just flooded with Tate content from a variety of different accounts, which meant that you basically couldn’t move for Andrew Tate, monologues, interviews, podcast appearances, et cetera. And in addition to that, he was encouraging them to post the most controversial stuff and to provoke arguments with the aim of provoking engagement. And so, because most algorithms optimise for engagement these days, that means that the things that cause people to argue with each other, get a lot of views, they get a lot of hits, they get a lot of comments, they get a lot of likes, they also get shared a lot by people who really hate them. And it’s just fairly standard outrage bait, so an old tactic combined with the extremely effective optimization of the Tik Tok algorithm to mean that he was suddenly everywhere Rian: You know I was just on Tik Tok, and it just kept saying over and over again. So, I was like, okay, I’ll just see what people say on Google and stuff. So, done a lot of like, investigating into reviews and stuff and it looks alright, it looks pretty good. Nicky, narrating: Let’s talk about Hustlers University for a second.  Nicky: And I wonder if you could start by sort of introducing yourself. Rian: So yeah, my name is Ryan. Obviously, I just searched Hustlers University, the reviews of good stuff. So, I just thought, not expecting to be rich from it. But I’ll just give it a go. Just see how it goes really. I saw mainly Tate himself doing like, promo videos on it and stuff and just obviously over exaggerating how good it was or whatever. So, I signed up. And the way it’s marketed is you learn self-learned skills to get an income online, that’s all it is basically. And he’s got like I think, 18 methods in there to do it. So, you’ve got like copywriting, you’ve got trading, cryptocurrency, freelancing, there’s all these different methods of wealth generation online. And it’s got like these professors in each category that teach you them, it does work like you can, when you’re in there, there’s like a channel on the platform where you can see I mean, what people are earning and stuff. There are some like ridiculous, ridiculous earnings and now some there’s not a 15-year-old kid in there earning like 20, 30 grand a month just from this because he was making all these Tate videos and cutting them and making them all go viral on Tik Tok, it’s crazy, but it’s quite cultish. It’s, if you stop paying, you stay in there, but they do this thing where they put you in jail. Right with this stupid they, they show you all the wins and nothing else. So, it’s trying to like make you see what you’re missing out on to join back in sort of thing. That’s the negative side of it, where it’s like a cult. It’s like you can leave if you want, but you’re so far and all this a try and make you really feel like you’re going to suffer. I’m probably one of the older ones in there for one, so they’re all probably younger, 15, 16, 17 years old. Nicky, narrating: Andrew Tate gamed the system. He profited from teenagers and young adults, who in turn, then pushed his videos around the internet, and what became a toxic feedback loop. Starting back in April, these videos began to get recycled to the point by that in June, they were popping up on every teenager’s phones. And it wasn’t just Tik Tok Andrew Tate’s content was across all the major platforms, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook. But the reason Tik Tok is a particular focus isn’t just because it was seemingly the main platform through which the system was gamed. But because more than a quarter of Tik Tok user base is thought to be school aged children. And so naturally, Tate’s message starts spreading to them rapidly. Emilio: I think that Tik Tok have like this kind of dark side where they just don’t really care about like anything, they just kind of let the videos flow and flow, because currently, they’re making so much money. And that’s such a big peak, they just don’t care what gets posted as long as it makes money. Nicky, narrating: Andrew Tate was profiting from the videos and the university, while kids use this controversy as a way to get more views. And it’s not just Andrew Tate that’s making money, lower-level influencers can earn Skywards of $10,000 a month just by reposting his content. It is the height of summer. And Andrew Tate’s videos are getting hundreds of millions, billions even of views. Tim: So, Tik Tok is the, I say the best in purely descriptive terms, is the best system thus far created for maintaining attention and extremely quickly turning data into action. The history of the internet so far is the history of increasingly efficient mechanisms of mining data and turning it into money. And there will always be these kind of leeches who attach onto it and suck as much blood out as they can, until they eventually are, you know, torn off and thrown away. Nicky: And what about Tate himself? Do you think he believes the stuff he’s saying? Or is this all part of kind of a money-making thing? Tim: It doesn’t really matter whether he believes what he’s saying. Because as we’ve already talked about with, you know, kids looking up to Christian Bale in American Psycho, you can decontextualize pretty much anything and reconstitute it as an unironic role model. For his part, Tate, I think hasn’t necessarily settled on a story. And I don’t think he has to, you know, he’s said he’s playing a character, or he said, those are old things that he doesn’t stand by. Or he said, actually, no, I do stand by, you know, he can make up as many stories as he wants. And unless you are a dedicated Tate enjoyer, or follower, or someone who reads every single article about him, you’re not going to hear every single excuse or explanation he comes up with, and it changes from day to day. And so that means that, you know, you’re never going to be inside his mind, you’re never going to necessarily know whether he believes the stuff he says, what we do know is it’s brought him an enormous amount of attention and wealth. And so consequently, he has, you know, a material interest in continuing to do that kind of stuff. I don’t know, I don’t know whether he believes the stuff he says. What I do know is there are multiple police investigations of his behaviour towards women. And that, to me, suggests that he’s not just putting on an act. Nicky: Can you talk a bit about those in more detail, but what’s he accused of? Tim: So, I am not across the full details of every single one of those cases. Some of them involve trafficking. Some of them involve abuse. It’s, as far as I’m aware, at least some of them are ongoing investigations in Romania. And then I think some of them may have been in Britain, and part of the reason he moved to Romania was to try to avoid some of the scrutiny of his actions. But basically, it’s to do with pretty horrendous behaviour towards women. If he’s practising what he’s preaching, then, that’s pretty bad. And to be honest, becomes even worse when you know how young his audience is. Because if he’s backing up his talk with action, then that’s another way in which he can influence young boys to do some pretty vicious things. Nicky: And how does he turn reach into money. How does that system work? Tim: It’s a mix of things. So, some of it will be ad revenue. Some of it will be affiliate marketing. And then a large chunk of it previously was the now defunct Hustlers University, which is basically an MLM where you bring in people and then get them to pay you money. And then they tried to recruit other people. Nicky: Do we know exactly how much money we’re talking about? Like how much Hustlers University made? Tim: No. And I think that it’s in his interest to obscure how much money he has. And in the same way that you see with other sorts of figures like him, like say, Dan Bilzerian, or these sorts of masculine men who post images of themselves smoking cigars with Bugatti’s and hordes of women around them. The idea is to present yourself as impossibly rich, and a figure of aspiration. Nicky, narrating: And all this then spikes in August, he’s everywhere. The noise around him is getting too much. And suddenly Meta, Google and especially Tik Tok realise they have to act. News Reporter: Andrew Tate has spoken out after being banned from Instagram and Facebook. Videos of the self-proclaimed misogynist have gone viral over the last few months with Meta saying his content violated their policies. Tate posted to say resist the slave mind. Nicky, narrating: At this point though, when he finally gets banned, Google searches but Andrew Tate’s name more than treble, the ban is too late. He’s already everywhere. It’s fascinating for me to listen to Arthur and Emilio. The world they live in is in some ways, so completely alien, but it’s also incredibly familiar. Their information ecosystem is insane, but it’s an evolution of what’s gone before. I mean, let me give you an example. Emilio: This is literally kind of the entire sigma community. All of this everything that is describing this.  Nicky: Can you read that out loud. Emilio: Okay. Me staring emotionless at my phone, as my for you page for filled with Capybaras, sigma Patrick Bateman, and it’s Conondale Dingle, Breaking Bad memes, prisoners making Tik Tok from their cell random montages promoting Turkish nationalism. Nicky, narrating: Sigma male ideology as Tim said earlier, is a more widespread idea than just Andrew Tate. It’s the idea that separate from alpha males are so called sigma house. Emilio: It’s like a mindset and the like most extreme segments on Tik Tok tried to turn it into like a religion. Like they will kind of hail Patrick Bateman, hail to him, and they will edit these sounds to the songs and like so, they’re very like heavily edited and it’s more of a mindset, like mindset go to the gym, get better. Nicky, narrating: What Emilio was talking about there is a ree, it’s an edited video clip with a musical overlay. He makes them himself Nicky: And your basically you’re cutting that in with films and that’s yeah, I mean, text over the top.  Emilio: Yes. Oh, no, not even new text. You literally just, it’s just an edit, edit to the song. And then you say in the caption something like, literally me. Nicky, narrating: He uses memes of Patrick Bateman from the movie American Psycho. But it’s not about the film. Emilio: Yeah, yeah, like really weird. I haven’t actually watched the film Nicky: It’s honestly not very good.  Nicky, narrating: The character of Patrick Bateman is now a meme that’s become disconnected from the original book and movie. That was happening when I was in school on message boards like Fortran. The difference is that the speed of transfer and the speed of change is an order of magnitude higher. What’s the long-term impact on students? Children who have been fed content at this rate. The answer is we don’t really know. Ella: I mean, it’s, it’s scary that it’s become so, so normalised definitely with the rise of violence against women. And, you know, it’s just I don’t really know how to put it into words, but it is just a little bit frightening. You know, it’s always in the back of your mind. If you’re walking back, you have to have your keys up, you know, things like that, but it makes you realise that people who do, who you know are scary up close and you don’t I think before I didn’t really know who had this ideology that it was okay to hurt women. But now I know some people who are in my classes or, you know, I see the gym or whatever. It’s just scary. Nicky: And do you get the sense with him that it’s like a kind of a true ideology kind of cult thing, or kind of a money-making scheme that just happens to be using this kind of ideology, what’s your kind of vibe on it?  Ella: I mean, it’s definitely like six of one, half dozen of the other, because he has to have some of this view. I mean, you probably know more than I do. But I think there was something about him kidnapping a woman or beating a woman in Romania or something. But also, it also definitely has to be played up in order for him to make money, right. Nicky, narrating: So, what happens now? Tim: My future predictions for this kind of stuff are unless the systems that underpin, the entire model change, then you’re likely to continue to see people like to pop up over and over again.  Nicky, narrating: And that system isn’t going to change. There’s too much money at stake. We asked Tik Tok for a statement that did not receive one. Andrew Tate, Meta, and Google also did not give us a statement. Tik Toks algorithm is the thing that makes it so successful. The new kid on the block getting billions upon billions of views. But that very path for success is also the thing that opens the door for people like Andrew take. Tik Tok treads a line of banning and light touch moderation that goes ever so slightly harder with every iteration of one of those controversial Andrew Tate style viral hits, in the hope that each time they can appease. But it’s clearly not working. Tim: So, when it’s not Tate, it’ll be the next guy and he’ll have a slightly different stick, he’ll be filtered through the lens of whatever is popular at that given moment. He might be younger, he might not be white, he might have, my God he might even be gay. You know, there are a whole bunch of different things that change about these people. But fundamentally, they’re all Grifters who prey on the worst instincts and insecurities of young men. It is almost exclusively young men in this field. But unless you change the underpinning systems, which are to do with how platforms make profit, and how individuals on those platforms make profit on that basis, then that’s going to continue in perpetuity and the cycle will only get faster and faster, as the system finds increasingly efficient ways to extract profit from data and from users being on it. Read MoreRead less How we got here Over the course of the summer, schools around the country started sending out letters to parents. It was warning them to keep an eye out for a man called Andrew Tate who was appearing on school children’s social media and spreading a misogynistic and dangerous message. By mid August, he had been banned by all major platforms, but still, his message was spreading and his videos were being watched by millions of school-aged children around the world. In order to better understand the impact he was having, we spoke to children, teachers and tech experts. Through doing so, we learn about a world where thousands of people are profiting from utilising TikTok’s algorithm to spread Andrew Tate’s videos and messages of hate. With the money at stake for both the platform and its users, the question we ended up asking ourselves is: how can it be stopped? Matt Russell, Producer Past reporting ListenWatchRead

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The broken influencer economy: who’s to blame?

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available.More than one fifth of children want to become influencers, and it’s easy to understand why. What if you could escape economic uncertainty by winning the internet’s attention? What if you could turn the adoration of your social media followers into a lucrative livelihood?The reality is much murkier. From IRL streamers in LA to Brazilian butt lifts, from sex workers on OnlyFans to fraudulent cryptocurrency schemes, these are the incredible stories that lurk behind the filtered selfies and gleaming smiles. Is our digital rat race costing us too much? And who falls victim? editor and invited experts Liz MoseleyEditor Oenone ForbatInfluencer, podcaster and comedian Symeon BrownChannel 4 News correspondent and author of “Get Rich or Lie Trying: ambition & deceit in the new influencer economy”

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Is Instagram bad for you?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn. Join us for a discussion about Instagram – especially its impact on young people, mental health and body image. How much was Facebook aware of the problems Instagram is causing, and to what extent did profit outweigh people when considering the influence the platform has on young people? Instagram’s latest global ad campaign is based on the strapline that a users’ identity is “yours to make”, a hollow claim when you see the pressure social platforms put on the self esteem and body image of young people. Is Instagram inherently flawed as an idea, or are there ways to fix the platform without damaging its popularity? As it turns a decade old, with popular competitors stealing its audience, is Instagram on its way out anyway? And how have the real impacts of Instagram on people escaped scrutiny for so long? editor and invited experts Luke Gbedemah Reporter Dr. Lis Sylvan Managing Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University Ian Russell Chair, Molly Rose Foundation Kyle Dent Head of AI Ethics, Checkstep

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Creative Sensemaker – #AllTogetherNow: is social media the new cultural venue?

Why this story? In his typically immodest way, Andrew Tate claimed earlier this year that he was more famous than either Joe Biden or Donald Trump. And the truth is that if you were a teenager with a smartphone Andrew Tate was probably not wrong. The story of how Tate, who was a relatively unknown online personality, exploded into the lives of billions of young people earlier this year is a fascinating one. Andrew Tate is a former kickboxer who was thrown out of the Big Brother house after a video emerged of him appearing to assault a woman. He argued it was consensual. Since then he’s built a career as the self declared “king of toxic masculinity” showing boys and men how to become wealthy and successful with women. Then in August he was banned from almost all the major platforms. But not before his brand of misogyny and braggadocio had accrued more than 13 billion views on TikTok alone. So what impact has Andrew Tate had on the lives of young people, and more perhaps even more important, why, when he’s been banned from so many platforms, do his videos and views persist? Jasper Corbett, Editor Transcript Emilio: Like February was, when I first started seeing him  Tim: He has been investigated for a number of different crimes, misdemeanours, et cetera.  Andrew Tate Clip: Bang out the machete, boom in her face, then grip her up by the neck Emilio: I’d scroll another video of Andrew Tate and scroll another video, scroll and another video  Andrew Tate Clip: All the roads you see, all the buildings you see, everything around you, men built. Ella: It’s scary that it’s become so normalized. Definitely with the rise of violence against women. Tate Clip: No, you stay in the house. You don’t go nowhere.  Nicky Woolf, narrating: That’s a guy called Andrew Tate. He’s a general-purpose misogynist and a celebrity who’s been knocking around for a while. But earlier this year, he exploded to social media prominence in a big way.  All the teachers and schoolchildren we’ve spoken to, said the same thing. Suddenly, Andrew Tate was everywhere. Including in schools. This summer, if you’re between the ages of 11 and 18, you will have almost certainly been fed Andrew Tate’s content. In August, he was banned by Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. But it was already too late. The secondary accounts still spread his videos widely.  On TikTok, the most popular social media app among schoolkids, videos featuring his name have been viewed more than 13 billion times. That’s billion, with a B. This week on the Slow Newscast from Tortoise, Toxic: The Making of Andrew Tate. The story of a man who got into everyone’s lives, and still has colossal ideological power, despite having been banned by all major platforms.  How did this happen? How did someone this gross and this niche, get to be such a ginormous presence? And what questions does it raise about the algorithms that rule our lives? Arthur: Hello, my name is Arthur. Uh, yeah.  Emilio: And my name is Emilio.  Nicky Woolf: And how old are you guys?  Emilio: I’m, we’re both 12.  Arthur: Yes. We’re both 12. Nicky: When did you first come across Andrew Tate? Emilio:  I came across him, quite like in the early stages of his kind of 2021 kind of uprising. Like February was when I first started seeing him.  Nicky: So, it was just like a big spring, sort of came out of nowhere. Emilio: And there was a phase like maybe late June/mid-July where it was just like I’d scroll another video of Andrew Tate and scroll another video, scroll and another video. Andrew Tate doesn’t even have TikTok. Nicky, narrating: Born in the US but raised in Luton, Andrew Tate started his career as a kickboxer. In 2016, he was a guest on Big Brother, but was kicked off the show after less than a week, after a video surfaced appearing to show him beating a woman with a belt. He claimed that the actions were consensual. He’s been knocking around for a while. But in the past year, he exploded in social media popularity, especially among schoolchildren. Nicky: And is this happening across everyone’s phones basically all at the same time?  Emilio: Uh, it’s happening across quite a lot of people. Like, I mean, some people use it like for fun, like they get like memes to the top of like a hashtag political. So, some people use it for fun. Some people like Andrew Tate use it to get views and therefore promote themselves. Nicky, narrating: It began, really, in early April. You can see on the trends searches for his name started to increase sharply.  And the main platform it seemed to be happening on, the platform all the school kids were using, was TikTok. Ella: It was just weird how suddenly so many people that I knew just started following this guy, reposting everything, had fan accounts. It was just kind of, it felt for me very much from nothing. But I guess if you are in that internet rabbit hole, then it’s normal.  Hi, I’m Ella. I’m 15 and I’m going to school in Oxford. Nicky: When was the first time you heard the name Andrew Tate?  Ella: Probably on TikTok or Instagram or people talking at school. I don’t know. But it was definitely, when I first heard about Andrew Tate’s like spiral, you know, you hear like something and then suddenly you just see it everywhere or him everywhere. It was unavoidable. Nicky: And could you just summarise for us kind of who he is and what he stands for, as you understand it.  Ella: Andrew Tate is a misogynist who hates all women and immigrants and kind of just preaches this whole ‘macho man’. And the majority of people were like, ‘Oh God, look at this guy’. But there are definitely a few guys who are super into the gym and were saying he’s so motivational, he’s so, I mean it’s ridiculous, Nicky: Were people that, you know, as it were falling for it. Like, did people start to… Emilio: Yeah, definitely. Uh, two of my friends I know for a fact, so they kind of have the same, they watch the same stuff as me, so the hashtags get mixed up for them as well, so they see the same stuff. And I think, like for me, I immediately found him, I just found him quite boring. But like, they immediately kind of got hooked and like the past few months they’ve been hooked. Arthur: We have kind of learned to associate him with misogyny, he’s very, his content can be very misogynistic towards women. Like just very hateful. Nicky: And what does that look like when people you know, start, when you say they were like fanboys, did they start treating women at school differently as well?  Emilio: They were kind of like kind of, they didn’t act differently at school, they more kind of like, you could kind of tell they were more drifting towards Andrew Tate, if you know what I mean.  Nicky: Yeah. Is it sort of like, is it like edge Lord stuff? Like are they doing it to get a rise out of people or would… Emilio: No, they genuinely think, he’s like, they genuinely idolize him. Nicky: What’s that been like for, for you guys to see? Cause you said they were friends of yours.  Emilio: I mean they don’t really go on about it, so I don’t really care. I mean, he comes up on my for you page as well, but I just don’t, like watch it. We like the same edits and stuff, so we just talk about that. We don’t really talk about him Nicky, narrating: Here’s the thing about this kind of influencer. There’s always a hook, and then a turn. Andrew Tate doesn’t lead with the misogynist stuff, though he doesn’t hide it either. His lead is Hustle inspiration. Go to the gym. Get fit. Get rich. Rise and grind. He has a wildly successful moneymaking scheme going based on that. Emilio: So, he runs like a pyramid scheme called Hustler’s university. And so, one of the things is like freelancing. So, he pays, like basically people get Hustler’s University for like 50 pounds a month, they advertise Andrew Tate through these Tik Toks and then they, the people who they refer, so people who joined through their account, they get 50% of whatever that person who they referred paid. Andrew Tate Clip: ‘I tell people don’t go University; you haven’t got that time to waste. They say to me ‘Well what do I do instead?’ And this is the answer, what you do instead is join my university programme. I’m gonna teach you everything from start to finish. Everything I’ve ever learned about business. I’ve run so many companies, from making money as a professional fighter is running a company, webcam girls is running a company….’ Nicky: So literally pyramid scheme Emilio: Yeah. Literally goes down and down, Pyramid Scheme and he runs that. And those people who post it use the same hashtags as the people you post the edits I like, same with the crispier fascist. They, you all use the same stuff, and it gets mixed up.  Nicky: And so, it’s that easy to slot something into you guys’ feeds just by using hashtags like…  Emilio: Yeah, same hashtag and it’s, you know, in Yeah. they post like clips of him on a podcast like this just speaking and um, like two minutes later he’s saying woman are property. So, it kind of very quickly can change. And I think to summarize him, I think it varies on like what side of him you watch cuz there is like a side where like he donates to charity or something and then there’s another side where he is saying, Women are my property. So, there’s two very different sides to the same person.  Nicky, narrating: So, who really is this guy? Tim: My name is Tim Squirrell the head of communications and editorial at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which is a think tank working on extremism, hate, and disinformation. Andrew Tate is American slash English former kickboxer, who in recent years has established himself as a sort of red pill, alpha male influencer. Um, and has in the last few years moved to Romania, where he claims that he is, at least in part, hiding from, the possibility of the police pursuing him, um, for a variety of different issues of which he has got himself into, um, in the UK and elsewhere. Um, he has been investigated for a number of, of different, crimes, misdemeanours, et cetera. Nicky: What is his content? Like, what format do they, they come in? What sort of things are, we’ve been speaking to a lot of, like school kids who have had this poured into their feed. What sort of things are they seeing?  Tim: Andrew Tate content is a mix of different things. So, a lot of it is about self-improvement, about masculinity, about, you know, getting rich, getting cars, getting money in women. But then addition to that, there’s a fairly poisonous, I wanna say undercurrent, but it’s actually just overtones of just misogyny. So, in addition to saying, it’s important to be rich. It’s important to improve yourself. He also says that women are worth less than men, that they ought to have fewer rights. Andrew Tate Clip: I don’t know, cos I think the women belong to the man Tim: He advocates for abuse. He, uh, you know, says a very large number of things that are not just, un-PC, but actively retrograde in terms of how he advocates treating women. So, it’s a mix of red pill culture and hustle culture. So, it’s kind of like a resurgence of early 2010s, men’s rights activist culture, which you would see on like Reddit, mixed with and filter through the lens of 2020s Instagram hustle, culture, you know, rising grind, Sigma Grind set stuff. Nicky, narrating: Red pill culture is a concept that comes from the movie The Matrix. The main character, Neo, is offered two pills: the blue one representing a return to a life of blissful ignorance, or the red one to wake up to the truth. To be “pilled” is now a verb meaning to wake up to an idea, while “red pill” has taken on a misogynist or right wing meaning specifically. Nicky: What is Sigma Grind Set? Tim: Okay, Sigma Grind Set, how do we unpack this, its roots are really important, because they’re tied to the rise of alpha male culture, the idea that, the debunked idea that wolves hunt is as sort of individual lone Alpha wolves, and that they have a hierarchy and pecking order, which has been fairly conclusively sort of undermined by subsequent scientific studies, but has nonetheless lodged itself like a like a worm in the brains of a large subset of men. And so, the idea is that there is an alpha wolf, and that there are Beta wolves who are dominated by the Alpha Wolf. And then below that, or aside that, the hierarchy and taxonomy has become ever expanded. So, you have Alphas, Betas, and then Incels often call themselves Omegas. That the idea is that they’re very bottom of the food chain. And then the last few years, people came up with this idea of a Sigma. And the idea is that it sits outside of the hierarchy, that they’re kind of these elusive men who don’t really care about society’s norms, who are just doing their own thing. And the examples they often give are people like John Wick, or Elon Musk, as Sigma males. And this has been combined with, again, hustle culture, the idea that you’ve got to constantly be entrepreneurial looking to make money out of things in order to talk about the sigma grind set. Nicky, narrating: The thing about Andrew Tate is he’s been banned from other platforms before, a year after his 2016 appearance on Big Brother, amidst the Harvey Weinstein scandal, he tweeted, ‘Women have been exchanging sex for opportunity for a very long time. Some did this weren’t abused.’ He continued, ‘If you put yourself in a position to be raped, you must bear some responsibility. I’m not saying it’s okay if you get raped.’ In fact, he got banned a further two times from Twitter after supposedly setting up new accounts. So how five years on from that, did he suddenly blow up again on the internet? Tate Clip: I didn’t put a magic spell on world. I’m not a magician. You’re right. There’s obviously a market for what I say. Every people talk about how I became the most viral person on the planet. I’ll argue the point not only that I become the most viral person on the planet, I did it while being heavily shadow banned. They’ve known about me for a while they’ve been trying to shut me up for a while, I’ve been shadow banned forever. So, I became the most viral person on the planet with all the algorithms working against me, unlike people like Logan, who have all the algorithms working for them, against me, because I’m resonating with people who are sitting there going finally, this makes sense to me. This is how I feel inside. And this guy is finally talking about it. Everything else I consume is telling me to do things that just don’t resonate with my truth. I’m only saying things that people agree with. So, to chop my head off and try to delete me is asinine in and of itself because there are billions of people out there and millions of people out there who feel the exact same way. Nicky, narrating: Andrew Tate argues the algorithm is against him, but is it? Tik Tok may be one of the most opaque of the major platforms. But one thing is known, its algorithm is very, very effective. Tim: Just watching one of something can result in you being served loads more of it. And so, the consequence of that is that YouTube Shorts these days is full of red pill content, black pill content, Jordan Peterson stuff, all the sorts of things that we used to complain about on standard YouTube back in 2017. But they’re being served partly because the moderation just isn’t up to speed yet, and nor is the automated moderation, but also because their algorithms optimise so quickly. And that kind of stuff is extremely engaging because it’s controversial. And so that’s where it becomes both platform specific and Tate specific. So, he’s managed to capitalise on a really, really particular moment in time with where we are at in terms of platform dynamics. And that’s why you suddenly start to see him everywhere. Nicky: Did something change the Tik Tok algorithm? And how much do we even know about Tik Toks algorithm that that suddenly he was everywhere. And then just as suddenly at the end of the summer, he was nowhere again. Tim: So, there’s a couple of things to unpack here. One is Tik Tok specific, and the other is Andrew Tate specific. So Tik Tok is kind of the apotheosis of the optimise algorithm. And what I mean by that is, it is constantly optimising for the things that it thinks you want to be watching. And what that means is you can very, very quickly end up with your feed in a particular place, because you watch one thing or liked one thing, and then Tik Tok says, ‘Well, there’s loads of people engaging in content just like this, who are a bit like you and have a history a bit like you, therefore going to serve you more of that.’ But it’s not that different, really, from any other recommendation engine in that sense. What is different is how aggressively optimises and what’s also different is the volume of people who are uploading similar kinds of content. So, this is where it becomes kind of Tate specific, which is that what he was doing wasn’t just uploading his own work, it was through his multi-level marketing scheme called Hustlers University, encouraging mostly young men to upload copies of his work in exchange for financial incentives. And with the kind of promise of fame. And the consequence of that was, the platform was just flooded with Tate content from a variety of different accounts, which meant that you basically couldn’t move for Andrew Tate, monologues, interviews, podcast appearances, et cetera. And in addition to that, he was encouraging them to post the most controversial stuff and to provoke arguments with the aim of provoking engagement. And so, because most algorithms optimise for engagement these days, that means that the things that cause people to argue with each other, get a lot of views, they get a lot of hits, they get a lot of comments, they get a lot of likes, they also get shared a lot by people who really hate them. And it’s just fairly standard outrage bait, so an old tactic combined with the extremely effective optimization of the Tik Tok algorithm to mean that he was suddenly everywhere Rian: You know I was just on Tik Tok, and it just kept saying over and over again. So, I was like, okay, I’ll just see what people say on Google and stuff. So, done a lot of like, investigating into reviews and stuff and it looks alright, it looks pretty good. Nicky, narrating: Let’s talk about Hustlers University for a second.  Nicky: And I wonder if you could start by sort of introducing yourself. Rian: So yeah, my name is Ryan. Obviously, I just searched Hustlers University, the reviews of good stuff. So, I just thought, not expecting to be rich from it. But I’ll just give it a go. Just see how it goes really. I saw mainly Tate himself doing like, promo videos on it and stuff and just obviously over exaggerating how good it was or whatever. So, I signed up. And the way it’s marketed is you learn self-learned skills to get an income online, that’s all it is basically. And he’s got like I think, 18 methods in there to do it. So, you’ve got like copywriting, you’ve got trading, cryptocurrency, freelancing, there’s all these different methods of wealth generation online. And it’s got like these professors in each category that teach you them, it does work like you can, when you’re in there, there’s like a channel on the platform where you can see I mean, what people are earning and stuff. There are some like ridiculous, ridiculous earnings and now some there’s not a 15-year-old kid in there earning like 20, 30 grand a month just from this because he was making all these Tate videos and cutting them and making them all go viral on Tik Tok, it’s crazy, but it’s quite cultish. It’s, if you stop paying, you stay in there, but they do this thing where they put you in jail. Right with this stupid they, they show you all the wins and nothing else. So, it’s trying to like make you see what you’re missing out on to join back in sort of thing. That’s the negative side of it, where it’s like a cult. It’s like you can leave if you want, but you’re so far and all this a try and make you really feel like you’re going to suffer. I’m probably one of the older ones in there for one, so they’re all probably younger, 15, 16, 17 years old. Nicky, narrating: Andrew Tate gamed the system. He profited from teenagers and young adults, who in turn, then pushed his videos around the internet, and what became a toxic feedback loop. Starting back in April, these videos began to get recycled to the point by that in June, they were popping up on every teenager’s phones. And it wasn’t just Tik Tok Andrew Tate’s content was across all the major platforms, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook. But the reason Tik Tok is a particular focus isn’t just because it was seemingly the main platform through which the system was gamed. But because more than a quarter of Tik Tok user base is thought to be school aged children. And so naturally, Tate’s message starts spreading to them rapidly. Emilio: I think that Tik Tok have like this kind of dark side where they just don’t really care about like anything, they just kind of let the videos flow and flow, because currently, they’re making so much money. And that’s such a big peak, they just don’t care what gets posted as long as it makes money. Nicky, narrating: Andrew Tate was profiting from the videos and the university, while kids use this controversy as a way to get more views. And it’s not just Andrew Tate that’s making money, lower-level influencers can earn Skywards of $10,000 a month just by reposting his content. It is the height of summer. And Andrew Tate’s videos are getting hundreds of millions, billions even of views. Tim: So, Tik Tok is the, I say the best in purely descriptive terms, is the best system thus far created for maintaining attention and extremely quickly turning data into action. The history of the internet so far is the history of increasingly efficient mechanisms of mining data and turning it into money. And there will always be these kind of leeches who attach onto it and suck as much blood out as they can, until they eventually are, you know, torn off and thrown away. Nicky: And what about Tate himself? Do you think he believes the stuff he’s saying? Or is this all part of kind of a money-making thing? Tim: It doesn’t really matter whether he believes what he’s saying. Because as we’ve already talked about with, you know, kids looking up to Christian Bale in American Psycho, you can decontextualize pretty much anything and reconstitute it as an unironic role model. For his part, Tate, I think hasn’t necessarily settled on a story. And I don’t think he has to, you know, he’s said he’s playing a character, or he said, those are old things that he doesn’t stand by. Or he said, actually, no, I do stand by, you know, he can make up as many stories as he wants. And unless you are a dedicated Tate enjoyer, or follower, or someone who reads every single article about him, you’re not going to hear every single excuse or explanation he comes up with, and it changes from day to day. And so that means that, you know, you’re never going to be inside his mind, you’re never going to necessarily know whether he believes the stuff he says, what we do know is it’s brought him an enormous amount of attention and wealth. And so consequently, he has, you know, a material interest in continuing to do that kind of stuff. I don’t know, I don’t know whether he believes the stuff he says. What I do know is there are multiple police investigations of his behaviour towards women. And that, to me, suggests that he’s not just putting on an act. Nicky: Can you talk a bit about those in more detail, but what’s he accused of? Tim: So, I am not across the full details of every single one of those cases. Some of them involve trafficking. Some of them involve abuse. It’s, as far as I’m aware, at least some of them are ongoing investigations in Romania. And then I think some of them may have been in Britain, and part of the reason he moved to Romania was to try to avoid some of the scrutiny of his actions. But basically, it’s to do with pretty horrendous behaviour towards women. If he’s practising what he’s preaching, then, that’s pretty bad. And to be honest, becomes even worse when you know how young his audience is. Because if he’s backing up his talk with action, then that’s another way in which he can influence young boys to do some pretty vicious things. Nicky: And how does he turn reach into money. How does that system work? Tim: It’s a mix of things. So, some of it will be ad revenue. Some of it will be affiliate marketing. And then a large chunk of it previously was the now defunct Hustlers University, which is basically an MLM where you bring in people and then get them to pay you money. And then they tried to recruit other people. Nicky: Do we know exactly how much money we’re talking about? Like how much Hustlers University made? Tim: No. And I think that it’s in his interest to obscure how much money he has. And in the same way that you see with other sorts of figures like him, like say, Dan Bilzerian, or these sorts of masculine men who post images of themselves smoking cigars with Bugatti’s and hordes of women around them. The idea is to present yourself as impossibly rich, and a figure of aspiration. Nicky, narrating: And all this then spikes in August, he’s everywhere. The noise around him is getting too much. And suddenly Meta, Google and especially Tik Tok realise they have to act. News Reporter: Andrew Tate has spoken out after being banned from Instagram and Facebook. Videos of the self-proclaimed misogynist have gone viral over the last few months with Meta saying his content violated their policies. Tate posted to say resist the slave mind. Nicky, narrating: At this point though, when he finally gets banned, Google searches but Andrew Tate’s name more than treble, the ban is too late. He’s already everywhere. It’s fascinating for me to listen to Arthur and Emilio. The world they live in is in some ways, so completely alien, but it’s also incredibly familiar. Their information ecosystem is insane, but it’s an evolution of what’s gone before. I mean, let me give you an example. Emilio: This is literally kind of the entire sigma community. All of this everything that is describing this.  Nicky: Can you read that out loud. Emilio: Okay. Me staring emotionless at my phone, as my for you page for filled with Capybaras, sigma Patrick Bateman, and it’s Conondale Dingle, Breaking Bad memes, prisoners making Tik Tok from their cell random montages promoting Turkish nationalism. Nicky, narrating: Sigma male ideology as Tim said earlier, is a more widespread idea than just Andrew Tate. It’s the idea that separate from alpha males are so called sigma house. Emilio: It’s like a mindset and the like most extreme segments on Tik Tok tried to turn it into like a religion. Like they will kind of hail Patrick Bateman, hail to him, and they will edit these sounds to the songs and like so, they’re very like heavily edited and it’s more of a mindset, like mindset go to the gym, get better. Nicky, narrating: What Emilio was talking about there is a ree, it’s an edited video clip with a musical overlay. He makes them himself Nicky: And your basically you’re cutting that in with films and that’s yeah, I mean, text over the top.  Emilio: Yes. Oh, no, not even new text. You literally just, it’s just an edit, edit to the song. And then you say in the caption something like, literally me. Nicky, narrating: He uses memes of Patrick Bateman from the movie American Psycho. But it’s not about the film. Emilio: Yeah, yeah, like really weird. I haven’t actually watched the film Nicky: It’s honestly not very good.  Nicky, narrating: The character of Patrick Bateman is now a meme that’s become disconnected from the original book and movie. That was happening when I was in school on message boards like Fortran. The difference is that the speed of transfer and the speed of change is an order of magnitude higher. What’s the long-term impact on students? Children who have been fed content at this rate. The answer is we don’t really know. Ella: I mean, it’s, it’s scary that it’s become so, so normalised definitely with the rise of violence against women. And, you know, it’s just I don’t really know how to put it into words, but it is just a little bit frightening. You know, it’s always in the back of your mind. If you’re walking back, you have to have your keys up, you know, things like that, but it makes you realise that people who do, who you know are scary up close and you don’t I think before I didn’t really know who had this ideology that it was okay to hurt women. But now I know some people who are in my classes or, you know, I see the gym or whatever. It’s just scary. Nicky: And do you get the sense with him that it’s like a kind of a true ideology kind of cult thing, or kind of a money-making scheme that just happens to be using this kind of ideology, what’s your kind of vibe on it?  Ella: I mean, it’s definitely like six of one, half dozen of the other, because he has to have some of this view. I mean, you probably know more than I do. But I think there was something about him kidnapping a woman or beating a woman in Romania or something. But also, it also definitely has to be played up in order for him to make money, right. Nicky, narrating: So, what happens now? Tim: My future predictions for this kind of stuff are unless the systems that underpin, the entire model change, then you’re likely to continue to see people like to pop up over and over again.  Nicky, narrating: And that system isn’t going to change. There’s too much money at stake. We asked Tik Tok for a statement that did not receive one. Andrew Tate, Meta, and Google also did not give us a statement. Tik Toks algorithm is the thing that makes it so successful. The new kid on the block getting billions upon billions of views. But that very path for success is also the thing that opens the door for people like Andrew take. Tik Tok treads a line of banning and light touch moderation that goes ever so slightly harder with every iteration of one of those controversial Andrew Tate style viral hits, in the hope that each time they can appease. But it’s clearly not working. Tim: So, when it’s not Tate, it’ll be the next guy and he’ll have a slightly different stick, he’ll be filtered through the lens of whatever is popular at that given moment. He might be younger, he might not be white, he might have, my God he might even be gay. You know, there are a whole bunch of different things that change about these people. But fundamentally, they’re all Grifters who prey on the worst instincts and insecurities of young men. It is almost exclusively young men in this field. But unless you change the underpinning systems, which are to do with how platforms make profit, and how individuals on those platforms make profit on that basis, then that’s going to continue in perpetuity and the cycle will only get faster and faster, as the system finds increasingly efficient ways to extract profit from data and from users being on it. Read MoreRead less How we got here Over the course of the summer, schools around the country started sending out letters to parents. It was warning them to keep an eye out for a man called Andrew Tate who was appearing on school children’s social media and spreading a misogynistic and dangerous message. By mid August, he had been banned by all major platforms, but still, his message was spreading and his videos were being watched by millions of school-aged children around the world. In order to better understand the impact he was having, we spoke to children, teachers and tech experts. Through doing so, we learn about a world where thousands of people are profiting from utilising TikTok’s algorithm to spread Andrew Tate’s videos and messages of hate. With the money at stake for both the platform and its users, the question we ended up asking ourselves is: how can it be stopped? Matt Russell, Producer Past reporting ListenWatchRead