With reporting from Jesse Brown and Karyn Pugliese
The YouTube channel Street Politics Canada is, by its own description, an “independent news organization that aims to cover unfiltered news.”
“Unlike other news organizations,” it writes, “we are clear and upfront about our biases.”
Since April 2022, it has published approximately 600 YouTube videos catering to an audience of Canadian conservatives, nearly all of which take aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. These typically consist of news clips, still photos, and basic motion graphics, accompanied by a voiceover relaying arguments and information gleaned from an assortment of Canadian sources. Titles include “Worst Prime Minister In History Gets Booed By Canadians” and “WATCH!! Trudeau Gives UNHINGED SPEECH After Protestors HECKLE him AGAIN!!” Thumbnail images often compare the prime minister to Hitler.
In the last 12 months, their videos have received more than 10 million views.
In fact, Street Politics Canada is run out of Egypt — specifically, the 11th-floor office of a company called Geek Labs, in the Cairo neighbourhood of Degla.
Happy Thanksgiving! 🍁🦃
Thanks to Trudeau's failures, I might not be able to purchase a turkey for Thanksgiving.
— Street Politics Canada (@StreetPoliticsX) October 9, 2023
“If they told people we were Egyptians talking in Canada, yeah, the company would not get this success that they have,” a former Street Politics social media manager concedes on this week’s episode of CANADALAND.
They haven’t been completely coy about this. Until recently, the footer of their site said, “© Street Politics by Geek Labs Agency.”
After CANADALAND began making inquiries, that changed to “Website Developed With by Geek Labs Agency” (sic), and an FAQ was added to their about page, stating, “We are based out of the United States. Still, we proudly utilize services and employees from around the globe, with most of our backend work (Video editing, website maintenance etc..) being done in Egypt and India in partnership with Geek Labs Agency.”
The same FAQ says that Street Politics is owned by Geek Labs Holdings, “an up-and-coming media company based out of the US.” A limited liability company of that name was incorporated in Delaware in March 2021, but state laws heavily limit the information available about it. A company of the same name, however, was registered in the United Kingdom in 2017; its sole director is a 32-year-old Egyptian national named Mohammed Ashraf, a serial entrepreneur and avid investor who previously live-streamed his day-trading activities on YouTube. (Geek Labs Holdings’ now-defunct website — whose url was geeklabs.agency — said it was “headquartered in London but has operations in Cairo, Egypt, and Delaware, USA.”)
— Street Politics Canada (@StreetPoliticsX) May 25, 2023
When confronted by reporters at the Geek Labs office over the weekend, Ashraf denied any association with Street Politics and said his company is involved only in financial news.
Other brands under the Geek Labs banner have included a financial publication (Penny Stocks Today), a marketing agency (Fling the World), and a hub for cultural clickbait (The Night Beyond), all of which have been hosted on the same server as streetpolitics.com.
Street Politics itself appears to have started as an effort to attract eyeballs via pop-culture infotainment. Until recently, the oldest content viewable on its channel was an unlisted video from July 3, 2020, about how Billie Eilish “spends her millions.” Back then, it went by Front Page News, promising “Top Trending News, Celebrity News, Gossip, and current events.” The Eilish video and other early works, such as “Top 10 Things You Don’t Know About Ellen Degeneres,” were finally scrubbed in the past month.
Some of the circa-2020 content on the channel now known as Street Politics Canada
The earliest videos that remain, dating from late 2021 and early 2022, concern American politics and Russia’s war on Ukraine; most have garnered views in the dozens or low hundreds. Canada-themed content joined the mix in April of last year, and more consistently got traction, with the views often poking over a thousand; within a few months, Trudeau-centric content came to dominate the channel, earning tens or even hundreds of thousands of views.
In May of this year, Front Page News rebranded as Street Politics Canada. New videos on Canadian politics are generally published Sunday through Thursday, corresponding to the Egyptian workweek.
“We knew that our audience were the conservatives in Canada,” the former social media manager says. “And what we tried to do there was just give the audience what they want. So obviously they had a big disdain for Trudeau.”
He said he was unaware of any connections that Ashraf, Geek Labs’ owner, may have had with Canada or Canadian conservatives.
According to LinkedIn, Geek Labs’ editor is a woman named “Emily T,” whom CANADALAND has identified as a 26-year-old American, Emily Torjusen. In April 2022, she was awarded $8 million by a jury in Washington State due to injuries suffered in a 2017 Amtrak train derailment. Per her court testimony, she moved to Cairo in June 2021, started at Geek Labs as a content writer the following month, and by September of that year had become CEO.
“I manage four people. And I’m not a very good manager, at that,” she told the court in March of last year. “I am really just a CEO in title, because I am an American, and the work we do is about the U.S. I am a native English speaker. So in terms of qualities, I am kind of the best that they have at this very small organization.”
Asked in cross-examination about listicles she’d written for The Night Beyond, such as “Ten Movie Sequels that Ruined the Original,” she explained, “I wrote what I was told to write.”
Prior to moving to Egypt, Torjusen managed the successful 2020 state senate campaign of Republican Jeff Wilson, who defeated the Democratic incumbent in the 19th Legislative District of Washington State, and later briefly worked as an aide in the state senate. She did not respond to emails seeking comment.
“What made us kind of successful,” the former social media manager said, “is that we did our research on the audience and we used the right lingo.”
This past spring, on the platform then known as Twitter, Street Politics expressed gratitude to a supporter who shared a video about what they’d dubbed Trudeau’s “G7 FIASCO.”
“You’re the best!!” Street Politics wrote. “Together we can take back our country.”
Top graphic by Tony Wang and Jessica Vallentin