Stefan Tompson could be the most powerful new news mogul that you have never heard of.
He is the mastermind behind Visegrád 24, one of the most influential Twitter/X accounts posting news about the Middle East, with just over 900,000 followers.
Describing itself as a “current affairs news aggregator and curator”, since it was launched in 2020 the pro-Israel account has grown so rapidly that in peak months it achieves one billion impressions – more than mainstream broadcasters like BBC World on Twitter.
The chances are you have seen its head-turning videos and posts about the Israel-Hamas conflict since Tompson shifted his team to Israel in the aftermath of October 7.
Among its viral posts was one on December 5 which revealed the first images of the IDF pumping sea water into Hamas tunnels, shared nearly 2,000 times; another, posted on January 31, was a video of an angry Gazan urging Israel to destroy Hamas, shared 11,000 times.
“Israel is at the frontline of the battlefield of radical leftists in Western democracies who have, for some reason, joined forces with the Russia-China-Iran bloc,” Tompson, 30, tells the JC, adding: “This is a deadly alliance which is knocking at the door in Israel.”\
Tompson, born in London and of Polish and South African descent, says his focus on the conflict and support for Israel “is not an act of altruism, it is an act of self-interest”: he believes that Hamas threatens Western civilisation.
The name of his account reflects that view. Visegrád 24 was the name given to a 14th century gathering of kings from central and Eastern Europe which “fostered peace and cooperation” and, according to Tompson, paved the way for contemporary pro-EU, pro-Nato geopolitical alliance in the region.
“I am a man of the West. As a British and Polish patriot, I can see that Israel is inextricably linked to my way of life. Our fates are interwoven,” he says.
His team watched the IDF footage of the October 7 massacres. “It was the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen – and I remember the videos of Isis beheadings. But the worst bit was the celebration and joy in Gaza when corpses and hostages were brought back,” he says.
From strangers on the street to industry tycoons such as Michael Eisenberg, Tompson has been gauging the feeling in Israel and says that “from left to right, everyone gets” the existential threat of Hamas.
As if to confirm that understanding, he says, speaking while walking Sarona Market in Tel Aviv: “You have to be here to understand the real tension of the war.”
Once in Israel, the team hired security and headed to Ramallah to film. They sensed “an explosive atmosphere in the air.” While locals were friendly, “it could have turned at any moment and we were on edge the whole time”.
In January, his team filmed 1,090 videos in Israel and the West Bank, which they will edit over nine weeks. He estimates the content will achieve 500 million views on social media.
Tompson is keen to counter any sense that Israel subjugates Palestinians. “Anyone who says it is an apartheid state in Israel and the Palestinian people are subjugated should go to Ramallah. There were Maseratis and Mercedes and a brand-new shopping mall. There is a booming upper middle class.
“There is a corrupt regime misappropriating resources in the West Bank,” he adds.
The streets of Ramallah are a far cry from Tompson’s charmed childhood between country homes in Italy and France. He attended school at the French Lycée in South Kensington before transferring to Richmond Upon Thames College in Twickenham. Tompson said he went to a state 6th form because of a perceived fear that he would struggle to get into a top university at a private school. It worked and he went to UCL, where he graduated in 2014.
He was dating a Polish girl at the time and moved to Warsaw with her. The relationship ended but he stayed on in Warsaw and forged a career in public relations.
Tompson loves the UK but says: “There are too many closed doors, ceilings and limits in London. There’s so much more opportunity in Poland.” He reckons “Poland’s rebirth from Communism in 1989, as well as Israel’s rebirth as a modern state in 1948, means that the energy in Poland and Israel are similar.” He says both countries have a “shared sense of fragility; an everyday sense that everything can collapse. In both countries, it feels like anything is possible.”
The optimism has certainly helped propel Tomspon’s work. An October 2023 report by the University of Washington named Visegrád 24 as one of the top news-focused accounts based on views-per-post and described it as a ‘New Elite’ account.
These accounts share “breaking news” that hasn’t been verified by anyone, which comes with a major risk of spreading misinformation.
Tompson admits he has “made mistakes” and says, “The responsibility makes me nervous, we have so many followers, so it is serious if we mess up.”
The account falsely claimed Leonardo DiCaprio donated millions to Ukraine. The story was debunked and Visegrád 24 took the tweet down.
Still, he’s adamant that out of tens of thousands of tweets in the last four years, “a few mistakes pale in comparison to the real-world impact of the New York Times front page which shared misinformation about the hospital blast that led to the direct threat and attack on Israeli embassies in the Middle East.”
The NYT front page in question suggested that the blast at Al-Ahli Hospital was fired by the IDF and killed 500 – both claims turned out to be false. The headline was edited at least three times.
As for Visegrád 24, Tompson hopes it can “transition into better funded operation with more verification and safeguarding capabilities”.
Last year, Ofcom reported that 71 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds consume their news via social media. Despite this, Tompson says, his revenue is “not enough to keep any lights on.” The account, operated by four part-timers who work under Tompson, is entirely self-funded and is still a side gig for him.
When he’s not tweeting, Tompson runs a PR firm which has received grants from the previous Polish government. Some have accused him of taking money from the state to run the channel but he swears that he has “never had a penny to run Visegrád”.
Tompson sees Visegrád as part of the fight for the West: “There’s nothing extraordinary in what I’m doing, what is extraordinary is that are not more people who haven’t spoken up.”