Facbook & the Middle East ..

 

Hi everyone,

I was browsing through one of the newest digital magazines this week (Raseef 22), which is basically a democratic and independent magazine that’s targeting 360 million Arabic reader.

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I found two interesting articles, related to our class and can give a non-Arabic person a perspective of what’s happening in the Middle East generally  :

1-First article :  Why Facebook hasn’t activated its “Safety Check” feature in the most troubled countries in the world as it did in Paris attacks ?

facebook-security-check

This article raises this question after the tragedy that happened in France. It is the first time that Facebook activate the safety check in a terror attack. (the previous 4 safety check situations were all natural disasters such as 2015 Nepal’s earthquake).

There are 78 million Arabic Facebook users, 23 million only in Egypt, and many of them were experiencing terror attacks recently. Lebanon, for instance, has 20 explosions since 2014 and tow of them happened just tow days before Paris attack. Many Lebanese couldn’t contact their relatives for a long period of time. Isn’t tremendously useful that Facebook offers this feature for such people in need ? Or there are other reasons to not do so ? (The Economist and CNN discussed the same question)

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2- Second article: Jordan is ranked #1 among all Arab countries in asking Facebook for “government request reports”

 

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As part of its transparency, Facebook is publishing all the requests that were received from governments around the world regarding its users.  The report is listing each country and its total requests, number of users requested and types of government requests.

Among Arab countries, Jordan has the highest total of 7 requests and 14.29% of requests where some data produced, followed by Kuwait (3 requests). These numbers expected to increase due to the Arab Spring revolutions. Many users are not using their real names to avoid government surveillance. Even developed countries, such as United States, have very high number of requests (around 17,577) which make it a global phenomena.

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Q

Regarding article 1 & 2,

Ethics, Politics and Social Media companies, what is your opinion on the controversial issues that related to these three powers ?

Do you think that it is possible for Facebook, for example, to face the political pressure ? Can these digital platforms be objective 100% all the time ? If not, when and why ?

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One thought on “Facbook & the Middle East ..

  1. These are hard questions to answer, surely. At the same time as the Paris attacks were unfolding, there were similar assaults and tragedies occurring in Beirut and Baghdad, I believe, though certainly Paris was the location most chronicled, at least here in the West. Facebook, being an American company, is likely going to be intrinsically more drawn to events that affect nations in the West as well as issues of concern to Western users (this is obviously just my opinion, though).

    I don’t necessarily think this is “wrong” by any means – everyone experiences the world through their own eyes and bring along judgments, ethics, opinions and beliefs that not everyone else will share. I think it does raise an interesting question, though, as you say in terms of objectivity. Facebook itself is not a creator of news items, but rather a conduit and intermediary. By offering the safety features for only the Paris attacks, however, an argument can be made that they are displaying a sort of favoritism to one nation’s tragedy versus another’s. A hypothetical might be, what happens if there is a tsunami in the Pacific and a devastating earthquake in South America on the same day? Does Facebook offer those profile filters so people who want to show solidarity (I’m torn on the genuineness of those options, but that’s a matter for a different post) can do so for one, the other, or both? Is a solution to let users create or suggest safety checks and filters and similar options to alert Facebook of incidents they might not even be aware of, or would not have traditionally been drawn to? I’m not sure.

    It is a question they’re going to have to deal with. At the moment I view it as something like donating to a charity – are you ignoring all other charities because you choose one? No, I don’t think so, it’s just that a choice was made. With that example, however, we’re discussing something finite like one’s disposable income – with Facebook, these features are costly, sure, in terms of employee time and data and coding and all that, but it should be fairly easy to make 3 checks instead of 1.

    Perhaps what they’re concerned with is that there is violence and uncertainty in the world every day. There could be checks, unfortunately, round the clock in certain American cities with overwhelming gun violence, or in nations with tenuous governments, or those plagued by dangerous fanatics of whatever persuasion. I don’t know the answer – it’s a good and difficult question, and social sites will have to contend with it, tragically, for the foreseeable future.

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