Facebook Woes in the Gulf States

The Economist pp40-41. Middle East & Africa. Facebook and Autocrats. “With friends like these”. “The social-media giant has been bending to the will of Arab despots”.




Besides losing plenty of corporate advertising in America for failing to “police hateful content”, Facebook (FB) is losing Arab-State user’s faith in being a platform “they can use to hold the powerful accountable”. Not widely known but FB has “more users in the Gulf states than anywhere else in the world, relative to the population. It is the main source of news for many Arabs”.

FB screens posts from 2.7bn users Worldwide, as best they can, using “15,000 content moderators” and artificial intelligence to identify “hate speech and incitement”. This process is made difficult by nuances of foreign languages and dialects. Posts with such content can be deleted and accounts can and are temporarily or permanently deleted. When you think about it, having an account deleted that has been legitimately used, to chronicle one’s life and activities, can be devasting. FB must also try to identify and remove accounts from what are “electronic armies” that can saturate FB with their POV. In May, FB announced an appeal board and process for those wanting a formal review of edited posts or accounts. FB being a public company "feels" the pressure from “Governments…[that] have threatened to tax Facebook’s in-country earnings and lean on advertisers”.

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