The most recent manifestation of their widespread use could be assessed as resulting in amongst many things, the calm and easy dethroning of two of North Africa’s long-endured head of states. Their current and discrete assignments appear to be concerned with the complete disposal of the out-dated support systems. One thing is sure in that without these Social Media’s deep penetrations in the region, none of this youthful regeneration could be obtained or at least at such low price.
What is the most popular channel in Saudi Arabia and how many young people still use Facebook? Here are some key facts about one of the most youthful regions on the planet
This article is authored by Damian Radcliffe, the Carolyn S. Chambers professor of journalism at the University of Oregon and Payton Bruni, a journalism student at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, who is also minoring in Arabic Studies.
Since the Arab Spring, there has been increased interest in the role that media, and in particular social media, plays in the region. Our recent report, State of Social Media, Middle East: 2018 explored this topic in depth. Here we outline the implications our research has for journalists.
News consumption for Arab youth is social media-led
“Like their peers in the West, young Arabs today are digital natives,” said Sunil John, founder and CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, which produces the annual Arab youth survey.
“Young Arabs are now getting their news first on social media, not television. This year, our survey reveals almost two thirds (63 per cent) of young Arabs say they look first to Facebook and Twitter for news. Three years ago, that was just a quarter.”
According to Arabian Business, content creators with more than 10,000 YouTube subscribers enjoy “free access to audio, visual and editing equipment, as well as training programmes, workshops and courses. Those with more than 1,000 subscribers will have access to workshops and events hosted at the space.”
In most countries, Facebook has yet to falter
The social network now has 164 million active monthly users in the Arab world. This is up from 56 million Facebook users just five years earlier.
Interestingly, in contrast to many other markets, 61 per cent of Arab youth say they use Facebook more frequently than a year ago, suggesting the network is still growing.
Egypt, the most populous nation in the region with a population of over 100 million, remains the biggest national market for Facebook in the region, with 24 million daily users and nearly 37 million monthly mobile users.
Saudi Arabia is a social media pioneer
“In 2018, YouTube upstaged long-time leader Facebook to become the most popular social media platform in Saudi Arabia,” reported Global Media Insight, a Dubai based digital interactive agency.
Data shared by the agency showed YouTube has 23.62 million active users, in the country, with Facebook coming in second with 21.95 million users.
Alongside this, although there are about 12 million daily users of Snapchat in the Gulf region (an area comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman) a staggering 9 million of these are in Saudi Arabia (compared to 1 million in UAE).
A complicated relationship with platforms
Despite YouTube’s wide popularity in the MENA region, the company faced some pushback in the past year, after the network was accused of removing online evidence of Syrian chemical attacks.
Meanwhile, YouTube suspended accounts belonging to Syria’s public international news organisation (SANA,) the Ministry of Defence, and the Syrian Presidency “after a report claimed the channels were violating US sanctions and generating revenue from ads,” Al Jazeera reported.
More generally, social networks have a complicated relationship with the region, with service blocks, or the banning of certain features (such as video calling) being relatively common place, and both news organisations and individuals, can fall foul of greater levels of government oversight.
Derogatory posts have resulted in deportations of residents from UAE, while in 2018, the Egyptian government passed legislation categorising social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as media outlets, thereby exposing them to monitoring by the authorities.
To find out more, download the full study State of Social Media, Middle East: 2018 from the University of Oregon Scholars’ Bank, or view it online via Scribd, SlideShare, ResearchGate and Academia.Edu.
As foreseen by many, this article titled ‘Inside the dark web of the UAE’s surveillance state’ could only be an illustration of the UAE’s increasing involvement in regional tensions. This has as per the article been kicked off by the 2011 spring uprisings in the region but would signal the likelihood of a long period of severe frictions between the members of the GCC. In effect, the nationals as well as the foreign residents of this membership are closer to one another as flows after flows in all direction of social media commentaries could prove and ascertain their ethno-socio and business proximity. The UAE’s surveillance infrastructure by international cybersecurity “Dealers” could well have ignored that aspect of the populations.
This article is written by Joe Odell, press officer for the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE. It was published by the Middle East Eye and is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.
The above picture taken on January 11, 2018, shows the skyline of the Dubai Marina (AFP)
The nuts and bolts of the Emirati surveillance state moved into the spotlight on 1 February as the Abu Dhabi-based cybersecurity company DarkMatter allegedly stepped “out of the shadows” to speak to the international media.
Its CEO and founder, Faisal al-Bannai, gave a rare interview to the Associated Press at the company’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi, in which he absolved his company of any direct responsibility for human rights violations in the UAE.
Established in the UAE in 2015, DarkMatter has always maintained itself to be a commercially driven company. Despite the Emirati government constituting 80 percent of DarkMatter’s customer base and the company previously describing itself as “a strategic partner of the UAE government”, its CEO was at pains to suggest that it was independent from the state.
According to its website, the company’s stated aim is to “protect governments and enterprises from the ever-evolving threat of cyber attack” by offering a range of non-offensive cybersecurity services.
Seeking skilled hackers
Though DarkMatter defines its activities as defensive, an Italian security expert, who attended an interview with the company in 2016, likened its operations to “big brother on steroids” and suggested it was deeply rooted within the Emirati intelligence system.
Simone Margaritelli, also a former hacker, alleged that during the interview he was informed of the UAE’s intention to develop a surveillance system that was “capable of intercepting, modifying, and diverting (as well as occasionally obscuring) traffic on IP, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks”.
Although he was offered a lucrative monthly tax-free salary of $15,000, he rejected the offer on ethical grounds.
Furthermore, in an investigation carried out by The Intercept in 2016, sources with inside knowledge of the company said that DarkMatter was “aggressively” seeking skilled hackers to carry out offensive surveillance operations. This included plans to exploit hardware probes already installed across major cities in order to track, locate and hack any person at any time in the UAE.
In many respects, the UAE’s surveillance infrastructure has been built by a network of international cybersecurity “dealers” who have willingly profited from supplying the Emirati regime with the tools needed for a modern-day surveillance state
As with other states, there is a need for cybersecurity in the UAE. As the threat of cyber attacks has increased worldwide, there have been numerous reports of attempted attacks from external actors on critical infrastructure in the country.
Since the Arab uprisings of 2011, however, internal “cyber-security governance”, which has been utilised to quell the harbingers of revolt and suppress dissident voices, has become increasingly important to the Emirati government and other regimes across the region.
In the UAE, as with other GCC states, this has found a legislative expression in the cybercrime law. Instituted in 2012, its vaguely worded provisions essentially provide a legal basis to detain anybody who criticises the regime online.
A network of Emirati government agencies and state-directed telecommunications industries have worked in loose coordination with international arms manufacturers and cybersecurity companies to transform communications technologies into central components of authoritarian control.
In 2016, an official from the Dubai police force announced that authorities were monitoring users across 42 social media platforms, while a spokesperson for the UAE’s Telecommunication Regulatory Authority similarly boasted that all social media profiles and internet sites were being tracked by the relevant agencies.
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi meets with US President Donald Trump in Washington in May 2017 (AFP)
As a result, scores of people who have criticised the UAE government on social media have been arbitrarily detained, forcefully disappeared and, in many cases, tortured.
Last year, Jordanian journalist Tayseer al-Najjar and prominent Emirati academic Nasser bin Ghaith received sentences of three and 10 years respectively for comments made on social media. Similarly, award-winning human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor has been arbitrarily detained for nearly a year due to his online activities.
This has been a common theme across the region in the post-“Arab Spring” landscape. In line with this, a lucrative cybersecurity market opened up across the Middle East and North Africa, which, according to the US tech research firm Gartner, was valued at $1.3bn in 2016.
A modern-day surveillance state
In many respects, the UAE’s surveillance infrastructure has been built by a network of international cybersecurity “dealers” who have willingly profited from supplying the Emirati regime with the tools needed for a modern-day surveillance state.
Moreover, it has been reported that DarkMatter has been hiring a range of top talent from across the US national security and tech establishment, including from Google, Samsung and McAfee. Late last year, it was revealed that DarkMatter was managing an intelligence contract that had been recruiting former CIA agents and US government officials to train Emirati security officials in a bid to bolster the UAE’s intelligence body.
UK military companies also have a foothold in the Emirati surveillance state. Last year, it was revealed that BAE Systems had been using a Danish subsidiary, ETI Evident, to export surveillance technologies to the UAE government and other regimes across the region.
‘The million dollar dissident’
Although there are officially no diplomatic relations between the two countries, in 2016, Abu Dhabi launched Falcon Eye, an Israeli-installed civil surveillance system. This enables Emirati security officials to monitor every person “from the moment they leave their doorstep to the moment they return to it”, a source close to Falcon Eye told Middle East Eye in 2015.
The source added that the system allows work, social and behavioural patterns to be recorded, analysed and archived: “It sounds like sci-fi but it is happening in Abu Dhabi today.”
Moreover, in a story that made headlines in 2016, Ahmed Mansoor’s iPhone was hacked by the UAE government with software provided by the Israeli-based security company NSO Group. Emirati authorities reportedly paid $1m for the software, leading international media outlets to dub Mansoor “the million-dollar dissident.”
Mansoor’s case is illustrative of how Emirati authorities have conducted unethical practices in the past. In recent years, the UAE has bought tailored software products from international companies such as Hacking Team to engage in isolated, targeted attacks on human rights activists, such as Mansoor.
The operations of DarkMatter, as well as the installation of Falcon Eye, suggest, however, that rather than relying on individual products from abroad, Emirati authorities are now building a surveillance system of their own and bringing operations in-house by developing the infrastructure for a 21st-century police state.
We couldn’t find better read to start the New Year than with THE EDVOCATE’s article dated December 30, 2017on Digital literacy only through Digital citizenship. THE EDVOCATE is a website devoted to advocating for education equity, reform, and innovation.
The MENA countries’ education establishments could do well to meditate on what is put forward like some sort of a precept by Matthew Lynch, author of the article, i.e. “Embracing technology and digital literacy is a key factor to encourage learning from infancy through adulthood.”
With the increased importance of technology in society, digital literacy is gaining recognition as the most valuable tool for lifelong learning. What does this mean? Essentially, as citizens of a global society, the influence of social media, technology, and online resources is massive. For children, the access to a home computer with internet increases their likelihood of college attendance exponentially. For adults, the ever evolving tech world can either help them succeed or hold them back.
Society has changed over the last 15 years. It has become increasingly important to continue education after entering the workforce. The influence of technology on business is the main reason for this new mandate. In early learning through adulthood, digital literacy is showing the most promise for success. The edtech industry has long-focused on the value of digital competency for children. It’s time digital literacy was incorporated into adult education in the same way, but with a few adjustments.
The foundation of digital literacy has four factors. Technological skills and access, authorship rules, representation rules, and online social responsibility. For students and employees to interact responsibly in a digital society, it’s imperative to understand all four parts of the puzzle.
The core competencies of using computers, navigating the internet, and having access to broadband internet are essential to success. In today’s schools, students who utilize online research and display computer skills are more likely to graduate. Additionally, organizations like DigitalLiteracy.gov emphasize the importance of harnessing technology to find work and advance in your career.
Authorship understanding is becoming increasingly essential every day. Individuals can create and share content seamlessly in the digital age. This ability allows global citizens to interact and bond together for common goals. It also means that discerning authentic content is becoming harder to do. Those with good digital literacy skills will have the advantage of sharing ideas efficiently and knowledgeably filtering content.
Related to authorship is the issue of digital representation. Knowing how to decide what content is authentic and what isn’t is essential for every citizen. Understanding how to use resources like Politifact and Snopes will help individuals navigate representation issues more soundly.
To use technology and the internet in your life, it’s imperative to understand all the tenants of digital literacy. Lastly, and possibly most important, is digital ethics or online social responsibility. Digital ethics is the discernment of what is appropriate to say, do and share. It also includes observance of copyright laws and privacy.
To fully embrace digital literacy, individuals must also learn digital citizenship. The tenants of this idea are much more sophisticated than those of literacy. However, they guide behavior online, safety practices and research rules. Comprehension of the nine elements of digital citizenship will make technology safer and more helpful for children and adults, alike.
Understanding the Stats
In a 2013 report by the New York City Comptroller’s Office, the educational achievement of homes without broadband access was disproportionately poor. 42% of disconnected households attained less than high school graduation, and only 5% earned a Bachelor’s degree. Similar educational deficiencies were noted in a 2011 Microsoft infographic. The infographic suggested that 77% of jobs will require digital competency by 2020. Additionally, it recorded a 6% greater high school graduation rate for students with home access to technology.
Does the research suggest that mere access to internet and technology will improve educational and career performance? Not exactly. There are other important factors to success. Students need to be digitally literate which includes an understanding of digital citizenship rules.
The ability to use technology isn’t enough to advance individuals. Technology use comes with many possible hurdles which can present themselves to halt progress. Things like improper research practices can hurt student performance. Additionally, unsafe internet practices and inappropriate online activity can harm employees. To avoid these common missteps, people need proper education on digital citizenship and literacy.
From pre-k through adult life, technology is ingratiated in daily living. According to the International Guidelines on Information Literacy, technological education should start early. However, the report also states that teaching and improvement should continue throughout life to support personal and career growth. The European Commission Joint Research Center agrees. The commission suggests that digital literacy is essential to school success and later lifelong improvement.
Embracing technology and digital literacy is a key factor to encourage learning from infancy through adulthood. The impact of technology on learning has roots in the science of how we learn. As such, it has long been important to encourage academic advancement. However, the development of a global society has made involvement mandatory for successful individuals from all walks of life.
How does digital literacy inform your life? What continued learning tools have you embraced in your career? We want to hear your experiences.
There are some cities you visit and wish you could move there tomorrow, because the quality of life on offer seems so appealing.
Whether it’s down to lots of easily accessible amenities and open space, low levels of traffic and pollution or plenty of opportunities for enjoying a life outside of work, everybody values particular aspects of urban life in different ways.
As such, the idea of ‘liveability’ is a contested one and will differ wildly in the eyes of different groups of people: young students, families, expats and the elderly – to name just a few. It’s given rise to numerous indices – in fact there are now more indices covering the issue of liveability than any other area, and each varies significantly depending on the author and audience . . .
We often think of ‘magnetism’ as a human quality, as well as a physical phenomenon. Cities also have the power to draw people to them.
The Global Power City Index (GPCI) ranks the world’s most important cities according to their ‘magnetism’, that is, their perceived power to attract creative people and businesses from across the globe, and to “mobilize their assets” to boost economic, social and environmental development.
In the 2016 report (the first GPCI was released in 2008), London kept its No.1 spot for the fifth year running, despite a slight drop in its overall score. Ratings in the ‘economy’ category fell, but the UK capital was strong on ‘cultural interaction’, with an increase in the number of overseas visitors and students.
The report notes that data was gathered before the June 2016 Brexit vote. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the number of foreign visitors to the UK increased by 3% in 2016, and in the three months to December this figure was 6% higher than the same three months in 2015. The plunge in the value of the pound following the referendum result has given London a tourism boost, but the long-term effects of Brexit remain unclear.
New York maintained its second place on the GPCI, also for the fifth year in a row. NYC turned in another set of strong results in the categories of ‘economy’, ‘research and development’ and ‘cultural interaction’.
Image: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Tokyo leapfrogged Paris to move into the top three for the first time, having been fourth for the past eight years. Its improved ratings were due to a number of factors, the 2016 report says, including a cut in Japan’s corporation tax rate, a rise in the number of visitors from abroad and more direct flight connections to overseas destinations. Tokyo’s ‘livability’ score also received a boost from lower housing and general living costs (in US dollar terms).
Paris’s lower ‘cultural interaction’ ratings were due to a fall in the number of overseas visitors, international students and foreign residents. The report says the November 2015 terrorist attacks are likely to have had an impact on these figures.
Singapore held onto fifth place, despite experiencing a decrease in its overall ratings because of slowing GDP growth and a decline in total employment.
Two more Asian cities, Seoul and Hong Kong, were ranked sixth and seventh, while three European capitals — Amsterdam, Berlin and Vienna — rounded off the top 10.
Only by learning why he committed the atrocity and how, as seems likely, he was radicalised can we prevent others from following his warped and deadly path.
There are also questions for companies such as Google and why terror manuals, including guides to using cars as weapons of destruction, are so readily available online.
In all cases, and as elaborated on by AMEinfo in an editorial that deserves pondering on, there are always causes to such atrocities but also unfortunately consequences.
As the world watched, an unnamed assailant went on a rampage on London’s streets on Wednesday. Four people lost their lives in the deadly attack near the Houses of Parliament.
Financial impact of the ugly incident is yet to be ascertained but one can assume it will be colossal as the metropolis came to a standstill as events unfurled.
Unfortunately, the world continues to lose more money than it invests as terrorism and violence increase grossly.
The economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2015 was $13.6 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, according to the figures from Global Peace Index (GPI).
To put this in macroeconomic perspective, the figure amounted to 13.3 per cent of the world’s GDP and it was nearly 11 times the size of global foreign direct investment.
If the lost money was distributed equally across the globe, every person would have received $1,876.
Destruction of infrastructure
Any terrorist activity begins with physical damage to properties. Numerous buildings, roads, railways and airports have been destructed in such incidents. These take a very huge share of governments’ fiscal budgets. Also, factories, machines, vehicles, skilled labourers and other resources are eliminated during the course of violence. In addition, damages to utility resources will have both short-term and long-term impacts on economy.
Uncertainty in markets
Markets are highly vulnerable to any development that catches the attention of investors. After the globalisation, markets have been responding to news-making events even if they are taking place miles away in a different country or a region. Shares in stock markets worldwide had fallen in response to militant attacks in Paris last year.
Insurgent attacks have the highest potential to dampen the confidence of investors. As risk appetite of businesses wanes, they would turn away from investing in new markets or expanding in existing geographies.
Last year Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan incurred the largest economic impact as a percentage of their GDP at 54, 54 and 45 per cent of GDP respectively, according to the GPI 2016 report.
Governments spend billions of dollars after militant attacks in order to avoid such occurrence in future. For stepping up military strength and acquiring new weapons and technology as well as boosting intelligence many of the countries across the world allocate nearly half of their budget.
Following a suspected bombing of a Russian plane in Sinai in 2015, Egypt invested some $50 million in airport security.
The most immediate impact of any violence will be felt on a country’s tourism sector, which is the backbone of economy in many parts of the world.
In 2010, 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt’s beaches and ancient sites but five years later the number of travellers plunged to just 9.3m as the country witnessed popular uprising and an array of terrorist attacks.
People tend to cancel or postpone their holidays which directly affects airlines, tour operators, hotels, restaurants and retailers.
Between 1970 and January 2016, there have been more than 160 terrorist attacks targeted at hotels worldwide. Over the past five years alone, more than 40 hotel terrorist attacks have occurred, according to figures from security consultancy firm Restrata.
Botan Osman Managing Director of Restrata says that hotels have been seen as a soft target for terrorist attacks because they tend to have large, open spaces and attract a high number of visitors, many of whom are often foreigners.
“Hospitality targeted attacks may rise unless the industry takes a harder stance. This can be done whilst balancing the business needs of the hotel.”
“Examining the growth in hotel attacks demonstrates a worrying statistic, with a quarter of all hotel attacks since 1970 occurring in the past five years. Documented attacks within the hotel industry focus primarily on North African states where terror levels are already high, yet research suggests a number of hospitality premises in these areas are lacking in basic security design features,” Osman adds.
In commemoration of our friend and fellow countryman M. Tamalt passing away in circumstances not exactly very honorable, we reproduce herewith excerpts of 2 articles. On World Press Freedom Day, last May 3rd, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said governments must work to protect the media and “investigate and bring to justice those responsible for violent assaults upon journalists.”
Research recently conducted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Middle East has shown that although the constitutions of the majority of Middle Eastern countries provide for freedom of expression, in reality conventional and international (including radio, satellite TV and the Internet) media remain under a restricted and intimidatory legal, political and security environment. [. . .]
A British-Algerian journalist had died six months after staging a hunger strike in Algiers over his detention for publishing articles seen as offensive to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, prison authorities and his lawyer said.
Rights groups called for an investigation into Mohamed Tamalt’s death – Reporters Without Borders said the news was a “hammer blow to all those who defend freedom of information in Algeria”.
The 42-year-old blogger and freelance reporter succumbed to a lung infection in hospital in Algiers on Sunday, the prison service said in a statement.
“I can confirm the death of the journalist Mohamed Tamalt in Bab el-Oued hospital after a hunger strike of more than three months and a three-month coma,” lawyer Amine Sidhoum said on Facebook.
Tamalt, who was based in London, was arrested in Algeria in June for posts he had shared on Facebook that were seen as critical of Algerian authorities.
Placed in pre-trial detention for “offending the president” and “defaming a public authority”, he was later given a two-year sentence for offence against a public official, according to Human Rights Watch.
“It is urgent that lawyers are allowed access to the journalist’s medical dossier,” Yasmine Kacha, North Africa director of Reporters Without Borders, said.
“A public apology should be presented to the journalist’s family and an investigation immediately opened,” she said in a statement.”
Algeria’s prison service said the hospital had been treating Tamalt for his lung infection, and he had been receiving daily treatment since beginning his hunger strike in late June.
(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Andrew Heavens)
The Guardian elaborating adds that the 42-year-old blogger and freelance journalist, who ran a website from London where he lived, was charged with offending President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and defaming a public authority, in the poem he shared on Facebook. A court in Algiers sentenced him to two years in prison on 11 July and fined him 200,000 dinars (£1,400). An appeals court upheld the ruling a month later.
Amnesty International urged Algerian authorities on Sunday to open an “independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances” of the journalist’s death.