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The Media Line
A Wakeup Slap From Facebook

A Wakeup Slap From Facebook

Asharq Al-Awsat, London, October 6

What happened last Monday, when the Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram services were disrupted for several hours, should have been a big and glaring alarm bell that rang our ears. It is no longer a secret that the tech giant Facebook, together with its counterparts Twitter and Google, have assumed a role of global dominance. They have reached every corner of the world and molded millions of people into addicted users who rely on their products. They wield unfathomable power. They can cancel the accounts of heads of state, delete entire countries from the face of the virtual globe, and manipulate people’s data however they please — all with zero accountability. But there are bright moments of resistance to this dangerous situation. One of those moments is the testimony given in Congress last week by the whistleblower Frances Haugen, who worked as a data scientist for Facebook. In her testimony, Haugen revealed how Facebook stole information from governments, how it misled the public about many topics, and how it uses a battery of lawyers to hide what it’s doing. She especially warned against the enormous harm caused to teenagers and children by Facebook and Instagram. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also launched an attack on Facebook, saying that technology companies must face accountability for this disaster. Unfortunately, too many governments, companies, and public officials rely on WhatsApp and Twitter to communicate with the public. Politicians have become obsessed with views, comments, retweets, and likes — as if those are the only metric for their success. In doing so, they neglected other solutions, including, for example, investing in the creation of special platforms, or reinventing old platforms, such as newspapers and satellite TV. There are many solutions out there, but the question is: Are we ready to pursue them? Or do we need a slap in the face from Facebook to wake us up from our apathy? –Mishari Al-Dhaidi (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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