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Limiting Misinformation and ‘Fake News’

Limiting Misinformation and ‘Fake News’

Al-Nahar, Lebanon, October 20

It seems only as of late did the world discover the perils of technology companies in general, and social media platforms in particular. Of course, these platforms have been omnipresent in our lives for the past quarter of a century. We must remember that social media platforms are what unleashed the protests in Lebanon, leading to the current political situation we are witnessing today. Only three years ago, the Lebanese government proposed to impose a tax on WhatsApp messages, but the Lebanese public, which is addicted to the mobile app, protested en masse. A few weeks ago, a storm erupted in the United States over the behavior of Facebook and its affiliates. This coincided with a temporary shutdown of the platform due to a technical problem experienced in its global infrastructure. Of course, the problem isn’t just with the platforms themselves; the problem is also with human behavior which enables risky and unhealthy behavior on these platforms. Arab culture, in particular, is prone to the propagation of fake news and misinformation, due to widespread belief in myths and conspiracy theories, coupled with ignorance. Today, international studies tell us that the prevalence of depression and the tendency of young people to commit suicide all come from those methods that are difficult to control or even monitor on social media. Educators and community leaders stand idly by as our youth are deluged by widespread lies that surround them on a daily basis. Meanwhile, these companies are well aware of the damage they cause to children and teens, but remain oblivious to these dangers since they profit from them. It seems like US legislators will finally address this loophole by holding the social media platforms liable for the content posted in their channels. The European Union may very well follow America’s footsteps on this front. However, it remains highly unlikely that anyone in the Arab world will implement the kind of supervision and ethical monitoring needed to limit fake news. Sadly, there is very little, if any, awareness of this issue in our society and our politicians simply don’t seem to care. – Mohammed Al-Rumaihi (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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