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The Dictator Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote speech at the 2018 Facebook annual meeting. (Anthony Quintano/Wikimedia Commons)

The Dictator Mark Zuckerberg

Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, October 16

The curious thing about Facebook is that the more scandals it turns out to be involved in, the more its followers fall in love with it. It doesn’t seem like Facebook account holders, knowing that their privacy is violated, exploited and blackmailed, feel the need to punish the perpetrator, despite their ability to do so. However, following the release of the documents leaked by former Facebook engineer Frances Haugen, as well as Haugen’s testimony before the US Congress about the platform’s manipulation of content through its algorithms, something may finally change. Democrats and Republicans alike seem more willing to condemn Facebook. The American tech giants that were once a symbol of America’s indomitable and incomparable liberalism, and the embodiment of the wonders of creativity, now seem like vicious tools used to manipulate the minds of innocent civilians and steal information. The first slap in the face came in 2018 when the British newspaper The Guardian revealed that the data and personal information used by Cambridge Analytica to influence the US elections and help Donald Trump get to power was obtained with the full support of Facebook, contrary to what the company had claimed. Then came another scandal about Russian interference in US politics through advertisements targeting voters. And despite the fact that Zuckerberg himself came to testify before Congress, nothing changed. At that time, the manipulation was in favor of Trump, who was in the White House, so the US administration had an interest in letting the issue go. Then came another shock, when Facebook and Twitter blocked the accounts of President Trump following the violent events on Capitol Hill. This was the first time that the Western world finally had a taste of its own medicine and realized that Facebook regularly censors opinions. The same people who stood idly by as Facebook silenced the voices of the masses during the Arab Spring, who ignored Facebook’s systematic removal of testimonies shared by defenseless Palestinians under Israeli bombardment, now realized that they, too, can become Facebook’s next victims. America is at least 15 years late in putting an end to Facebook’s violations, which are among the most dangerous to democracy and freedom of expression in the world today. There is no democracy without transparency and accountability, and Facebook lacks both. This is also our problem, in the Arab world, where every election turns out to be the reelection of the same corrupt voices into power. We never learn our lesson. Mark Zuckerberg can be classified as the world’s largest dictator. He does not have armored vehicles, intercontinental missiles and submarines roaming the seas, but he does control the minds of more than a third of the world’s population. He can control their secrets, manipulate their moods and, in many cases, determine their fate. – Sawsan Al-Abtah (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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