Twitter and Political Neutrality

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, April 9

Is Twitter politically independent as its leaders claim or is the popular social network influenced by global politics? A recent report published by the French News Agency reveals that Twitter deleted thousands of accounts associated with users in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, under the pretext that they were receiving direct support from government officials. What all these accounts had in common is that their owners published critical posts of Qatar and Turkey, calling into attention the practices of these countries’ respective governments. One account that had been shut in Egypt, for example, received a notice from Twitter that it violated the platform’s community standards for “attacking Qatar and supporting the Egyptian state.” The account’s owner, Mina Salah, spoke to the press and claimed: “We are indeed pro-Egypt but we aren’t taking instructions from anyone. We’re simply defending our country and questioning the policies of the regimes in Iran, Turkey, and Qatar!” Sadly, this behavior from Twitter is in line with the left-wing liberal policies that we’ve been seeing directed against countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which refuse to abide by this trendy agenda of so-called “liberalism.” These very actors who call for freedom and democracy are supporting violent political Islam groups that undermine the very values these individuals seek to promote. Under the banner of liberal values, these movements restrict freedom of expression. A notable Arab producer recently told me that when he contacted a large social media platform to publish his documentary film, exploring Turkish propaganda pertaining to Ottoman history, the latter refused to upload such content to the web. Clearly, social media companies like Twitter are exercising subjective value judgments in deciding what content they allow on their platform. Like all of us, they, too, have their agendas and political worldview. – Meshari Al-Dhaidi (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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