Social media trending as 10 million Arabs join Facebook

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The Arab world has seen a boom in social media over the last year, with the number of Facebook users having risen by 10 million, according to a report by the Dubai School of Government.

There are now 55m Arabs on Facebook, while the number of regional Twitter users grew to 3.7m from 2 million in June 2012, the report found.

Less developed countries outside the GCC accounted for the rise social media users, according to the fifth edition of the Dubai School of Government’s Arab Social Media Report.

“Social media usage has generally increased in the region, taking the 22 Arab countries into consideration,” said Fadi Salem, Director of the Governance and Innovation Program at the Dubai School of Government and co-author of the report.

“However, most GCC countries witnessed a slight drop in Facebook adoption since the beginning of 2013,” he added.

The report suggested that heightened regulations and censorship of social media usage as one possible factor behind the drop in some GCC countries.

Other factors include “saturation levels, regulations set by some GCC governments and migration by users to other networks,” Salem told Al Arabiya.

“However this drop doesn't necessarily mean those people stopped using Facebook but they may have slightly pushed people away from disclosing their locations or identities,” he added.

The actual Facebook penetration rate remains highest in the UAE, at 41 percent, while 25 percent of Arab Facebook users come from Egypt. Saudi Arabia is home to more than half of the active Arab Twitter users, the report found.

The Arabic language is becoming more widely used on social media sites. As of March, 74 percent of all tweets in the region were in Arabic, up from 62 percent in March 2012, the report noted.

The figures were the result of a survey of around 4,000 participants, according to a press release from the Dubai School of Government.

Among the participants, 55 percent of teachers claimed to use social media as an educational resource in the classroom, while 10 percent of parents said that their children had access to social media platforms in schools.

However, over half the participants said their children’s classrooms did not incorporate technological tools.

Parents located in Arab countries suffering from political instability, conflict or violence were surveyed as part of the research. Around 68 percent of parents in such countries said online resources helped their children catch up after interruptions in their schooling due to conflict.

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