In October 2007, Time magazine published a cover describing Twitter as a “dubious” revolution, along with a full-page editorial about the importance of Twitter, as well as insights into the early stages of our rapidly changing world and its unbridled revolution in communication and social media.
Twitter today truly does represent a monumental revolution in communication that operates at nano speed and is completely out of control, part of the danger posed by this mode of communication which has an addictive quality that can take over people's lives. Others view it differently, according to their unique vision, culture, and awareness of its pros and cons and their impact on different societies culturally, educationally, socially, and economically.
According to the Hootsuite report on Statista 2020 statistics, Saudi Arabia had the most social media users in the Arab world on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. There has also been a remarkable surge in content creation of various formats by Saudi users, who demonstrate a significant level of ingenuity and mastery in creating the content published on social media sites.
Twitter statistics on Saudi Arabia for 2020 indicate an increase of more than 3 million users in one year, from 11 million in 2019 to 14 million in 2020.
Saudis use Twitter to tweet about all sorts of things, public events and activities, issues of public opinion, breaking news, and other activities that are popular in the public sphere. They have found Twitter to be a dynamic space for interaction and discussion that grants them the freedom to express themselves without restriction, in contrast with the weakness of the traditional media system.
In recent times, however, Twitter has become a powerful platform to defend their homeland, their leaders, and their future during a series of crises that have gripped Saudi Arabia. Saudi online users created a united front on Twitter and made relevant hashtags trend on a daily basis. Members of all the different facets of Saudi society came together, united in defending their homeland and expressing pride in their king and crown prince, praising the achievements of the government which is writing new pages in the story of Saudi Arabia, and applauding the strength and bravery of our soldiers defending the borders of the homeland.
Tweeting is no longer just a way to get attention, go viral, or share information; the Saudi Twitter has turned tweeting into a source of strength and national pride against outside attacks.
But even as Saudis demonstrated their loyalty to their homeland in the face of crisis, it is said in many circles that Twitter is biased against Saudi Arabia as a country. There have been many cases of Saudi accounts being reported or suspended and other, even more biased, actions driven by regional and international hostile media.
I will conclude with a question for reflection: Does Twitter have a real bias against Saudis? If so, what is the role of our media, our political strategy think tanks, research centers, and other relevant authorities in studying this, exposing the truth, and remedying the situation, so that these incidents are no longer overlooked?
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi Arabian outlet al-Riyadh.