The outage of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram services which lasted for several hours last Monday was an unprecedented incidence on a global level, and a serious and dangerous ‘alarm ring’ on several levels and to numerous sides.
It is no secret how globally dominant Facebook, Twitter, and Google are throughout the entire world, to the extent where they constitute authorities that thrive beyond all official ones, with no government holding them accountable and no binding ethical rules to oversee their work processes. Instead, these Internet tools are imposing their own values globally, dragging billions of human beings who use them like sheep to the barn of their special concepts of what should be termed as good or bad values.
Theirs is such a horrifying authority that is bound by no limits, as they may permanently suspend the accounts of country leaders, expel entire states outside the paradise of their accounts, and manipulate people’s data and information with no side to hold them accountable. They are the sole side exclusively entitled to judge and correct.
However, some glimpses of hope emerge in defiance of this abnormal and hazardous situation, as when former Facebook product manager Francis Haugen testified to the US Congress that Facebook exploits data and information from the public and from governments, adding that the social media giant has deluded the public on several issues. Haugen stressed that Facebook hides behind the walls and does its best so that no one will grasp the reality of its internal system. She opined that Facebook must be forced to retract from such an attitude, particularly warning against the tremendous harm on children and teenagers that stems from Facebook and Instagram.
Prior to her testimony, Republican Senate for the State of Mississippi said that US children have become enslaved by the giant technological companies. In the same vein, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal condemned Facebook, opining that it is time to hold the giant technological companies accountable for a catastrophe they have generated.
All of this leads to a clear-cut fact; namely, that the Monday incident with Facebook and its two sisters might recur several times. Hence, is it not a healthy, rational, and responsible option to have an alternative plan?
I have to empathize this especially since several governmental services and direct messages are conveyed to the public via WhatsApp, Twitter, and other applications, just as many modern businesses also rely on these social media tools.
In the same vein, it is extremely dangerous and harmful in several aspects to leave the arena to a particular number of monopolists, regardless of who they are. Even Washington’s closest friend, the European Union, is quite alarmed by the US monopoly of the digital market.
On her Twitter account, European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said: “We are aspiring to see new choices and alternatives in the technology market, and it is imperative not to rely on a limited number of major players, regardless of who they are, which is the objective of digital markets.”
At last but never least, a word must be directed to our local media makers, along with the government and private sides, alerting them to how they confined their media messaging and content to these platforms, thus rendering the numbers of ‘retweets’ and ‘likes’ as the one and only success criterion in conveying messages, while neglecting all other probable solutions such as investing in the creation of new special electronic platforms, and reactivating the old platforms like newspaper and satellite TV’s websites, just to suggest a few alternatives.
There is indeed a solution, and even solutions. However, did we need this slap on the face from Facebook to awaken us from our slumber?
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.