A recent US poll in the Washington Post showed that 72 percent of Internet users do not trust Facebook, especially when it comes to responsibly handling their personal information and data; in fact, the sample, which spanned all ages and categories, agreed that they do not trust the services of any social media platforms. The poll, conducted in November, showed that 64 percent of those questioned said the US government should do more to rein in big tech companies.
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The poll showed that the idea of trust in social networking sites, in a country like America, has come under great scrutiny, and is part of a new attempt to reconsider what these digital tools offer. It also showed – beyond a reasonable doubt – that the information coming from social media is not safe to build on, whether it’s general knowledge or press or media.
I think that here in Egypt we must reconsider what Facebook et. al. present, seeing as how they have now become the only source of information for a very large number of users. What is even more catastrophic is that it has also become a source of information for many of those working in media and journalism, especially those “riding the trends” to attract more views and followers, at the expense of professionalism and logic that are gone with the wind...
Back to the American poll, we see that 56 percent of those polled confirmed Facebook’s negative effect on them, which is a large percentage compared to the 10 percent who said it has a positive effect, while 33 percent saw its impact as neutral (neither positive nor negative). Those calling its effect negative make up the largest percentage, as we can see, and I think that the percentage varies in other countries, according to the nature of education, awareness, and other factors, which is what these sites exploit in exerting an influence that is sometimes politically, economically or socially motivated in favor of certain individuals or policies, as we saw in the last US elections.
The alarm bell that is being sounded regarding these sites must be translated into actions; laws can be issued to limit their negative effects, provided that they do not lead to infringement, but rather serve as corrective measures. There are also sensitive details concerning people's lives, actions and privacy, which must also be taken into account in any legislation. I also think that those in charge of the media industry in Egypt, from the highest level to the youngest editor-in-training in any media outlet, should seek greater fact verification with regard to the sources of information that are used in creating media “buzz”, whose impact sometimes exceeds the scope of the event itself. Today more than ever, those working in this field must find the right way to deal with these risks in order to maintain the golden standard of journalistic truth.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm.
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