The congressional hearing, or rather investigation, of Mark Zuckerberg, the symbol of the global Facebook company which is the most famous social network in the world, is in fact the first revealing session for this whole idea of social media.
The young billionaire is an American, and his massive company Facebook is also American. So is Twitter, Google and the rest of the leading platforms of this new world that controls people’s sentiments, circumstances and passions.
I have been always certain that these platforms – which have been haphazardly designed under the pretext of free flow of information, making communication available between all people and protecting users’ personal information – or so they promise – are in fact anomalous, dangerous and destructiveMashari Althaydi
I have been always certain that these platforms – which have been haphazardly designed under the pretext of free flow of information, making communication available between all people and protecting users’ personal information – or so they promise – are in fact anomalous, dangerous and destructive. However, the western mindset has always tended to say that this is a usual disposition of the third world, especially Arab Islamic countries as their people are not saturated with democratic values and regulations.
Okay, so what about the western reproaching cries, from the very bastions of western democracy, against the threat of social media on the stability, security and even identity of western countries?
During his congressional testimony, the ‘digital’ billionaire reportedly apologized several times and was “bored” of the congress members’ political questions. He perhaps hid his cynicism towards these old men’s ignorance of the digital world, its modern applications and manipulative advances.
The charges leveled against Facebook by the United States as well as some European countries pertained to the company’s sale of its users’ information thus violating their privacy - which the leaders of these companies claim they protect against governments. Facebook is accused of selling this information to other “parties” including both political and non-political parties.
Violation of privacy
The testimony began with a single question as to whether Zuckerberg would be willing to disclose the name of the hotel in which he stayed a fortnight ago, to which Zuckerberg objected. Congress members pointed out that the question was asked to prove the importance of people’s privacy and their reluctance to disclose anything about it to others.
It was striking to see Zuckerberg turned up at the hearing in full suit and tie, which is quite a rarity for him. Senator Harris commented on Zuckerberg’s evasive answers saying: “During the course of this hearing … you’ve been asked several critical questions for which you don’t have answers.”
What was also notable is how much he apologized. Senator John Thune commented on this and cited a Wired story about Zuckerberg’s “14-year history of apologizing”, asking “how is today’s apology different?”
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Today accountability began. This is the beginning as the operation of these giant online platforms which have billions of users, without regulations and outside the law reaps blood, destruction and vanity.
For the umpteenth time, I am saying that the West is the reason behind the production of the demon of social media, and as the proverb says: “He who summons the demon must dismiss it.”
This article was first published in Arabic.
Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.