A view worth considering: Representatives of three major corporations swearing in before then US congressional committee and surrendering to the state that made it clear to them that “Our interests are far more important than your gains”.
The information technology trilogy: Facebook, Twitter, and Google were feeding information to over two billion people in the world and flaunted the fact that they broke down walls, bypassed censorship, and spread facts. They are now admitting that they have become a major issue.
US authorities are now convinced more than ever that Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social media outlets pose a threat to the regime and the society because they spread terrorism and hatred and manipulate people during elections.
They were summoned to open sessions, and with the threat of consequences if they lied under oath, they admitted to shocking information. Those corporations are afraid the charges will turn into conspiracy against the state and treason, if it was proven that they knew, or traded the information in elections to influence constituents’ political stances or create internal strife.
Facebook admitted that 126,000 US citizens read or dealt with information that seemed to have been issued from the US, but in reality were sent from a building in Pittsburgh, Russia. Most information and news were false and inciting against immigrants, Muslims and others. Ten million users received political advertisements which turned out to be paid from Russia.
Twitter confessed that during the same period, it detected 3,000 Russian accounts backed by 36,000 fake accounts – an electronic army - that tweeted a million and a half times.
As for Google, it announced that about 5,000 Russian-funded ads appeared in the search, as well as thousand videos from Russia on YouTube of 43 hours’ duration.
A large amount of information proved that information technology companies were like Trojan horse carrying the message of the American enemy, with the public unaware they were Russians.
Qatar, a pioneer in this field, recruited accounts in the targeted countries, as well as electronic armies, to spread fake news, bragging that it is promoting Arab Spring. But the truth is that its inclinations are toward a political group like extreme Islamist groups, aiming to topple or weaken regimes.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
The companies justified their position saying they are platforms and not in the content business, except for Google that has search activity.
All of them pledged to reconsider and enhance their electronic surveillance that sorts out the enemy from the friend and allow the media content directed from inside US and prevent foreign-directed advertisements.
Of course, the accused Russia is also a victim of US dumping, targeting it politically and aiming at its regime. So, we are facing a massive, misleading, and destructive information war.
Major countries complain about this; countries that have huge capabilities to direct and educate and with immense military capabilities. What about our countries facing the same problem?
Similar crisis in Gulf
Here’s a similar crisis: Qatar is using information weapons against countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, and Bahrain. The countries considered this a direct target against their stability and presence. To stop Doha, the four countries announced that dealing with Qatar is treason.
Over the past five months, the quartet tried to obstruct all that Qatar built, whether they were means or affiliates. The confrontation ended most of the Qatari instigation platforms, which had been trying to compensate their losses by infiltrating into open free markets like Kuwait and using its platforms.
Qatar, a pioneer in this field, recruited accounts in the targeted countries, as well as electronic armies, to spread fake news, bragging that it is promoting Arab Spring. But the truth is that its inclinations are toward a political group like extreme Islamist groups, aiming to topple or weaken regimes.
Many of the information people receive on WhatsApp, Twitter, or Facebook are created with political goals to spread fake information. Such information is not worth the freedom of expression and access.
The US, a leader of freedom in the world, decided to change its concepts. Freedom of expression doesn’t mean freedom of the foreigner to interfere, influence, and change.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.