This week I read the Social Media in the Middle East: The Story of 2017 report. It was interesting to see the really high adoption of social media platforms in that part of the world. The biggest thing that I think is different in some of those countries than here is government censorship.

So far the US government has not censored social networks. Americas free speech is something that we really cherish. Criticizing our government is one of our favorite pass times. This is not the case in every country. Governments with strong centralized governments are terrified of free speech especially when it is amplified by social media.

I have a couple students who grew up in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I typically view the UAE to be one of the most progressive nations in that region. They have become very wealthy and modern, welcoming people to come from all over the world. I was surprised to find out that video calling in WhatsApp, Snapchat, and FaceTime were blocked. The article did not go into details as to why. But even this rapidly modernized country is not ready to fully allow all social media functions.

Social media gives voice to individuals. That is the most powerful thing about it. However, that is also terrifying to those that are threatened by this power. The article started out talking about the Arab Spring uprisings. These were enabled by social media and you can be certain that all governments took notes and are scared of that happening to them as well.

What should governments regulate in relation to social networks? Will they be effective?

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Lee M

That’s quite the question! In the US, there’s been a push to regulate because of the viral spread of misinformation and misuse of personal data. Too much free speech (I’m thinking troll farms) appears to drown out the individual voices about as thoroughly as not letting people on to begin with.