MENA survey: Freedom of speech on social media
RNW Media

Arabs do not trust what is published through social media and support enacting laws to control it

Arabs do not trust the information published on social media. A survey conducted by "Huna Sotak" website, the Arabic section of RNW Media, suggests just that. The results showed only 28% of the survey participants trust social media, and 87% support enacting laws to control and criminalize social media offenders.

“72% of the participants do not trust information published on social media”

According to the survey, Arabs visitors of Huna Sotak and other affiliated pages, use social media in different ways. For example, 18% of Arab users employ social media to access prohibited and sensitive content. Seventy percent do so to look for job opportunities, and 50% use it to express their opinions freely on the web. Only 57% use social media to connect with other people. Within the context of social interactions, about 54% of the respondents say social media detaches users from reality. Thirty-four disagree, 6% completely disagree, and 6% do not know.

To find out more about the opinion of Arabs on using social media, we put some  hypotheses to the test. We asked, for example, how they feel about the following statement: ‘’social media platforms fall outside the rule of law and are used to harm others’’. Sixty-eight percent agree, compared to 26% who reject the statement. In another statement we asked respondents whether they agreed that fraud operations are carried out mainly through social media. Eighty-percent of respondents agreed.

The survey did not explore directly the causes of why trust in social media is low, but a possible explanation could lie in the negative experiences people have had in their online social interactions. Almost half of the participants (48%) expressed having experienced provocation and having been threatened at some point through social media.

The Huna Sotak survey included random samples of more than 400 people from different Arab countries. Women accounted for 28% of the participants. Geographical distribution was divided into three main countries: Yemen (59%); Libya (19%); and Syria (8%). There were also some participants from Egypt (2%) and other countries (12%).