Facebook is experiencing explosive growth among Arabs, native to a part
of the world that is not known for individual freedoms. The social
networking site now has 15 million users in the Middle East and North
Africa, 14 months after adding an Arabic language version of their
service. Why so popular?
- The Hard Data, all reported by Dubai-based
Spot On Public Relations. The growth includes 3.5 million users of
the Arabic Facebook. The Arab region's Facebook users still prefer the
English and French versions, however. The three Arab countries where
Facebook is most popular are Egypt with 3.4 million users, Saudi Arabia
with 2.3 million (1.1 million of whom added within the past year), and
Morocco with 1.8 million. One third of the United Arab Emirate's
population is on Facebook. Only 37% of Arab-region users are female.
More Popular Than Newspapers BBC's ... The findings should come as no surprise.
The majority of the region's more than 300 million people is young, and
internet use is on the rise. In societies where political freedoms are
severely limited, many have also resorted to Facebook as an alternative
to the public sphere."
- Facebook as Free-Speech Alternative
Blogger Neal Ungerleider writes, "Newspapers in Arab countries
are overwhelmingly heavily censored and mind-bogglingly dull. With rare
exceptions such as the expat-oriented Daily Star (Lebanon) and
Dubai's The National, the place for discourse in this part of the
world skews towards the internet, satellite news networks like
al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyya and foreign Arabic newspapers such as
Britain's al-Quds al-Arabi. Facebook, whose censorship and
limited free speech policies are the result of a profit-driven American
internet startup rather than a repressive post-colonial dictatorship, is
also turning into an unexpectedly fertile platform for free speech in
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
mfisher at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.