Translation and Subtitles: Abir Kopty – Freie Universität Berlin
Facebook is the most used Social Media platform in Palestine and has more than 1.5 million users, 42% of them are females, which comes the second among the Arab counties. The most liked pages by the Palestinians are the Jawal Communication Company, then the page of singer Mohammad Assaf, then comes the news pages: Shehab News, al-Quds News Network, Palestine TV and al-Quds Newspaper.
What are your most used or followed social media plattforms?
- Facebook of course. It is the platform that provides most the information. There is news’ pages, you just press like then you see the news.
- Facebook, I follow pages of famous journalists and read their news.
- We mostly use Facebook, as we effortlessly get the news.
- Mostly Facebook because it is easy to use the mobile while sitting. Everything gets on Facebook. One can hear or see what are the news in their country.
- The bad side is for those that only use it for entertainment rather than using it for education or read people’s opinions.
- Social Media sites might include false news, but the beauty of it is that some of the topics can be only published there because it will be difficult to be published by the journalist, or the journalist is afraid to publish it.
- Because its news is not always credible, and because it is not official, anyone can open a news page and publish unofficial or false news.
- Sometimes there are no credibility. Or the same news is published in different ways.
- Because most people are after scoops, there is less scrutiny or good documentation of the news, which is very negative. The positive side is that there are many pages who post news 24 hours. Also it is easy to reach out to the analysts and writers by the private messages.
There is no doubt that Social Media takes big attention and interest of the Palestinian society. According to a latest study, almost 86% of the Palestinian youth rely mainly on Social Media as a source for information, especially Facebook. That means, the institutionalized media is fading whether it was newspapers, or television, or radio. Today, 30,000 copies are print of the three daily newspapers; al-Ayyam, al-Quds and al-Hayat so it is clear that the Social Media is taking a big space in the daily lives of the people, at the account of the other news media.
The media institutions bare part of the responsibility for the setback because they resist to turn to tabloid format, which is easier for carrying and reading. Even though the three newspapers established websites and upgraded them lately, they still write according to the protocol and in traditional style and therefore there is no fundamental change.
Compared to other countries in the Middle East, Palestine has the highest rates of Facebook use growth. Today, around 50% of the populations have Facebook. When compared with UAE, Saudi, and Kuwait, people in these countries are using Twitter more than Facebook. Palestine has the highest growth in Facebook users in the Middle East, and highest dependency on Facebook as the main source of information.
Another important point, is the time youth spend on Social Media, which exceeds any other country around Palestine. We should not forget of course, that because Palestine is under occupation, this made Social Media a priority. The concept of “breaking news” and the immediate and quick coverage and documentation of news that activists do, gave space and importance to Social Media in Palestine more than in other surrounding countries.
I believe that the countries of the Arab spring tried to benefit from the Palestinian experience on Social Media especially concerning the documentation of violations by the occupation. Similar to today’s documentation of the bombing of the opposition forces or authority, either in Syria or Iraq or Egypt or around. I believe that the Palestinian experience and the way Palestinians are using Social Media are slightly different than the surrounding countries, in terms of the numbers of users that reaches more than 50%, and in terms of the type of usage. In the Palestinian case, Social Media is not only a tool for social communication but also functions as news media.
I believe that in Third World countries, as long as there are contradictions between the reality and the virtual world, many people will identify with the virtual world, and consider it as a substitute to the reality.
That means people who use Facebook and Instagram, as a space to express themselves freely, they are writing and blogging beyond their ability to practice this right of expression in real life. Therefore, I believe that those platforms will continue to dominate the communication scene in Palestine.
The institutional and traditional media is being dragged to Social Media. This is clear when we look at the many mistakes that happened in the last few months, and the false news being published online due to the reliance of traditional media on activists to get scoops. The Social Media is now the compass. This virtual world where there are no boundaries, regulations or ethics, is the compass.
The Palestinian media grew with the growth of the Palestinian cause. Its main interest was to bring it to the world, hoping that everyone will see and understand the just cause. Journalism is the strongest weapon that is able to convey the message and bring the change.