[Media Power Monitor] Online conversation moves out of Facebook and Twitter in MENA

The following article excerpt appeared on http://mediapowermonitor.com:

Last summer, the Saudi Arabian government stunned internet freedom activists, and others, when they announced new legal provisions that allow the naming and shaming of offenders of the kingdom’s anti-cyber crime law. The law enables authorities to throw people who produce, prepare, distribute and even store content that “impinges” on public order, religious values and “public morals” via the internet into jail.

As if that was not sufficient, the same law allows the naming and shaming of those found guilty of these offenses. In a region like the Middle East where individual reputation is a cornerstone of societal value, naming and shaming has the potential to be even more intimidating than rotting in a Saudi quod. Local observers saw these legal provisions as another step towards stifling criticism by the local authorities, through such a powerful social deterrent.

It came as a surprise, then, to learn that internet users across the region are more concerned about corporate surveillance of their online activity than about government snooping. Some 42% of people in the region are worried about corporate surveillance. In contrast, only 31% of them are concerned about government surveillance, according to a newly released study carried out by Northwestern University in Qatar in partnership with Doha Film Institute.

In Lebanon, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UEA), one-third of internet users worry about online corporate surveillance. Nearly half of them have such concerns in Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

The findings show that people in the region, massive embracers of social media, are growing increasingly heedful of their own privacy. That is prompting many of them to think twice when posting online or even to altogether abandon their online engagement on social networks.

Read the full article on Media Power Monitor.