Facebook's and Twitter's suspension of former U.S. President's Donald Trump's accounts following the Washington DC riots on January 6, 2021 sparked criticism from Arab writers, who accused the networks of employing a double standard. Twitter and Facebook, they said, shut down Trump's accounts on the pretext of incitement to violence, yet at the same time they continue to provide a platform for numerous terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, which call for murder and violence against innocent people.
January 9, 2021 Cartoon in Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi': Twitter and Facebook silence Trump on grounds of "public security," yet provide the "organizations of chaos and terror" with a platform on the grounds of "freedom of opinion"
The following are translated excerpts from some of the articles:
Editor Of Egyptian Daily: Twitter Blocked Trump But Not The Accounts Of Terror Organizations
Akram Al-Qassas, acting editor of the Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' daily, which is affiliated with the Egyptian regime, wrote: "Twitter's decision to shut down the account of U.S. president Donald Trump constitutes a turning point in the practices of the social media networks [in general] and of Twitter in particular… Twitter's closing of [his] account on the pretext of incitement to violence marks a turning point, and one wonders whether Twitter will limit these rules to the U.S. alone or impose them on everyone - especially considering that Twitter is the social media network which in recent years has enabled the promotion of violence more than any other [network]. In fact, organizations like the Islamic State [ISIS] and Al-Qaeda had [Twitter] accounts on which they published statements inciting to violence, and even disseminated and marketed terror attacks. Cached Twitter accounts still include hundreds of videos in which terrorists incite terror, bombings and murder of Egyptian military personnel and police. Moreover, Twitter still provides a platform for people who call for violent demonstrations, incitement and murder, and for videos featuring religious rulings that accuse Egyptians of heresy and incite to murder them.
"[All this] may indicate that Twitter's sudden adoption of a policy opposing violence and terror applies only to the U.S., or that the [network] is employing a double standard: spreading [the messages of] terrorists and those who incite violence in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Europe, while preventing the same in the U.S. This seems to be motivated by some kind of fear by Twitter that it might be sued if it continues to allow Trump to tweet.
"Generally speaking, stopping Trump's tweets after he was accused of incitement to violence represent an important turning point, compelling all the countries in the world to apply these norms in the fight against terror and to block all accounts which call for violence and promote terror. There are hundreds of Twitter accounts… of armed organizations… which clearly incite against Egypt and other Arab countries.
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"[But] it seems that the decision to suspend Trump's account is specific to him, and that Twitter will find it difficult to apply the same policy in all cases, for the network apparently profits, directly or indirectly, from fake accounts or accounts inciting violence or terror, so it will be reluctant to block them as it did with Trump."
Saudi Columnist: The Social Media Networks Function As A State Within A State and Refuse Oversight
Saudi columnist 'Abdallah bin Bjad Al-'Otaibi wrote on the UAE news website Al-'Ain: "Some social media networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, suspended the accounts of [former] U.S. president Donald Trump for political reasons. They appointed themselves defenders of the people and of the [state] institutions, [although] they are not elected and have no political legitimacy that entitles them to prevent the president of the world's strongest country from addressing his people. This was a decision applied to a specific individual in a most important and serious matter.
"The social media networks are a distinctly political tool. [While they operate] in a so-called virtual reality, they have, to put it simply, created an actual reality with a wider distribution than the reality on the ground. This reality is followed by a billion people, who carry it in their pockets, and it is [therefore much] closer to them than the traditional media. Despite this, these sites are not yet subjected to laws and regulations, and they are now fighting to ensure that no country will be able to supervise them or regulate their [activity] – and this is a recipe for dangerous chaos.
"What is strange about this decision [to suspend Trump's accounts] is that it prevents Trump [from speaking], while all the world's dictators and terrorists can use every means of publicity, dissemination and propaganda [to promote] terror and murder. [The social media networks] have become a reality where all the criminal organizations, [dealing in] terror, drugs and arms, operate freely, and [the networks] claim to be unable to monitor [this activity] and evade preventing and banning it - except where President Trump is concerned.
"Given the conflict between the [political] streams in the U.S., and given that these [social media networks] tend to the left and not to the right, i.e., support the Democrats and not the Republicans – and certainly not Trump's camp – they are [obviously] fundamentally biased, and not neutral as they like to claim. They have been engaged in an ongoing confrontation with Trump since he assumed office four years ago - yet, in the name of 'privacy' they harbor many terrorists and fundamentalists who incite to murders and sabotage, and they have never relinquished this position, except following intense confrontations with the states' legal and security institutions…"
Twitter silences Trump (Source: Al-Ru'ya, UAE, January 13, 2021
Syrian Columnist: Social Media Have Become Biased Censors
'Amer Na'im Elias, a columnist for the Syrian government daily Al-Watan, wrote: "Trump was ousted at the touch of a button by the directors of Twitters and Facebook. His 35 million followers made no effort on his behalf and the bubble of his followers and supporters, both online and on the ground, disappeared without a trace. Although the man had influence, the decision was made against him and against his tens of millions of followers without waiting for any legal process or decision by the authorities during the unprecedented political catastrophe [that struck] the U.S. on January 6, 2021 with the storming of the Capitol…
"Today we face [a reality whereby] Silicon Valley and its digital platforms have become the sole judge and censor of the government, and the question is whether the directors of the [digital] companies [should really] have the authority to appoint themselves judges who manage the content on their platforms and classify it either as opinion, [protected by] the freedom of expression, or as content that threatens social and political security and 'the peaceful transfer of power.' For that was the message posted by Facebook when it blocked Trump until the transfer of power was completed.
"There have already been cases in the past where the social media networks acted to adversely affect the fate of nations and countries… Demands to delineate a framework for the digital platforms and impose strict [limitations] on freedom of expression and on the ideas posted on them were [already] proposed years ago by experts and by states that were damaged and harmed by activity on these networks. Today the creation has turned on its [Western] masters, even if in a milder manner, for today the West is being harmed by social media and its countries are the ones under attack…
"[What happened in] the U.S. once again reveals the true reason for the power of social media, which have managed over the years to attract most of the people in the world, with their various approaches [to life]. [Their power stems from the fact that] they tell people what they want to hear, what they want to believe and what corresponds to their feelings. These networks work to disseminate very controversial content which has no connection to freedom of expression... And what about their [contribution to] the recruitment [efforts] of armed and the terror organizations, and the extremist ideas [they spread] while ignoring their content, which has led to the total devastation of countries? To what extent are the digital platforms responsible for the content they disseminate? Are they allowed to continue spreading the most divisive content in order to gain additional followers, on the pretext of protecting the plurality of opinions? Or will the events in Washington perhaps lay the foundation for limiting the content on digital platforms, so as to protect the rights of all the world's countries and respect the sensitivities of their [demographic] composition?"