Arab youth reject political intrusion in online social networks


  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

  • Gulf News

    On Tuesday, Facebook is streaming live a 45-minute interview in which the Israeli president will answer questions from social network users
    Manama: A decision by Israeli President Shimon Peres to use social network giant Facebook to communicate with Arabs has hit a roadblock among young men and women who rejected mixing politics with social networking.
    In line with an idea he announced last year when he called for pushing leading software and internet companies, including Google, Microsoft and Facebook, to help make changes in Middle Eastern countries, Peres is planning to take advantage of the Facebook social network to call on people to ask him questions through his official page on the site.
    Peres, who at 88 has held almost every post in Israeli government, wants, among other objectives, to start a dialogue with young Arabs, Israeli and US media have said.
    "The president will call on them to talk with him, to ask questions and to offer ideas to advance peace between peoples, not just between governments," Peres' staff said in a statement.
    On Tuesday, Facebook is streaming live a 45-minute interview in which the Israeli president will answer questions from social network users. Most Arab countries do not have ties with Israel and only Cairo and Amman have signed diplomatic accords with Tel Aviv.
    Peres is the first Israeli president to mix Facebook with politics directly in attempting to reach out to Arabs. However, his Facebook political move has been rejected by people keen on "the bright side of Facebook." "Facebook is a social network, not a self-serving political medium," Duaij Darweesh, a technician, said. "It should not be used by people to promote their ideologies or by states to boost propaganda."
    For Ayesha Abdul Hameed, a university student, social networks are among the last areas "not spoiled by politics." "It seems that social networks are being violated and abused by politics," he said. "We have always wanted to have our private space where we could share small things, trivial issues that put a smile on our faces or alert us to something simple and cute. Now, we are sadly losing this territory to politics and we resent it, of course. We do not want our social networks to be abused by politicians or propagandists," she said.
    Salah Ahmad, an IT manager, said that politicians could use other means to communicate with people. "They can use the internet and a moderator for the questions and answers," he said. "There is no need to use social networks where around 850 million users share some four billion pieces of content that are usually simple, friendly and compassionate and revolve about exchanging pictures or even gossips. It is a private and often harmless world where politics should not spread its tentacles," he said.
    In April 2011, US President Barak Obama became the first sitting head of state to visit Facebook's headquarters where he was interviewed in a town hall format about a wide range of topics that included the economy, technology, innovation, the housing crisis, clean energy research, immigration policy, Medicare and education reform.