From Arab Spring to Gaza War… How did Facebook blow out its twentieth candle?

Today, Facebook blew out its 20th candle, just days after its founder Mark Zuckerberg stood before the Senate and a group of victims and apologized for the pain his famous platform has caused. This is in addition to the many scandals that plague the platform related to the loss of privacy and the time it takes to pull us away from our social relationships and ideals and our other activities.

But despite that, I kept thinking about the beginning of this invention, how I found out about it, what my feelings were at the time, how I feel about it now, why it changed, and what it has done in my life. What role did it play… When I returned to my first post my memories were refreshed and my knowledge of Facebook went from its appearance in the Arab world from 2006 to today.

Cambridge – November 12: founder Mark Zuckerberg, right, and Dustin Moskowitz, co-founder, left;  He was photographed in Harvard Yard.  Both are Harvard University students taking the semester off.  (Photo by Justin Hunt/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Mark Zuckerberg (right) founded the Facebook platform with his friend Dustin Moskowitz 20 years ago (Getty)

(2006 – 2011)…The beginning is always innocent

I found myself scrolling down to the beginning of my timeline. Took a long time to get there, but unfortunately I couldn't get to the first post because posts stopped being uploaded in mid-2010.

But the whole thing seemed strange and exciting to me, and when I looked at the photos I posted a while back and saw friends' reactions to them, memories started coming back to me, and I remembered that feeling when you get a person to open up. Let's add to your list of other people, and I remember my feelings when I saw friends with whom I would not have been able to meet again if it were not for Facebook.

As millions of people joined Facebook, the platform began to change the world for better and for worse, but my friends list grew, my posts changed, and even my posts I had kept over the course of twenty years changed. Convictions also changed.

During the first five years at Facebook, which began in 2007; After almost a year of being available globally, everyone was amazed by this platform and its ability to connect people together and share special moments in their lives.

The emergence of the iPhone helped Facebook spread. From approximately 2006 to 2008, after opening to the general public, the platform became more popular.

Then around 2008, prominent media elites and politicians, realizing its power, started using it. This power became evident around 2010, when the events of the Arab Spring began, and I observed how Facebook became a tool for the public to respond to power.

There was a slogan at that time: We use YouTube to broadcast the revolution, use Facebook to organize it, and use Twitter to share it.

This invention, which we hoped would contribute to raising the voices of the oppressed, especially when we saw its impact in the Arab Spring, soon changed its goals and methods.

The amount of content Facebook users post about their personal lives is so vast that it gives anyone the ability to create a digital map (Getty)

(2012 – 2017)… Money and influence are the source of technology's evils

A symposium was organized at the GITEX conference in Dubai in 2012 to raise awareness about privacy and how social media platforms, including Facebook, can violate our privacy.

I remember how, after this seminar, many parties in the Arab world began to verify the accuracy of the information contained in it, and I found that the volume of what users publish on the platform about their personal lives is very is large and it enables anyone to create a digital map that shows the most important information about users.

At that time, information such as personal identity cards, work papers and even dates of birth and children's information; It is easy for many users to get on the platform.

The case excited advertising companies who were discovering these mines of information and Facebook also found it to be an important source of funding and increasing profits, as its profits reached their peak in the period between 2010 and 2015. .

But advertising companies and Facebook weren't the only ones seeking our information and vying for our attention. During this period, a class of users emerged who came to be called influencers, and which was initially a group of users who shared their political and revolutionary ideas. However, after the Arab Spring, most of this class became businessmen. , who sell their posts to paying brands who want to profit from their followers and the audience that follows their posts.

Yes, during this period, Facebook has turned into a free market for information, in which politicians, artists, businessmen and even parties and groups who had no voice sell their goods, Which created a strange situation which appeared in the beginning. 2016 US elections.

In his election campaign for his second term in 2012, US President Barack Obama used social media, including Facebook, to reach youth and promote his election campaign. Thus, he is considered the first American President to use this platform in an election campaign.

But his successor, Donald Trump, who won the US presidential election in 2016, is seen by some as being able to use the platform to shift public opinion – or what is known as “political polarization”. – Systematic revelations from the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2017 have raised alarm bells across the world about the huge impact social media platforms have on our lives, signaling a new era for these platforms. Which has many mistakes.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg looks on during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on online child sexual exploitation at the US Capitol on January 31, 2024 in Washington, US.  Reuters/Nathan Howard
Mark Zuckerberg apologized to the Senate and a group of victims for the pain his platform caused (Reuters)

(2017 – 2023)… Facebook Revolution From Reviving to Dead

Since 2017, Facebook has consistently found itself under intense scrutiny and at the center of numerous controversies. The company has faced increasing regulatory scrutiny and public backlash, from privacy violations to growing concerns about monopolistic practices, with many users choosing not to use the platform. a result.

According to several sites, including The New York Times, since around 2017, Facebook has been actively used to spread extremist partisan ideals, and has become a platform that exposes extremist racist groups.

Furthermore, a major problem at that time was that Facebook did not allow researchers to access its data to find out what was going on behind this huge platform. According to reports from multiple institutions, there are many groups – particularly neo-Nazis or fascists – that use this platform.

The organizations say society needs to have a conversation about what technology should do for us and what kind of regulations are needed. But it is not clear whether there is the political will in Congress or META's board of directors to do so.

The European Union recently issued a law that will require platforms with more than 500,000 monthly users; By opening up their data to researchers. So we'll see what Facebook is willing to do to maintain its relevance in a massive marketplace.

As far as our Arab world is concerned, in 2016, after Facebook reached an agreement with the Israeli occupation authorities, the targeting of Palestinian content on the platform increased under the framework of a dedicated set of policies that include journalists, This included closing or suspending the accounts of media organizations. , activists, and any pages that talk about the issue, other than normal user accounts, under the pretext of removing “hate speech” or combating “anti-Semitism”, which allowed Palestinian users to protest against the censorship imposed on their voices. Inspired to start the campaign. On the world's largest social media platform.

The latest of these policies was a ban on content supporting the Palestinian cause on the pages of activists supporting an end to the war on Gaza.

Because Facebook had faced many fines and cases related to privacy violations and children's safety during these years, the company's president found that the solution lay in changing the company's name, which led to losses and the reluctance of many users to start. Which it did in October 2021 when the company was renamed “Meta”, and the brand's focus shifted towards the metaverse; Facebook's digital world blends virtual reality and augmented reality.

Meta's vision, as it said in its statement, aims to redefine online interactions and experiences with a range of innovations including virtual reality headsets and generative artificial intelligence.

But can Meta bring life and passion back into Facebook and burnish its image to its Arab users with these new tech games, or is “Meta” a product that will be a reflection of Facebook’s heavy and dysfunctional legacy in the Arab world? The reason was stillborn, wearing virtual reality glasses to forget about it would do no good.

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