News from the Arab Press

How Three Tech Companies Changed The World

By Asaf Zilberfarb | The Media Line

November 7, 2017

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Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, November 2

Last week, executives from three major US tech companies—Facebook, Google and Twitter—appeared before Congress to answer questions about their respective platforms’ role in facilitating the dissemination of Russian propaganda during the 2016 American presidential campaign. Under oath, the representatives revealed shocking information about Russian cyber attacks on the United States. Facebook, for example, disclosed that over 130,000 posts on its site that appeared to originate from America were actually sent from centers in Russia. Most of these posts were geared towards frightening the public about impending terror attacks or Washington’s lax immigration policies. Similarly, a Twitter executive revealed that thousands of fake profiles were created and managed by Russian hackers whose goal was to spread disinformation about the presidential candidates. The companies’ current line of defense is that their platforms serve only as a medium through which to share information, and thus they are not responsible for the nature of content proliferated. However, if it is proven that they were aware of the fraudulent Russian activity, these executives and their colleagues could face serious charges. The findings are rather shocking as they suggest we have entered into a new era of cyber warfare, one in which propaganda is increasingly indiscernible from facts. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that Russia is the only country using such tools. In the Gulf, for example, the recent political crisis reminds us once again of the incredible power of social media to shape political realities and outcomes. Qatar has been using Al-Jazeera to spread false news against its neighbors and incite the Arab public against moderate Sunni regimes. Extremist organizations have likewise been successful at recruiting youth across the world via online platforms. Accordingly, the executives of these three tech companies are unlikely to have been surprised by the Russian hacks. While they are well aware of the criminal activities that their products enable, they apparently have no interest in changing the status quo or preventing the next attack. – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

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