Social media needs balance between ethics and profit - GulfToday

Social media needs balance between ethics and profit


A panel discussion takes place at the Arab Social Media Influencers’ Cafe.

DUBAI: Artificial Intelligence and citizen journalism have revolutionised media over the last two decades, with social media influencing people in unprecedented ways, said Ali Jaber, Group TV Director of MBC.

He was speaking at the 18th Arab Media Forum, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Social media platforms such as Google, Facebook and Amazon have a huge impact on people in the Middle East. However, these platforms come with their own side effects, he said.

“People like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos had promised to change the world, make it a happy and peaceful place, but now all they are interested in is revenues,” alleged Jaber. When these platforms were established, it was, indeed, a breath of fresh air, he said. But now, they are used by people for hate speeches and terrorist rhetoric, he said.

Though Google and Facebook claim to trace and delete distasteful content, they have failed, said Jaber, who said that Google is in fact controlling the minds of people. “It is no more a scientific observation tool. It tracks and records your every move,” he alleged.

Recalling an incident when delivering a lecture at Google, Jaber said, he was surprised at how he was introduced to the audience. “They had detailed information about my past achievements. Even if people forget and forgive you for saying something a decade ago, Google will remember it,” he joked.

“Everything revolves around algorithms. It is the black box of social media,” he claimed. Users are never informed by technology giants about why they change algorithms. Citing the example of Volkswagen, Jaber said, cheating pollution emission tests was possible only because Google algorithms were altered to favour the company, he alleged.

He urged social media giants to take more responsibility and strike a balance between profit and ethics.

“At MBC, we have 22 channels and sweeping changes are being brought to adopt anti-terrorism rhetoric through community partnership programmes twice a year, with the aim of empowering Arab media and producing intelligent and sensitive content,” Jaber explained.

Information and income are the main drivers of mainstream media. The need of the hour is to look for new and reliable sources of information and not depend only on paid content, said Tariq Al Asiri, Co-Founder of

Speaking at the 18th Arab Media Forum, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Al Asiri said on Thursday, mainstream media is a treasure trove of information, but it does not use it effectively. “Decision makers must know how to collect and use the information.” The mobile revolution has changed the way the common man accepts information and perceives news. Al Asiri said, “Unlike traditional data that is collated by humans, alternative data comes from multiple sources and has both advantages and disadvantages. For instance, if on the one hand, credit card companies know every detail of the card holder, on the other, traders are making wise investments.” Alternative data is becoming the new norm for investors. Traditional data such as press releases and economic data are fast being replaced by alternative data, which guarantees investors a competitive edge as the information comes from unique and different sources including social media, web data, retrial sales, etc.

Alternative data is used by energy sector, said Al Asiri. Similarly, space technology has enhanced procurement of accurate data helping governments boost economical parameters and infrastructure needs, while healthcare and tourism sectors have also started using alternative data, he added.

People do not wait for mainstream media to break news, instead they follow digital media today. Thus paid content has its limitations, he said. However, one of the challenges of alternative data is that there are no legal regulations streamlining its use. Most often than not, with smartphone being the source of alternative data, accuracy can be compromised, he said.