The Khaleej Times published an article from the UAE articulating results of the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey showing many Arab youths now trust social media more than their local newspaper.
Newspapers, radio, and magazines are losing readers rapidly to social media and online sources. The poll found that almost 60% now get their news online, up from 51% in 2012 and 42% in 2011. One third of all surveyed cited Social Media in particular as their primary news source, up from 20% last year and 0% the year before.
This raises concerns about transparency online especialy considering 26% believe non-media websites are the most trusted form of news, and 22% trusting social media the most — almost triple the number the year before. These sites don’t having the same transparency, editorial policy or accountability expected of news outlets.
So, is there a need for more transparency in social media? online in general?
Jeremy Galbraith, CEO of Burson-Marsteller Europe, Middle East and Africa, said “Who are these bloggers and tweeters? At the moment, it’s just about being received, but I think in the longer term, these people will look at these sources with more concern.” He also makes a valid point to “keep this Internet trend in perspective — although they use the web to read news, what they’re really doing is listening to music, sending emails, downloading music, online gaming…” Reading news was actually sixth on the list of the top eight activities done online.
The question of transparency is not just a question for the Arab world but a question for the world at large as well. And, realistically, it all comes down to regulation and restrictions. How can social media be monitored? What sites can we trust to give unbiased information? How can we restrict misleading information on the internet without restricting peoples’ rights? Where is the fine virtual line between fact and opinion?