Salman Al-Dossary
Salman Al-Dossary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

Clubhouse’s Moral Dilemma

Whether we like it or not, today, for most societies, the world would be missing something without social media. The real world is now supplementary to the virtual world, not the other way around; indeed, it has become a necessity, not a luxury.

The question is no longer whether what we want or do not want, can or cannot. Societies have succumbed to this conundrum. In light of the virtual world’s control over societies, one can do nothing more than reduce the risks to the greatest extent possible. Governments have also failed to contain these applications’ rising tide, as immediately after we adapt to a new virtual world, with all its pros and cons, another world emerges, with more extremely negative elements than its predecessor.

The real moral dilemma is that these applications do not account for the natural differences between societies or the extent of the harm they bring upon entire societies. They deal with all societies the same way, from Norway and Sweden, through Brazil and South Africa, to Iraq and Saudi Arabia ... all societies are treated equally. The applications cannot distinguish between each society’s particular needs, apprehensions, and the risks posed to them.

Today, a fascinating application joins the social media clique. Clubhouse has generated a robust societal debate, at least in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, not because of its concept of voice chat rooms in which various issues are discussed, but because of its debates’ ability to make noise. The acrimony that its discussions can generate could harm society as a whole without any organizational or ethical constraints. From racist, tribal and sectarian debates and accusations to horrific conversations questioning people’s beliefs and religions, to rock bottom, with unethical, shameful stories told in these rooms, offending people’s principles. The most open of societies could reject these discussions, so we can imagine how they impact societies that are more than a little conservative!

Worse yet, this application, under the regulatory authorities’ noses, allows under-eighteens to register and participate regardless of the nature and sensitivity of the topics being discussed. One can imagine the consequences, given that this application is a safe place and a fertile climate for all forms of prohibited and dangerous material, is not only open to adults but children and teenagers as well.

As Albert Bergman says, social media platforms are a subpar alternative for the real thing, and modern applications like Clubhouse raising the bar of obscenity so high compels legitimate questions about the lack of legislation and systems to manage such applications’ activities and why total chaos has been allowed to illegally enter these applications that violate user privacy and offend ethics and principles.

These applications also create rifts within entire societies without receiving real approval from the organizing bodies, which find themselves unable to defend society’s interests because of the absence of the legislation needed to do so. Of course, the intention here is not to suggest that everything emerging from these applications is evil, and there is no doubt that they have taken entire societies to an easy and comfortable world and helped to make their lives easier and facilitate their work, time management, and expand their knowledge. However, as the saying goes, everything has a hefty tax, and the tax of the tide of social media platforms so that some of the applications are incredibly harmful.

The continued absence of constraints to prevent harm and offense to societies- instead of leaving them to multiply and grow- is untenable. A time might come when it is hard to control them and their negative consequence on most society.