Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

The Digital Guide

The Digital Guide

Wednesday, 27 April, 2022 - 10:15
Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Could billionaire Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter portend the decline of the Twitter “glory”? Are we facing a deepening crisis, resulting from the impact of social media on freedoms, politics, and democracy, as former US President Barack Obama recently stated?

Many justified questions arise, but no one seems to have an answer. Neither those who launched these platforms, nor those who embraced them, such as Obama, nor people who have claimed that such means of communication have become basic human rights.

It is like someone who took the genie out of the bottle and can no longer control it. The simplest example here is Obama, who promoted the social media platform and now warns of its danger.

“One of the biggest reasons for democracy’s weakening is the profound change that’s taken place in how we communicate and consume information,” Obama told students at Stanford University in California’s Silicon Valley last week.

He also admitted that he “may not have been elected” as president without the communication sites.

Obama warned of the repercussions of the means of communication and misinformation, saying that this “should be a wake-up call for us to take action.” He underlined the need to reform laws governing social networks.

“Tools don’t control us...we can control them,” he concluded.

The former president’s statements contradict ideas that his administration was promoting during the period that was falsely known as the Arab Spring. Today, liberals and conservatives alike are criticizing the role of the media and its political influence in the United States.

Elon Musk has acquired Twitter and transformed it into a private company. He says: “This is just my strong, intuitive sense that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization.”

“I don’t care about the economics at all,” he added, noting that he did not want to rely on commercials.

“I invested in Twitter because I believe in its potential to be a platform for freedom of expression around the world,” Musk stated.

Freedom of expression “is a social imperative for any functioning democracy,” according to Musk, who also announced: “If I acquire Twitter and something goes wrong, it’s my fault — 100%. I think there will be quite a few errors… I hope it’s not too miserable.”

Well, we are witnessing a remarkable transformation. Following the rise of the free digital space, we are now facing what we might call the digital “guide,” similar to the status of the Iranian spiritual guide, the Muslim Brotherhood’s guide, or the Big Brother culture in the United States.

But how can one man define what “freedom” is for the whole world? What can be said and what can’t? What’s true or false? How can he define values, without legal frameworks specific to each geography, cultural dimensions, norms, and so on?

How can a man, like Musk, who expressed hatred towards major media organizations because they have criticized some of his businesses, and was even thinking of establishing a website to determine the credibility of journalists, lead or believe in freedom of expression in the world?

This leads us to say that we have reached the stage of the digital “guide”, after we were hostages of the American liberals’ madmen - the anti-conservatives – not the liberal ideology itself.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks