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Media experts call for stricter laws against online hate speech

ismail@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 28, 2021
KT photo/Ismail Sebugwaawo

Media professionals at Media Against Hate conference stress the need for social media influencers to produce useful and educative content

Media experts have urged Arab nations to introduce tougher laws regulating social media users in order to prevent harms caused by fake news and hate speech as the region fights religious discrimination.

During a panel discussion on “Social Media and Hate Speech” at the ‘Media against Hate’ conference in Amman, Jordan, Samir Al Hiyari, a media professional from the UAE said unlike in the western world where people can use social media responsibility, many youths in the Arab region don’t mind about what they share on social media thereby find themselves spreading messages of hate and discrimination.

“The definition of hate speech has not been clearly mentioned and this is why some people may go on to publish negative comments that incite discrimination without necessary knowing that they are spreading hatred,” he said.

“Introducing stricter online regulations should be the way forward for many Arab nations in order to control people misusing social media to advance their personal interests that in turn affect others.”

Al Hiyari also stressed the need for social media influencers to produce useful and educative content that can benefit the society.

“Influencers should produce content that have positive impact on their followers and not messages that mislead people,” he said.

On whether people using social media can self censor themselves, Abdullah Talafahah, a media expert from Jordan it’s not easy for people to control themselves regarding what they post on social media.

“Therefore, it’s good for nations to come up with a clear definition of what hate speech is and to issue strict rules and regulations to control the use of social media,” said Talafahah.

“There should be hefty fines for people violating social media rules, like the UAE has done. The UAE cyber crime law imposes a penalty of imprisonment and a fine of up to Dh500,000 fine on whoever posts insulting comments online or sends slanderous and defaming messages to others via the Internet.”

Imaan Aghuthan, a Moroccan media expert said hate speech has its own audience and that a lot of effort should be exerted on sensitising young people about the negative effects of hatred and discrimination.

“Social media influencers have both positive and negative content. It is good thing to identify those who share important and educative stuff. Those influencing others negatively should be penalised,” she said.

“There is need to support credible influencers technically and financially so they can provide people with good content.”

The media experts have pointed out that in some countries in the region, new freedoms were won in the aftermath of revolutions or Arab Spring and that young people were using the freedom of speech and expression to spread fake news and rumours or inciting information so they can become popular.

ismail@khaleejtimes.com

author

Ismail Sebugwaawo

A professional journalist originating from Kampala, Uganda, Ismail is a happy father with strong attachment to family and great values for humanity. He has practiced journalism in UAE for the past 13 years, covering the country's parliament (FNC) and crimes, including Abu Dhabi Police, public prosecution and courts. He also reports about important issues in education, public health and the environment, with a keen interest in human interest stories. When out of reporting duties, he serves the Ugandan community in Abu Dhabi as he wants to see his countrymen happy. Exercising and reading are part of his free time.





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