Trend watch: Facebook in the Middle East
Facebook hit 181 million monthly users in the MENA by March 2019, growing to 187 million active monthly users towards the end of the year.
- Egypt is home to 38 million daily users and 40 million monthly users, making it the leading market for the network.
- Saudi Arabia, the second most populous country in MENA, has 16 million monthly Facebook users. Globally, Facebook’s audience reached 2.45 billion monthly active users as of September 30, 2019.
Arab Youth + Facebook
Young people in the region are considerably more likely to get their news from Facebook than traditional media, the annual Arab Youth Survey revealed.
One key reason for this, is that:
“…Social media is trusted ‘to do the right thing’ more than traditional media among young Arabs, with 60% stating they had trust in social media (to do the right thing)… This compares with 55% of respondents saying they had trust in traditional media (TV, newspapers, radio).”
Half of Arab Youth say they get their news on Facebook on a daily basis, some way ahead of other channels.
Despite this development, across the region, Facebook usage has declined dramatically with Qatari, Saudi and Tunisian nationals, research from Northwestern University in Qatar ascertained.
Usage also declined, although less precipitously, in Jordan, UAE and Lebanon.
Only Egypt saw a growth in Facebook take-up among internet users in the past five years.
Social media users spend 5% more time — or almost 2 million more hours — daily on Facebook during Ramadan.
During the Holy Month that translates to around 58 million more hours on the social network, says Facebook’s managing director for the Middle East and North Africa, Ramez Shehadi.
Fake News and Misinformation
In 2019, Agence France-Presse (AFP) expanded its fact-checking partnership with Facebook to include debunking stories shared in Arabic across the social network.
Arabic is the fifth language covered by the Agency, after English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The work is led by a new team based in Beirut, Lebanon.
During the summer Facebook removed 259 Facebook accounts, 102 Facebook Pages, five Facebook Groups, four Facebook Events and 17 Instagram accounts, “for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior” originating in UAE and Egypt.
- More than 13.7 million accounts followed one or more of these pages, which frequently posted:
“about local news, politics, elections and topics including alleged support of terrorist groups by Qatar and Turkey, Iran’s activity in Yemen, the conflict in Libya, successes of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and independence for Somaliland.”
Facebook said the pages had spent $108,000 (£89,000) on advertising. It’s unclear what happened to these monies.