Reza Jamali, in Online Arab Spring, 2015
In this chapter, we try to find social media penetration barriers to the development of democracy and social justice in the Middle East. We also try to suggest some strategies to overcome these obstacles. To achieve this objective, the context of political, economic, social, technological and technical, ethical, legal analysis (PESTEL) is used and the barriers in each context are considered. Although there is no priority among these barriers, it can be argued that political instability, legal uncertainty, corruption and ethical issues play the major role in reducing the influence of social media penetration for the promotion of democracy and social justice.
On the other hand, we have argued that what happens in the circumstances of virtual social media is a clear manifestation of events in the physical environment of the country. In social media or social networks, if people, whether using real or fictional identities, stand up to protest against a group, persons or particular government, this happens because of the oppression in the physical environment, which has suddenly crossed into the virtual environment. Consequently, with any policy for cyberspace (whether in an environment of 100% government control of the media or freedom of the media), if the physical environment is not accompanied by supporting policies, physical well-being and social justice it will lead to the failure of individuals to change their government through social media.
Analysis of ethical factors
In much of the research on social media, discussion of ethical factors is impeded by a lack of sufficient information and in some cases issues regarding copyright law and morality are raised. But given the difference in objective analysis, here we try to look at it from another angle. When can we expect to see real people with real faces promoting democracy and social justice from social media? Ethical issues in social media begin when a virtual identity is shaped and the user is able to create a picture of him- or herself as he or she would like to be, not what he or she really is. It becomes extreme when people in the real world cannot show themselves as they really are, while if they express their true opinions they face penalties that are more likely to be found in dictatorial regimes. Please re-read the previous sentence. From this statement we can clearly see that an unblemished environment and observing the ethics of social media are the effect of freedom and justice in the physical environment. It can upset all the equations, even when there has been heavy investment in social media, and we cannot obtain the desired result because of the problems in the physical environment. In this case it is better to revisit the examples of our listed companies. When a company invests a lot in their brand on social media but the employees in the organisation are not happy, the employees simply share their disastisfaction and the problems they have with the work on their personal pages on social networks.
There must be a better way than this to eliminate problems. Using the network to communicate directly with the government and the people can be useful before people share their dissatisfaction with the government, whether as themselves or under a false identity, on the public network. This is a safety valve to prevent an overflow of people’s grievances. The next thing that has become clear during our research is that when a group of people who believe that social media have taken steps toward achieving their goals, the ethical points have peaked, but if the team feels that social media are phenomena that are harmful to them and which in the long term will weaken the group, failure to take note of the ethics and social media gossip from the group can eventually turn the tide in their favour. The most important points evident here are that the beginnings of such failure to comply with the ethics of such groups not only arise from social media but also from the physical environment. Suppose a religious group is strongly dissatisfied with the development of an anti-religious culture in the social media and do not see a way to deal with it. So gossip in the physical environment against social media represents attempts to blacken the reputation of social media and reduce their role in society. However, experience has shown that gossip does not end with the physical environment but evolves. The next step is for the group to create multiple pages, blogs and websites, opening up a new front in the struggle against the social media. And in the third stage of evolution, this group finds that social media must be confronted by other social media, for success to be achieved. The next thing that is one of the positive aspects of social media in the area of ethics and social justice is the high percentage of respondents who believe that regardless of whether or not governments have a role in the distribution of wealth and social justice, people must exert pressure through the Internet and social media to create justice. The minimum amount of work that must be done in this area is helping people who have low incomes and live in poverty. In all the Arab countries surveyed and Iran over 55% of people are in this situation, while the percentage in America is 38%. Most of the former are in Iran and Tunisia, at 69% and 68% per cent, respectively. This creates a strong potential for governments to increase people’s capacity to take advantage of democracy and social justice, while it appears that in some Western countries, this is more of a burden on the state.
Given the importance of ethical issues and social responsibility in the virtual environment, the researcher came up with the idea of seeking new criteria for ranking websites and social media pages. Alexa.com provides website ratings in terms of the number of visits, which is a factor that has an important role in the value of a web page or website. There will be a greater need to value sites in terms of ethical standards. That is why, in the middle of 2014, an elite group of programmers in the web field came together to launch the site http://www.EthicsRank.com, and readers of this book can also assist in measuring the observance of ethics on the web. According to our investigation, the principal costs of material and moral wrongdoing in virtual space in the Middle East and developing countries are higher than in developed countries. Owing to the nature of governments in the Middle East and the need for the constant monitoring of virtual environments to counter threats, Middle Eastern countries have defined more crimes in cyberspace and consequently there is greater punishment. This can be useful, leading to a reduction in non-compliance with ethics, but it also leads to changes in the identity of most people in the virtual community and therefore it becomes uncontrollable.