x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Take the good, not the bad, on Twitter

Twitter has advantages as long as people are able to discern facts from fiction and rumours

For many people around the world, Twitter has replaced traditional news sources, in part because of the sheer volume of information that flows through the social media platform. But the size and speed of that flow makes it hard to discern accurate information from rumours and falsehoods. Some people even use Twitter to incite hatred, insult and defame others. Others use it to stoke speculation or religious and sectarian tensions. “Trolling” is a growing phenomenon in the Twittersphere, as those who can’t or won’t confront others in real life hide behind their keyboards.

Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai’s deputy chairman of police security, brought the issue to the FNC on Monday. As The National reported yesterday, he said that many people misuse social media to spread lies and rumours that taint the image of the UAE. He called for the establishment of a government committee to fight online attacks against the country. Indeed, the wisest response a government can have is to use the platform to respond to lies with the truth.

Both officials and ordinary people need to deal with Twitter in a mature manner. Banning or regulating Twitter is not practical or necessarily desirable, not least because it has many positive uses. What is needed is the voice of reason and real information to be put forward, allowing users to choose the authoritative sites and filter out the bad sources through unfollowing. This way, users can regulate their own experience.

Twitter is a good tool for government to communicate with the public, and many UAE officials use it for this purpose. The World Leaders on Twitter Ranking Report shows that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, is among the top 10 of the 123 heads of state who use Twitter for citizen engagement. And just this week, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, used Twitter to reassure the general public about President Khalifa’s health.

There are many advantages to using Twitter. It makes social interaction easier, allows people’s voices to be heard, spreads emergency information quickly when it’s needed, and helps organisations to reach out to potential clients. It is not a space that would benefit from further regulation, but from further interaction between credible sources and Twitter’s users.