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Facebook a Top News Source in the Middle East

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, June 28 2013

A report released earlier this month on media consumption in the Middle East revealed that Facebook is the most popular social media site and the third most popular news source in the region.

The survey was conducted by Northwestern University in Qatar and the findings were consolidated in the report “Media Use in the Middle East: An Eight-Nation Survey.” It was conducted in Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE. The survey results are also online and sortable by demographic.

In a survey of more than 10,000 people living in the Middle East, 10 percent of respondents – unprompted – named Facebook as one of their three primary sources for news and current events. Al Jazeera topped the list with 26 percent of respondents, followed by Al Arabiya with 16 percent.

This is not altogether surprising, when one considers how important social communities are in the Arab world for news and information.

"There's been research that suggests, rightly, the importance of interpersonal sources of news and information for people in the Arab world," Justin Martin, an assistant professor of journalism at Northwestern in Qatar, explained to

"Arabs, maybe more than any other culture around the world, have these anchored communities where they receive and share news and information and they tend to go there often for news and they tend to trust the information from their anchored communities."

Facebook replicates that sense of community online, which could explain its popularity as a news source.

The survey also provided some interesting data on free speech and the Internet. In general, less than 50 percent of respondents believe, “On the Internet, it is safe to say whatever one thinks about political affairs.” The exception was Saudi Arabia, where 64 percent of respondents think it is safe.

However, less than 55 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “People should be free to criticize governments on the Internet.”

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.