Experts fear government’s regulation of social media will restrict freedoms

shutterstock gag Experts fear government’s regulation of social media will restrict freedoms
(Photo: Shutterstock)
AMMAN — The government plans to regulate social media platforms and their search engines, going by the experience of democratic European countries that succeeded in controlling undesirable content.اضافة اعلان

The plan comes in the wake of Minister of State for Media Affairs and official government spokesperson Faisal Shboul’s participation in the meeting of the 52nd session of the Council of Arab Media Ministers in Cairo last month.

“The government will work to regulate and control social media platforms, and the German experience will be adopted as a model,” Shboul told Jordan News, stressing that the government’s move “will not affect the freedom of opinion and expression”.

Shboul said that the Cairo meeting tackled ways of dealing with international media companies, and that “European countries developed a charter on the dangers of social networking platforms to children.”

“The charter is designed for the groups that are affected most by hate speech, such as women and minorities”; it enables “removing offensive content from social media platforms, such as hate speech and false news, within 24 hours of publication”, the minister said.

Despite Shboul’s statement, experts are anxious that the approach will restrict freedom of expression or make room for circumventing the charter and legislation, in the absence of awareness and digital culture.

Nidal Mansour, president of the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, said that “no one supports hate speech or promotes content harmful to children, but there must be a clear line between freedom of expression and hate speech.”

Mansour told Jordan News that “the government does not have the authority, or the capability to block content”, adding that “what we fear is that a page or an influential person who publishes critical content and does not agree with government policies will be blocked,” and that amounts to a violation of the freedom of opinion and expression.

“I do not encourage the government to go in this direction,” he said, advising, instead working “to spread awareness in the digital culture”.

Jordan Press Association (JPA) Vice-President Jamal Shtewi, however, believes that “we are just talking about intentions, and have not seen anything on the ground yet”.

He stressed that there is need for some legislation “to control the chaos that occurs on social network platforms”.

“Recently, many people have been using these sites for defamation,” unaware that they are resorting to hate speech, he said, adding that that “social networking platforms have become a deadly weapon due to the ignorance of some users.”

Shtewi called for organizing professional audio-visual work, adding that “we, as an association, are against any practice that restricts freedoms in any form, as long as it is in line with the law”, and that “if the government abuses the right to free expression and opinion, we will oppose it”.

He also called for consulting with JPA members, and ensuring that freedom of expression is safeguarded under the law.

Dean of scientific Research and Graduate Studies Ayesh Al-Hroob told Jordan News that “it is difficult to control the cyberspace”, and that “in Jordan, we do not need additional legislation regulating this matter, given that the existing legislation is sufficient,” but only “need awareness through school and university curricula”.

Cyber security expert Hussain Al-Jedaieh told Jordan News that it is important to cultivate a “digital culture for Jordanians in schools, universities and society as a whole”.

“A clear definition of digital citizenship is necessary, as our children spend hours on social network platform and parents cannot impose total control,” he said.

“We have to work on changing the societal culture,” given that personal motivation and responsibility guide the process of content creation, he said.

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