A round-table discussion at the 2014 Riseup Summit on Monday discussed the impact of social networks in Egypt on media outlets and the news.
The panellists stressed that, although traditional media outlets in Egypt are losing their audiences’ trust with opinionated and prejudiced misinformation, social media as well can be considered a double-edged sword in the age of information overload.
Media activist Mahmoud Salem and Al-Hadath TV news presenter Doha Al-Zohairi urged the public to use a critical eye when receiving information to separate facts from opinion. They said many newsrooms and anchors, online and traditional, are disregarding journalistic principles.
Speaking on the image of mainstream media during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, Al-Zohairi said the Egyptian public during the events resorted to social networks to know the facts due to lack of options within traditional media outlets.
“People want to know the truth. So they look for it in social media, in Twitter and Facebook, in pictures and videos at the moment the events are happening. People could not tell what was happening from the state and pan-Arab media so they resorted to social networks which told the truth,” she said.
Al-Zohairi added that social media outlets “are slowly but surely turning into emerging independent channels”, but many are becoming untrustworthy sources of information for audiences due to their “unverifiable sources”.
On his part, activist Mahmoud Salem explained that during the revolution both state-line and opposition media outlets contradicted themselves in the information they presented due to lack of credible sources and fact-checking. Salem said the narratives were not concrete and became exasperated further with the existence of social media.
Salem added that social media at the time could easily fact-check for the public through citizen journalism. But it was also a double-edged sword as it was used for fast-tracking rumours as well.
Meanwhile, following the revolution, since social networking paved the way for information overload, “Twitter and Facebook became sources themselves instead of the people on Twitter and Facebook”.
Therefore, he stressed, it is up to the audience to look for and collect news from outlets they prefer and choose to believe the information or not,
“At this specific moment, however,” Salem stated, “I think people are tuning out from the news. They no longer want to know what is going on and no longer care what is happening…We are living in a Huxley world… the truth is out there but it is drowning in a sea of misinformation and (trivial news).”