Social Media in the Middle East — ADMS 2014

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Role of social media in Arab Spring and the ISIS conflict 

Social Media forum Abu Dhabi Media Summit 2014
CNN’s Becky Anderson, Faisal Abbas, Editor in Chief of Al Arabiya News and Richard Allan, VP Public Policy – Europe, Middle East and Africa, Facebook. during the panel discussion. Photo-ADMS

A panel of leading media experts discussed Tuesday at this year’s Abu Dhabi Media Summit the role social media is playing in the 21st century Middle East and its potential for transformative change.

Key Takeaways

  • Content providers now competing for 10 billion video-enabled devices worldwide
  • End users, not providers, now choose social media content
  • Video-enabled platforms were mooted as the next big thing in media during the first group panel discussion of this year’s Abu Dhabi Media Summit, which kicked off today at the Rosewood Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Keynote panel: The Next Big Thing in Future Media

Moderating the discussion, Mohammed Al Otaiba, Editor in Chief of The National, asked the panellists to give their views on the spread of new media platforms in recent years and likely future trends.

Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar, Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat , said: ” Etisalat ‘s future growth strategy is based on our view that media providers will offer increasingly holistic services, reflecting the blurring of the boundaries between established telecoms and internet providers.”

The other panellists agreed that content providers needed to explore new pathways to growth through nurturing local innovators. JB Perrette, the President of Discovery Networks International, said: “our main challenge for the future is finding the most effective way to feed the best content into the 10 billion video-enabled devices.” The panel agreed that local talent in emerging markets would increasingly tailor international content to suit their own needs. Advertisers needed to take account of this, as well as the likelihood that traditional news will probably become dominated by content for smaller hand-held devices.

CNN Segment: From the Arab Spring to the Summer of Reckoning: The Transformative Role of Social Media in the Middle East

CNN’s Becky Anderson took charge of the Summit’s second panel, which examined the transformative role of social media in bringing about political change during the Arab Spring, and in relation to the global ISIS threat. Anderson asked whether social media was a blessing or a curse, particularly bearing in mind how it is being abused by extremists.

Richard Allan, Vice President, Public Policy – Europe, Middle East and Africa at Facebook, said that social media had democratized publishing, globalized regulation and restricted editing to the contributor’s immediate peers – the downside of the information revolution was that it had raised the profile of bad people – we can’t counter this by putting up barriers – people need to take responsibility for what they post.

Faisal Abbas, Editor in Chief of Al Arabiya News said: “Social media is both a blessing and a curse – while extremists are the first to condemn new technology as the ‘tools of Satan’, they end up using it better than everyone else”.

The panel agreed that new technological advances meant social media was beyond control. Some kind of regulation was needed, however, and users had to take responsibility for what they posted on social media. Defeating extremism would be a long process which needed the promotion of an ideology of tolerance and moderation.

Digital Disruptor: The Future of Mobile

In his talk, du’s CEO Osman Sultan told ADMS guests that the social media value chain is dictated by the end users, not the vertical hierarchies of old.

Osman Sultan said: “Users have become the real players of today; instead of being the absent component, they are now the focus. Youtube is the most important content provider today – how much content does Youtube create? None. It is governed by the users – we are all sharing the new uncertainties.”

The day one programme of panels and presentations will continue throughout the afternoon, concluding with a keynote address by Mark Thompson, President and CEO of the New York Times Company.

The full programme and list of speakers can be found on the ADMS 2014 website: www.admediasummit.com.

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