The Muslim World League was interviewed by Business Reporter
Critics sometimes call social media a malevolent phenomenon, a place where intimidation, extremism and crime are given free rein to thrive, and where bad actors are allowed to hide behind a veil of anonymity. As the Muslim World League celebrates the first anniversary of its #RejectHate campaign, its Secretary General, Mohammad Abdulkarim Alissa, explains how online platforms are proving to be a force for good globally.
With nearly 98% of the population online, Saudi Arabia is one of the most digitally connected societies in the world. Likewise, however, each country’s cyberspace has the potential to become an echo chamber for fundamentalist rhetoric if left unchecked. With this in mind, according to the Muslim World League (MWL), a Makkah-based NGO that promotes moderate and peaceful Islamic values, good outweighs evil in the online world.
Since Alissa became Secretary General of the MWL, the NGO has done a lot to combat extremism, hatred, injustice and oppression both within and towards the international community. In 2019, the organization was responsible for designing the Makkah Charter, which saw Muslim leaders from 139 countries agree on 30 key principles of modern Islam, including the need for equality, harmony religion and the empowerment of women. Most recently, in March last year, MWL launched the #RejectHate campaign, inviting supporters to sign an online petition urging social media companies to do more to tackle bigotry and anti-Islamic sentiment online. .
According to the campaign’s Change.org page, one in a thousand posts from a major social network violate the company’s hate speech rules, but more than three-quarters of that content is allowed to remain on the platform. form, even after it has been reported and investigated. . “Muslims continue to face personal abuse, threats and physical violence fueled by content posted on social media,” the webpage reads. “It’s time to [these networks] to impose a zero-tolerance policy on hate speech targeting any religion. These companies need to put more robust procedures in place to have it removed quickly.
But while pushing for social media companies to take more responsibility for the content of their platforms, Alissa, a Saudi religious leader and general secretary of the MWL, says the #RejectHate campaign and other educational tools ensure that Billions of people rely on social media platforms. do more good than harm around the world. “Extremists and terrorism have taken advantage of social networking sites, yes,” he admits, “but powerful voices in the world of religion and thought leadership are now themselves active online in ways that limit the likelihood that unsubstantiated speeches dominate the conversation”.
He credits social media for bringing people from all walks of life together, breaking down the barriers of distance while dispelling myths and facilitating important conversations between neighboring but diverse communities. He believes social media has also enabled people in the region to become more discerning with their media consumption, allowing access to raw, unfiltered data and marginalized voices. “The innovation of providing users with immediate access to candid dialogue, relevant local networks, the ability to check facts and other personalized connections has not only benefited society, but has respects, revamped her ability to communicate with herself,” says Alissa.
The other edge of this sword, however, is when online communities blindly stick to their own belief systems and narratives, creating online echo chambers that breed negativity and dangerous ideas. “Once the conversation is marred by hate speech and general negativity, society suffers the result,” says Alissa.
While he supports regulation that would see social media platforms act as gatekeepers to the information on their platforms, the secretary-general is adamantly opposed to ironclad censorship, saying such an approach would run counter to the very essence of social media: their openness. Instead, he calls for more education and thought leadership campaigns to follow in the footsteps of #RejectHate.
“By strengthening the way society engages with social media through public awareness campaigns, continued adherence to high moral values will prevail,” he hopes. “Hate speech and extremist hatred are outliers in the wider world of social media engagement, a truth our outreach campaign has sought to tap into by offering continued optimism for healthy engagement.”
While protecting against overuse and eradicating abuse have never been more important, we must not let these dark spots overshadow the great potential of social media, says Alissa. “I don’t think these imperfections outweigh the benefits of social media, nor are they obstacles that cannot be overcome.”
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This notice was published: 2022-03-24 11:01:20