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Study measures awareness of hate speech, misinformation on social media

By Batool Ghaith - Sep 01,2022 - Last updated at Sep 01,2022

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AMMAN — More than half of Jordanians, 52 per cent, spend more than three hours a day on social media platforms, according to a study by the Rased-Hayat Centre measuring Jordanians’ awareness of hate speech and false or misleading information on social media platforms. 

The study, which was launched on Tuesday, targeted 2,851 female and male respondents distributed across all governorates in the Kingdom, according to Rased.

The study showed that the most popular social media platform among Jordanians is Facebook, and the least popular is Twitter. Thirty-nine per cent of Jordanians spend between one and three hours on social media daily, while only 9 per cent spend less than one hour per day on a social media platform.

According to the study, 17 per cent of Jordanians only read news headlines, while 32 per cent said that they mainly follow online comments on the news, and that their personal opinions are affected by them. Thirty-two per cent said that they read entire news articles and are not satisfied with news headlines on social media.

In terms of verifying the authenticity of published news, 17 per cent of Jordanians said that they do not have time to verify the authenticity of the news they read, and 13 per cent said they do not know how to verify the authenticity of the published news, the study showed.

Fifty-one per cent of Jordanians think they are “averagely familiar” with the concept of hate speech, 20 per cent said they are familiar with the concept of hate speech “to a limited extent”, and 29 per cent are familiar with the concept of hate speech “to a great extent”. 

However, only 6 per cent said that they had ever filed a hate speech complaint with the Cybercrime Unit, and 9 per cent had ever submitted a report to the platform against the user that posted hate speech, the study results indicated.

Twenty-one per cent of Jordanians believe that there is a need to improve content-managing policies for social media platforms, according to the study.

Former Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani said that misinformation and hate speech are among the most challenging issues for Jordanians on social media.

“There is a growing attempt to try to inject more misinformation in one way or another, which affects the way that Jordanians perceive things, and how they make decisions based on false information,” Momani told The Jordan Times.

Momani emphasised the need for civic society engagement to increase the public’s awareness regarding misinformation and to educate them on how to find truthful, credible information from proper sources.

He also indicated that it is important to know where to “draw the line” between freedom of expression and hate speech.

“We need to have more national and official discussions regarding hate speech, and for the education system to continue to raise awareness about the issue, as hate speech is a disease our society faces like all other societies,” Momani added.

Social media expert Niveen Al Sayyed described social media as a “double-edged sword”, as it is very beneficial at times and certainly makes life easier, but also has its clear downsides.

“Unfortunately, not everyone uses social media correctly, and not everyone has the ability to differentiate between what is right and wrong. Some people will say and post anything just to get views and likes, and people fall for it,” Sayyed told The Jordan Times.

She added that social media platforms have misinformation warnings, but they do not always work.

“It is important for people to keep track of what is going on in the world around them, but it is also important to know when and how to stop believing everything on social media. For that, we need a better understanding of misinformation,” Sayyed noted.

She urged social media users to always check the source of any information or news they come across online before they share it or talk about it.

Saif Kurdi, another social media expert, emphasised that Jordanians “rely on social media for everything nowadays”.

“It is unfortunate that our whole lives are on the screen right now, which is what makes hate speech a bigger problem every day, as people start comparing themselves and their lives to what they see on social media, which generates hatred and therefore hate speech,” Kurdi told The Jordan Times.

He also called on raising public awareness regarding hate speech, noting that social media users need to understand the concept of hate speech, how to deal with it and how to avoid giving or receiving it.

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