What role has information and communication technologies played in the MENA region? How do we tackle the disinformation problem in the MENA region?
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, information and communication technologies have played a crucial role in empowering local communities and allowing marginalized populations to voice their grievances and challenge the government’s control over the information system.
However, since the Arab Spring in 2011, authoritarian governments have heavily invested in cyber capabilities and technological strategies to maintain their political survival and spread their agendas regionally. Civil society has emerged as a primary force countering the misuse and abuse of these technologies, undertaking various approaches such as research, advocacy, and litigation. Despite being underfunded and under-resourced, civil society organizations strive to address the information crisis exacerbated by disinformation campaigns on social media platforms. This crisis is particularly challenging in the MENA region due to the lack of credible information sources and the amplification of extreme content driven by social media algorithms and business models. Mitigating factors such as media literacy, addressing grievances, and promoting credible information sources can help counter the effectiveness of disinformation campaigns and political influence operations.
Tamara Kharroub is the deputy executive director and a senior fellow at Arab Center Washington, D.C. Her research work focuses on democracy and human rights in the Arab world. She publishes research and policy analysis papers and editorials exploring issues of democratization and transitions, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, identity politics, cyber geopolitics, and the role of media and communication technology in the political process. Prior to joining ACW, Dr. Kharroub was Associate Instructor at Indiana University and directed human rights and democracy programs and communications campaigns in the Middle East. She holds a PhD from Indiana University Bloomington and an MA from the University of Westminster, and is the recipient of several awards and fellowships including Fulbright.
The Center recorded this video during the dialogue program Technology & Democracy, which took place in Washington, D.C. in May 2023.