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Friday, June 18, 2021

Study: Qatar residents’ support for online control highest in the region

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

More than half of all Qatar residents polled in a recent survey said they support stricter regulation of online material in the country – the highest such sentiment across the region.

However, those polled in Qatar also cited a desire to support freedom of expression on the internet, according to the latest edition of Media Use In the Middle East.

For illustrative purposes only.
For illustrative purposes only.

The survey was conducted by Northwestern University in Qatar, in conjunction with Harris Poll.

It quizzed 6,093 adults in six countries – Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt – between Feb. 3 and March 9 about their attitudes and behaviors regarding traditional and new media use.

It builds on a previous report published in 2013 and provides a snapshot of residents’ views, and touches upon the types of media people prefer to use in different countries.

This year’s results concluded that fewer people across the region are comfortable expressing political opinions compared to 2013, particularly in post-revolution Egypt and Tunisia.

The survey also saw a drop in the percentage of people who believe that they should be allowed to criticize governments online, from 49 percent in 2013 to 44 percent this year.

Speaking about what appeared to be Qatar’s ambivalence with relation to online control and freedom of expression, Justin Martin, assistant professor in residence at NU-Q, told Doha News that this contradiction was also reflected in the wider region.

He added:

“In this part of the world it seems to be that respondents say that people should be able to access what they want online, but at the same time, they want some regulation. They want freedom, but also some semblance of order.”

Online control

Residents in Qatar were most likely in the region to support an increase in online controls, with 55 percent saying they were in in favor of the idea, which is slightly down from the 2013 figure of 57 percent.

Media Use in Middle East
Media Use in Middle East

Qatari nationals in particular said they wanted to see more regulation, with 67 percent of those who took part in the survey in favor – up seven percentage points since 2013.

A total of 1,000 Qatar residents participated in the survey: 280 each Qataris, Arab expats and Asian expats, and 160 European/American expats.

Over the past two years, fewer people in Qatar also appear to believe they are safe to express their views online.

Just over half (53 percent) of respondents said they felt it was ok to voice unpopular ideas on the internet – down from nearly two-thirds (61 percent) who felt the same way in 2013.

While the survey didn’t mention it, this may be in part because of the passage of Qatar’s new cybercrime law last year, which give authorities the power to punish anyone who creates and shares online content that’s deemed harmful to the country’s “social values” or “general order.”

Government criticism

For the Qatari group, it appeared that age mattered when it came to favoring online freedom of expression. While 67 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds supported the idea, the figure falls to 52 percent among those aged 25 to 34 years old.

Nevertheless, the older group was more comfortable with the views they express about public issues online (60 percent compared to 48 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds).

Overall, fewer people in Qatar appeared to believe in the right to criticize governments online (49 percent compared to 52 percent in 2013).

Fewer also said they feel it is safe to say what they think about politics on the internet (43 percent now, down from 46 percent), which is the second lowest figure in the region, after Tunisia at 37 percent.

Media use survey 2015
Media use survey 2015

Respondents in Qatar also had one of the region’s highest levels of concern when it came to “powerful institutions” checking up on their online activity.

Some 43 percent said they were worried about this, up five percentage points in the past two years. Only Saudi Arabia had a higher figure at 47 percent, while concern among residents in the UAE stood at 39 percent.

Key trends

Other media trends highlighted in the report particular to Qataris include:

  • Qataris are more likely than other nationals in the region to consider themselves culturally conservative, with 75 percent describing themselves as such while the average of nationals from the other five countries was just over half (56 percent). Just 16 percent of Qataris described themselves as “progressive”;
  • Qataris showed strong interest in religious/spiritual information, especially online content, compared to other nationals in the region. More than half of Qataris said they accesed religious/spiritual sites daily (54 percent vs. 22 percent of others);
  • Qataris spend more time online than other Arab nationals (32 hours per week vs. 25 hours). This includes more time online socializing with family (11 hours vs. 7 hours) and colleagues (9 hours vs. 5 hours); and
  • Internet and TV use in English is dropping among Qataris. While in 2013, 56 percent worked online in English and 47 percent watched English TV, this has fallen to 38 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

In terms of social media trends, WhatsApp is the most popular tool in Qatar, used by 77 percent of the total population, although favored by 85 per cent of Qataris.

Instagram has seen one of the biggest rises in popularity, with 60 percent of Qataris now using, which is almost double the 33 percent in 2013.

Thoughts?

23 COMMENTS

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Bo
Bo
6 years ago

Hmm… not sure i should say what i think… better keep to myself to be on the safe side 🙂

dubious
dubious
6 years ago
Reply to  Bo

pretty sure I’m already on the naughty list!

AEC
AEC
6 years ago

Censorship is ███████████████████

sicti
sicti
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

Scratch the black tape and you may win a prize :)))

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

Was it a poem?

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
6 years ago

Conclusion: Government regulation = freedom of expression. That is rich

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago

Whatsapp is easily not social media nor a social media tool, unless the definitions are changing; Also the headline and story has cherry picked something out of context, seeming to be about access to the internet, the statistics seems to imply that there is majority support for expression, and even more concern for security and surveillance, the report does not explain the relationship however, using the term report lightly, it’s more of a published survey, with no methodology or appendix of questions, includes comments like “Despite the perception that global travel is associated with more progressive attitudes, ” with no reference or qualification. Although I’m sure the DN savy commenters will come to the same conclusions

R.D.H
R.D.H
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

Agreed, I never understand why whatsapp is called social media

WhatsApp as Social Media
WhatsApp as Social Media
6 years ago
Reply to  R.D.H

You can make groups of up to 100 people in WhatsApp and share amongst those groups in an ongoing conversation stream. That happens a great deal in Qatar and is functionally similar to Facebook but less exposed because of the more secure nature of WhatsApp.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

Very strange results to be honest. I wouldn’t consider this as a “reliable” survey/report. It feels more like a students assignment than a scientific work.

dubious
dubious
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Yes, something very odd either about the poll questions, or the responders.

Having read the phrasing of the more Internet control question is, “The internet(sic) in my country should be more tightly regulated” which is ambiguous.

Does that mean increased censorship, or is it related to the commercial market environment, or technical and/or operational standards? Does it mean that government Internet surveillance needs to be more tightly regulated, formulated, disclosed, and restricted?

It is listed under “Freedom of speech” and by the tone of the other questions there the intent is presumably the former (which makes the results madness), but the categories might not have been obvious to the responders.

And how is all that reconciled against a “desire for increased freedom of expression on the Internet”? Qatar’s (presumably deliberately) vague cybercrime law already does a lot to kill any of that.

To get freedom of expression, you cannot have mass surveillance yet only 43% of respondents are concerned that all their Internet traffic is being monitored. Forget 43%, I’m incredulous that whole populations aren’t up in arms about governments snooping their traffic. Do people not know how much data is slurped up or is it they just don’t care? There is no maybe about your Internet traffic being collected here people, it is being logged.

John Oliver’s show last week [ https://youtu.be/XEVlyP4_11M ] would suggest that it is ignorance, but I always try to think the best of people. In the show he puts it in the context of “junk” mail and suddenly people’s opinion changes. Maybe after watching the show you might change your mind.

At the end of the day, if the government wants you gone or in jail they will find something (that includes more regulated jurisdictions than Qatar) – just ask Mr Kim Dot Com who is now facing deportation from New Zealand over an old speeding ticket – so we do not need to give them our email content and browser history to assist.

Skeptic
Skeptic
6 years ago

This is really embarrassing. I guess this is what Northwestern thinks research is — spend a lot of Qatar Foundation money to hire a polling firm to conduct a poll. This is really getting old, and NUQatar tries to milk these surveys as if they are groundbreaking. Is this the level of teaching at NUQatar?

Mr. B
6 years ago

Makes some sense, though. There’s only, what, 300,000 Qataris? It’s far easier to get that relatively small number to agree on cultural stuff than the much bigger countries of Saudi and Egypt.

Talal Mousa
Talal Mousa
6 years ago
Reply to  Mr. B

Also I agree

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Be careful what you wish for. Next door in Saudi a man was sentenced to death, then life imprisoment and a 1000 lashes. His crime? Posting something online the government didn’t like and having a liberal point of view.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/01/raif-badawi-could-be-retried-and-beheaded-family-ensaf-haidar-apostasy

KK
KK
6 years ago

Yes, more control; as expected.

CLGourmet
CLGourmet
6 years ago

A poll conducted under closed conditions. No surprise.

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

The centuries old principle that fear will keep the natives in check still holds good today.

ChaTo
6 years ago

This seems contradictory, but it happens here and it happens in other parts of the world. People naively believe that governments will silence the content they don’t like, but allow them to continue producing and accessing the content they like.

Obviously, once censorship is established (by using the typical excuses: religion, children or terrorism), the reality across the world is that governments silence the content governments don’t like. Censorship is not for the benefit of the people, but for the benefit of the powerful.

Scarletti
Scarletti
6 years ago
Reply to  ChaTo

leave, and never look back

dubious
dubious
6 years ago
Reply to  ChaTo

It is always mission creep with censorship. Besides, people can and should decide for themselves what things they can and cannot look at online, not some nanny state bureaucrat with a triple sense of humour bypass.

It isn’t even like Internet censorship is effective anyway – Europe can’t make it work, and even China struggles.

Talal Mousa
Talal Mousa
6 years ago
Reply to  ChaTo

I totally agree

Michkey
Michkey
6 years ago

Control is good, control ensures order, and therefore peace. Human comes to the world kicking and screaming, leading their lives to imminent chaos. They cannot be trusted with their free will…. Oh wait!!

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