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Facebook is experiencing explosive growth among Arabs, native to a part of the world that is not known for individual freedoms. The social networking site now has 15 million users in the Middle East and North Africa, 14 months after adding an Arabic language version of their service. Why so popular?

  • The Hard Data, all reported by Dubai-based Spot On Public Relations. The growth includes 3.5 million users of the Arabic Facebook. The Arab region's Facebook users still prefer the English and French versions, however. The three Arab countries where Facebook is most popular are Egypt with 3.4 million users, Saudi Arabia with 2.3 million (1.1 million of whom added within the past year), and Morocco with 1.8 million. One third of the United Arab Emirate's population is on Facebook. Only 37% of Arab-region users are female.
  • Facebook More Popular Than Newspapers  BBC's ... The findings should come as no surprise. The majority of the region's more than 300 million people is young, and internet use is on the rise. In societies where political freedoms are severely limited, many have also resorted to Facebook as an alternative to the public sphere."
  • Facebook as Free-Speech Alternative  Blogger Neal Ungerleider writes, "Newspapers in Arab countries are overwhelmingly heavily censored and mind-bogglingly dull. With rare exceptions such as the expat-oriented Daily Star (Lebanon) and Dubai's The National, the place for discourse in this part of the world skews towards the internet, satellite news networks like al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyya and foreign Arabic newspapers such as Britain's al-Quds al-Arabi. Facebook, whose censorship and limited free speech policies are the result of a profit-driven American internet startup rather than a repressive post-colonial dictatorship, is also turning into an unexpectedly fertile platform for free speech in the region."

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