Social media users across the Middle East are moving away from social media sites Twitter and Facebook amidst growing privacy concerns, a new survey has found.
The study by Northwestern University in Qatar and Doha Film Institute surveyed 6,058 respondents across Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
It found that Facebook’s popularity has declined in the last three years by six percentage points, while Twitter has seen the biggest decline over the period, with usage down 17 percentage points.
Meanwhile video-centric Snapchat is now among the most popular platforms in the Gulf countries, while instant messaging service WhatsApp is also gaining popularity.
Use of Instagram across the region increased by 24 percentage points between 2013 and 2016, it found.
Up to 89 per cent of Saudis surveyed said concerns about privacy have changed the way they use social media. Respondents from other countries also expressed similar concerns.
The annual survey also found that internet and smartphone penetration are significantly higher in the GCC than the other countries included in the survey.
The UAE has the highest rates of internet penetration with 100 per cent of nationals saying they are connected to the internet in 2016. Qatar and Saudi Arabia followed, both at 93 per cent penetration.
Smartphone penetration is also highest in the UAE (99 per cent), Qatar (95 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (95 per cent).
The study, which also examined overall media usage, found that daily TV viewing dropped in Saudi Arabia (16 percentage points) and Qatar (21 percentage points), although television remains the preferred medium for watching films across the region.
Meanwhile, more people are getting their news online than in print, according to the study. Daily newspaper readership is greatest in the UAE (25 per cent) and Qatar (32 per cent). Qatar also leads for reading news online daily (42 per cent), along with Saudi Arabia (39 per cent).
In terms of censorship, more nationals in Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia believe it is the responsibility of governments to block objectionable content, while majorities in the UAE, Lebanon, and Tunisia believe it is the responsibility of the individual to avoid such content.
Chief executive officer of Doha Film Institute Fatma Al Remaihi said: “The Pan-Arab media industry is growing faster than the economy, at about 19 percent per year with both online and offline channels experiencing rapid expansion.
“The findings also highlight the tremendous potential for growth of new media channels, as Middle Eastern governments move their economies away from dependence on natural resources to developing knowledge-based economies, and media in particular is a priority sector.”