Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

On Google…Therefore I am | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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It has become normal to type in a person’s name into the Google search engine or other search engines in order to know who they are, what they do or what is being written about them. Large corporations have also begun to log onto social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter to see how people present themselves before accepting their applications for certain jobs. The way people present themselves on social networking websites reveal key elements of one’s character which could prove to be decisive to their employment.

Nowadays, those who do not have a file on internet search engines might simply be considered non-existent according to today’s widespread concept of virtual entities. As a result, we have become concerned with what is being posted and circulated about us on the internet because it will remain and be part of our history whether we like it or not.

This, I believe, prompted the Arab Media Watch to protest the results suggested by the Google search engine whenever the term “Arab” is entered in English. According to Arab Media Watch, most of those search results are negative.

The Arab Media Watch’s conclusion might be true, but it is also the case that similar search results would appear whenever a search is made in Arabic for other ethnicities, religions, denominations or doctrines. We would get the same search results for “black people”, “Jews”, “Asians” or “women”. The search process, which is a purely technical process, is shown information used in previous searches for similar terms or expressions. Search operations eventually display what has been posted on the internet with regards to certain words or terms. The material posted in Arabic could not be considered a reliable source of information.

Compared to the numerous search results found in English due to the amount of posts and searches made in that language, search results in Arabic are hugely disappointing, particularly with regards to classification. Recent history is recorded in very unconventional ways. Everybody is involved in writing this history whether good or bad. In order for Arabs to achieve fairness with regards to search engines on the internet, they have no choice but to contribute adequate material for those searching for Arab-related content.

In order for search engines to be fair to us and our history, we must stop viewing the internet merely as a carrier [of information]. In Europe and the West, there is serious research and a sense of awareness and responsibility reflected in the abundance and diversity of the material posted. With regards to the Arabs, the internet remains a negative means of communication that is used for snooping and peeping rather than actual research.

Our contribution to the process of posting material on the internet is so modest and it does not satisfy the curiosity of those searching for material about us. As a result, they find themselves resorting to what others write about us and not what we write about ourselves. This is a pain to all old historians as whoever researches Islamic history will not be able to avoid non-Arab references. The same thing is happening today with Google; if we try to conduct a search for issues related to us, the Google search engine will simply retrieve the material we have posted so far which, unfortunately, constitutes a minor contribution.