[Report] Social Media in the Middle East: 2019 in review

The report is eighth in an annual series of publications, dating back to 2012. Using a wide variety of academic, industry and media sources, the white paper identifies important insights from social media’s development over the previous year.

Of particular note in 2019 is the continued, growing, importance of social media in the lives of Arab Youth, outside of Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the declining usage of Twitter (once the poster child social network for the Arab Spring,) as well as greater scrutiny of social media usage by platform owners and governments alike.

Report author Damian Radcliffe said: “With many media brands looking to expand their geographic footprint, the Middle East is a fascinating region to watch. It’s population is young, digitally savvy and eager consumers of social media. Understanding the latest trends in this region is therefore essential for any media company looking to grow, or deepen, their presence in the region.”



Notable findings from the past year, include that half of Arab Youth say they get their news on Facebook on a daily basis, some way ahead of other channels, such as online portals (39 per cent), TV (34 per cent) and newspapers (four per cent).

Use of older social networks, like Twitter is evolving. Up to 72 per cent of Twitter users in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and 62 per cent of users in Egypt, now consider Twitter one of their main sources for online video content. Meanwhile, more than 60 per cent of YouTube viewers in MENA are millennials. In Egypt, 77 per cent of millennials watch YouTube every day, making the platform more popular than TV.

And with half of all mothers in the Middle East watching kids content on YouTube, it’s a reminder of how important digital video should be for publishers in the region. Parents in MENA increasingly use YouTube to bond and share experiences with their children, as well as increasingly relying on the channel “to act as a third parent or advisor who offers support.” 

Last year’s report highlighted the increasing weaponisation of social networks, a trend which continued in 2019. Facebook, Twitter and Telegram each closed hundreds of accounts due to inappropriate use by state sponsored actors and terrorist groups. Social networks were also the target of governments across MENA, in the midst of protests in many countries throughout the region.

Snapchat introduced new advertising formats and functionalities to the regio, Google highlighted the importance of YouTube in supporting parents and parenting, and in major markets such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Twitter has emerged as a leading platform for online video consumption.

The year ahead is likely to result in a continuation of many of the trends outlined in this report, as social media becomes increasingly engrained across the lives of businesses, governments and residents across the MENA region.

Damian Radcliffe is Carolyn S. Chambers Professor in Journalism, a Professor of Practice, and an affiliate of the Department for Middle East and North Africa Studies (MENA), at the University of Oregon.


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