Facebook launched its first office in the Arab world last week as it opened the doors to its new space in Dubai’s Internet City.
The social networking giant, which now has over 900 million users, played a central role in the Arab uprisings that spread across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 and 2012. We are all Khaled Saeed, a Facebook group with more than 2 million “likes”, is widely considered to have been a driving force behind the Egyptian protest movement against ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
But Joanna Shields, the company’s vice president and managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, emphasised the commercial side of the decision rather than any political affiliation with the so-called Arab awakening.
“People on Facebook … use it to organize rallies for all kinds of elections around the world,” she said, according to AP. “We’re humbled by that and we are happy that we can facilitate. But we always downplay the (site’s) role because it’s really the people there who came together and did what they did”.
Facebook’s arrival in the Gulf should be seen as a move to more easily attract advertisement that will better serve the 45 million users that the company claims to have in the Middle East and North Africa region. It also comes at a time when the company struggles with a much debated stock market introduction that has seen its market value decrease by over 20% since May 18.