Social networks

It’s interesting to know that Internet is expanding quickly in Yemen, which has a total population of 26.737 million. The index penetration rate is 25.1 percent and a lot is done by social media. Today, 90 percent of the population has access to Internet via mobile (second hand phones) and uses social media like Facebook to access news or share updates about the war, airstrikes, attacks and casualties. Facebook became very popular even among illiterate people that share mostly pictures.

The Arab Social Media Report 2015, by the Arab Social Media Influencers Summit in Dubai, shows that Facebook and WhatsApp are the most used social media channel across the Arab World, while Facebook was the most used social media channel at an aggregate level of the Arab World. In Yemen, as of 2015, 93 percent of the population who accesses Internet uses Facebook; 92 percent has Whatsapp; Youtube is also popular (41 percent), while Google+ is used by 35 percent of Yemenis and Instagram reached 31 percent. The Facebook users rate is one of the highest in all the Arab World, along with Libya (93 percent), Lebanon (95 percent) and Syria (97 percent) that takes the first place.

According to YemenNet, the country’s main internet service provider, in 2011 alone there were 88,000 subscribers to high-speed ADSL services and about 500,000 subscribers to slower speed dial-up services. Today the market is extending its targets thanks to 3G services for mobile phones. It is a huge step considering that, until 2012, the main access to Internet was possible only at internet cafés, making the surveillance of internet users easier. Also, given the conservative nature of the Yemeni society, which discourages women from leaving the home unaccompanied and frequenting Internet cafes, there were far fewer female Internet users than male. Over the last three years, the expanding 3G market changed the habits of the population.

Until now, the government’s ownership of the two main internet service providers, TeleYemen and YemenNet, facilitated state control over internet access. Regarding censorship and social media, Skype was banned by TeleYemen in 2010 on the grounds that it provided an "unauthorised" communications service.

99% of the Yemenis use the social media, via mobile phones. This shows a divergence from a few years ago tendency when the people mainly accessed the internet at internet cafés. Despite the widespread browsing on mobiles, only 17% of the gadgets have broadband connections (3G-5G). This might not come as a surprise in the light of the internet price hikes last September. As community networks became illegal, Houthi authorities have a free hand in raising prices. As Houthi rebels are trying to curb internet access and raise funds to fuel the war, controlling information became top priority for the parties. To react on the price hikes, Yemen’s national syndicate of community launched a social media campaign and sued the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology.

Facebook, and not Instagram or other mainly visual content sharing sites, became the most popular social media platform. Even illiterate people use Facebook. According to Facebook reports used in Digital2020 report, females are more active regarding liking and clicking on advertisements. Facebook is followed by Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. The popularity of blogs is also on the rise.