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How Middle Eastern Rivalries Use Social Media Proxies | Morocco News - OpEd |

Egypt's Arab Spring "Facebook Revolution" in 2011 popularized a modern era mobilization tactic. Social media expanded from a casual networking tool to a means for mass mobilization against oppressive regimes. Online platforms still play a central role for protesters, from Sudan to Venezuela to South Africa. 

Masses possess a powerful tool to mobilize. At the same time, governments possess a powerful tool to manipulate public opinion. State-backed influence operations are on the rise, often marked by propaganda posts masquerading as news, and the use of bots to spam social media with retweets and Facebook likes.  

Twitter suspended or removed thousands of accounts linked to Middle-Eastern governments, the company reported in a blog post September 20. 

Six of these accounts were directly linked to Saudi Arabia's state-run media. The accounts masqueraded pas "independent journalistic outlets while tweeting narratives favourable to the Saudi government," according to Twitter. 

Twitter also permanently suspended the account of Saud Al-Qahtani for violations of Twitter's platform manipulation policies, in a "separate" move. The former Saudi royal adviser was fired last year after suspected involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, though sources say Al-Qahtani was not among those arrested and continued to advise Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after his dismissal. 

Al-Qahtani ran the royal media center and reportedly strategized a state-run troll farm in Riyadh, which employed hundreds to spam social media with pro-Saudi messages, as well as attacks on rivals such as Qatar and Iran. The adviser initiated a blacklist on Twitter during the Persian Gulf crisis in 2017 that named, shamed, and endangered alleged Qatari sympathizers.

Twitter's account suspensions are little more than a symbolic move, according to Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor in Middle East studies and digital humanities at Doha's Hamad bin Khalifa University. "Like a game of whack-a-mole, suspended fake accounts will be replaced by more sophisticated efforts at deception," Owen Jones explained.

Cyberactivism in the Middle East: Six potentials and six limitations of new media technologies in democratization | Arab Center - Sept. 30, 2015 |

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Mon Nov 8th, 2021 at 06:31:27 PM EST

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