(This event was organised by MEI’s Political Economy Research Cluster, as part of its quarterly public talks series.)
Automated Twitter accounts, or bots, have played a crucial role in poisoning online discussions in the Arabic Twittersphere. Despite this, it is still a phenomenon that remains largely unexplored. Using three years of accumulated data, this lecture reveals the different ways bots have been weaponized to spread disinformation and fake news, much of which largely relates to promoting an aggressive Saudi-led foreign policy. From attempting to control the narrative on Bahraini internal politics and the spreading of sectarianism content, to the use of Twitter as instrument for high volume propaganda-delivery during the Qatar Crisis, this research will demonstrate the extent to which bots have manipulated political discourse online. By providing empirical examples across multiple case studies, it is clear that Arabic language propaganda is not only prevalent in the region, but finds its way into global news outlets – impacting on international news discourses.
About the Speaker(s)
Marc Owen Jones is an Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University, where he lectures and researches on political repression and informational control strategies. His PhD thesis in Government and International Affairs from Durham University won the 2016 AGAPS best thesis award. He is the editor of numerous books on Bahrain and the Gulf, including Gulfization of the Arab World, published in 2018 by Gerlach Press. His recent work has focused on the way social media has been to spread disinformation and fake news in the Middle East. In March 2019, he published ‘The Gulf Information War| Propaganda, Fake News, and Fake Trends: The Weaponization of Twitter Bots in the Gulf Crisis’, in the International Journal of Communication. In addition to his academic publications, Marc has written for numerous international media outlets, including the Washington Post, CNN and the New Statesman. In October 2018, he earned the New York Times’ “Quote of the Day” accolade.