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Bahrain Watch Unveils Bot Army on Twitter Targeting Al-Jazeera Channel

2017-07-28 - 10:35 p

Bahrain Mirror-Exclusive: Bahrain Watch said that Al-Jazeera Channel was targeted on Twitter by bot army. The organization published a report on its website saying that central to the Qatar Crisis has been the existence of Al Jazeera. Right from the beginning of the crisis, which was prompted by the alleged hacking of the Qatar News Agency by the UAE, Al Jazeera has been targeted by propaganda bots on Twitter.

Most bots identified so far during the spat appear to be targeting Qatar, although Saud al-Qahtani, an advisor to the Saudi Royal court, claimed (without providing evidence) that they had found 23,000 fake twitter accounts launched by Qatar to attack Saudi Arabia.

Despite the fact the Saudi-led bloc has dropped the demand for Al Jazeera's closure, they still want to stop it inciting violence and using hate speech. Bahrain Watch said that "the online propaganda war continues". Specifically, Twitter Bots have been dominating numerous hashtags related to the crisis, including, the hashtag Al-Jazeera Is the Source of Lies that was spread in July 19. Prior to this, on 23rd June, #We Demand the Closing of the Channel of Pigs was also trending. In addition to these hashtags, at the beginning of the crisis, Bahrain Watch Director Marc Owen Jones also wrote in the Washington Post about bots generating the hashtag #AlJazeeraInsultsKingSalman.

This report contains information mostly about "We Demand the Closing of the Channel of Pigs" hashtag, and is evidence of a concerted online campaign against Al Jazeera by Twitter Bots, or a Cyber Army.

The organization indicated that on June 23, 2017, 4116 accounts posted 8107 tweets, noting that 2831 of the accounts were bots and they posted 5800 tweets including this hashtag. This means that only 29% of the tweets were posted from real accounts.

Within the sample are a number of bot networks. That is to say, not all the bots appeared to have the same purpose or creator. As is often the case, many of the accounts appeared to be promoting either fake follower services, trending services, and in some cases, theological messages.

These bots seem to exist solely for the purpose of spreading anti-Qatar, pro-Saudi, pro-Trump and also anti-Iranian propaganda.

As far as political bots go, these accounts, broadly speaking, look relatively sophisticated. The general message on the accounts recent tweets are shared is pro-Saudi, anti Qatar, anti-Tamim, and specifically Al Jazeera. They tend to accuse Qatar of supporting Da'ish, Muslim Brotherhood, Zionists, Israel, and most bizarrely, ‘Terrorism generally'.

Among the tweets detected by the organization were: # We Demand the Closing of the Channel of Pigs Qataris are the ones spreading fitna in all of the Arab Countries to the convenience of Israel, # We Demand the Closing of the Channel of Pigs God damn Qatar which is the leader in supporting terrorism, # We Demand the Closing of the Channel of Pigs Qatar is the patron and supporter of everything that destroys and devastates the Arab World, # We Demand the Closing of the Channel of Pigs Qatar betrayed the Arabs with its support and stance with Iran, # We Demand the Closing of the Channel of Pigs Qatar's method is clear, it is to support the Muslim Brotherhood and Daesh and terrorism in general and  # We Demand the Closing of the Channel of Pigs God erase you from existence you Zionists and supporters of Daesh and Israel.

An analysis of this hashtag highlights some interesting behaviours that may exist to help the bots avoid detection. The clearest example of this is that most of the tweets appear to have been deleted. The reason they can be analysed is that they were downloaded around the time they were created, before they disappeared. Yet if you attempt to go to the link for the offending tweet, you get and expired webpage "Sorry, that page doesn't exist.

Arabic Version



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