Marc Owen Jones Profile picture
Asst Prof @HBKU Mid East Studies | PhD @durham_uni | Gulf | Digital Authoritarianism | Fellow @dawnmenaorg | bylines @washingtonpost @independent @cnn etc
Chris🌟 😷 I❤#RNLI #FBPPR #RejoinEU #FBPE💙❌ Profile picture eDo Profile picture Annette Profile picture Neal Rauhauser Profile picture Kalie 🇨🇦♿️ Profile picture 23 added to My Authors
3 Aug
🧵 [Thread] 1/ This thread is about some attempts to manipulate the Arabic hashtag "boycott elections". The trend refers to upcoming Shura council elections in Qatar. It's currently the number one trend in Qatar. There is clear manipulation + outside influence. Read on>
2/ First, while the topic of Shura elections has generated much debate, it is clearly going to be an issue of international scrutiny. So at these times looking at social media commentary and manipulation will be key, especially with democratic backsliding in the region #Qatar
3/ It's not a big hashtag. Only around 300 interactions from around 250 unique accounts. However, the most retweeted account is a digital marketing account that literally offers trend promoting services. > noof30304. 100 RTs and 40 likes cost 10 Riyals! This account
Read 12 tweets
2 Aug
[Thread] 1/ Good evening, afternoon, or morning all! Tonight's thread is on #Turkey, and it will be a big one. Many have commented on the massive hashtag "Help Turkey" that rapidly reached 2.5 million tweets today. Read on for an in depth Twitter analysis > #Disinformation
2/ 1st, some brief context. The hashtag "help turkey" involved people calling for international help to combat Turkey's wildfires. Images like the one below were common. The tweet storm prompted reactionary nationalistic hashtags including "Strong Turkey" & "We Dont Need Help"
3/ Some felt the message being generated on the hashtag was designed to make Turkey look weak, incompetent and desperate. This, coupled with the scale of the campaign, suggested a possible influence operation. To be clear though. The hashtag had many real users. See below.
Read 24 tweets
2 Aug
An interesting aspect of the Shura Elections is that candidates must be from a family that resided in Qatar prior to 1930. Article 80 of the #Qatar constitution as far as I can tell does not provide this requirement, simply that they be Qatari nationals. 1930 is mentioned in
the nationality law of 2005. 1930 is a date mentioned in the nationality law as the key date for which those residents and descendants of those residents have nationality. There are many other roads to obtaining Qatari nationality however, but the…
law on candidates for the Shura council does make a distinction between those with pre-1930 nationality and post 1930 nationality. As far as I know there is no formal distinction between citizen and national. Also I am not sure if there are numbers out there defining the
Read 7 tweets
1 Aug
Thread 1/ This is a thread on the hashtag 'Tunisia is safe', which has been trending in #Tunisia for the past two days or so, and was the top trend for some time. This thread highlights the contents of the hashtag, its influencers, its seeming purpose, and any potential anomalies
2/ The sample includes about around 7000 interactions involving around 3500 unique accounts (this number also includes accounts that did not tweet the term, but were mentioned or replied to) Sample ranges from 7pm 28th July to 6am 31st July. #Tunisia
3/ First, who was tweeting and who was the composition. The most influentional and retweeted account was popular Tunisian influencer Louay Cherni. Also influential and heavily RT's was Tunisian model and actress Azza Slimene. Cherni's tweet criticizing Ennahda was the most
Read 17 tweets
28 Jul
[Thread] 1/ I did another Twitter analysis. This time I searched for tweets using the term 'Tunis' (in Arabic). This is somewhat agnostic, so anyone mentioning '#Tunisia' will be analysed. The results are striking, & you give a clear image of polarisation. Will explain more
2/ What this image shows is to distinct clusters (the pink one, and the green one). Each cluster represents a community, a group of accounts that tend to interact more with each other. The fact they are separate indicates there is little interaction between the communities >
3/ What is evident is that the green community is essentially 4-5 Saudi nationalists (halgawi, s_hm2030, monther72, cressfiles) & their retweeters, while the pink cluster is mostly 2 Mauritanian/Qatar - (mshinqiti. Turkialshoub commentators/journalists and those retweeting them.
Read 12 tweets
28 Jul
[Thread] Thanks to all the good faith response to this thread. I am just addressing some responses about what this thread is not, and never claimed to be.

1) It is not saying what Tunisians do and do not think, nor making a claim to what they want

2) It IS making claims about a specific hashtag designed to portray what happened as an uprising against the Muslim Brother

3) Specifically it is claiming that that hashtag is dominated by Saudi, UAE, Egypt accounts spreading state propaganda

4) It is arguing that that hashtag
on Twitter should not be mistaken for grassroots opinion - as that cannot be determined without a different offline methodology

5) Some have mentioned that Tunisians are on Facebook. This is a moot point as far as the thread is concerned, as I am not gauging public opinion, but
Read 6 tweets
26 Jul
[Thread] 1/ This is a thread on Twitter manipulation around #Tunisia, where the current President is accused of instigating a coup. One Arabic trend translates as "Tunisians revolt against the Brotherhood". I analysed around 12000 tweets from 6800 unique accounts #disinformation
2/ The trend is interesting primarily because (regardless of what one thinks of #Tunisian politics or indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood), the Muslim Brotherhood has been the bogeyman for the UAE, Egypt and Saudi, and invoked to justify authoritarian and unconstitutional measures
3/ Firstly, who is tweeting on the hashtag? Well network analysis shows it is mostly Emirate and Saudi influencers. The most retweeted and influential accounts are monther72, faljubairi and s_hm2030 and emarati_shield. See below for some screenshots. #Tunisia
Read 13 tweets
23 Jul
[Thread] - 1) Good evening sports fans! Ready for the ultimate hacked verified Twitter accounts thread? Over the past two years, I have kept tabs on around 70 verified accounts that were hacked by Arabic language operators for various reasons. The victims #disinformation
2 / range from 30 international athletes, to other public figures such as deceased US Senator Debbie Smith. The accounts have been used for various purposes, from scams to state propaganda. Some of the accounts are still active, while many have been suspended - read on for more!
3/ First up, Senator Debbie Smith. Smith, who served as a member of the Nevada Senate, sadly passed away in 2016 after battling with a brain tumour. Her Twitter account was hacked by an Arabic-speaking account, which changed it's handle to
@0YY0k - and was eventually suspended
Read 39 tweets
22 Jul
[Thread]1/ I found 345 sockpuppet accounts tweeting in Arabic. They follow the familiar pattern of tweeting elongated Arabic hashtags with generic content. You can see some examples below of them posting identical content #platformmanipulation
2/ All 345 unique accounts have 0 centrality measures. E.g. They all tweet on these hashtags 'spontaneously' without retweeting. Impossible without co-ordination given the unique and esoteric hashtags
3/ Literally all tweets were sent using the same app, Twitter Web App - so zero app diversity. You'll also notice that each tweet contains a random string of characters - again a familiar device used to try and fool Twitter's algorithm into not seeing duplicate tweets.
Read 6 tweets
19 Jul
It's another embarrassing part of the British legal system. Rich people can buy their way out of harm to their reputation and press scrutiny. Can't believe it still happens.…
" In the wake of the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the #Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, a Guardian investigation found that “British firms [were] earning millions of pounds from efforts to improve the image of the kingdom...."
"Thus, lawyers can easily threaten legal action on behalf of super-wealthy clients. But journalists, especially freelancers or small media outlets, find it difficult to mount the financial resources and legal expertise to respond."
Read 4 tweets
9 Jul
[Thread] 1/ For #brismes2021 I did a survey of knowledge production on the Gulf, I analysed the top ranked 7000 google scholar hits to see what academic areas predominated. The below graph shows proportion of studies across Humanities, Natural science or Social Sciences
2/ Arts & Humanities is generally less common (perhaps in line with general fact these subjects tend to get cited less). Interesting to note that in Oman and Kuwait studies in the Natural Sciences & Medicine are ranked higher by Google Scholar. Below is a breakdown by discipline
3/ Health, Politics/Political Science, Energy & Environment, Accounting Business and Finance and Education are the top five disciplines (broadly speaking). As a side note, almost half the studies of Iraq related to the war. Even medical studies tended to focus on topics like PTSD
Read 8 tweets
6 Jul
[Thread] - 1/ Yesterday, and in the days leading up to it, there was a strange series of identical tweets supporting the continued wearing of masks and social distancing measures. Here are a sample below: #influenceops
2/ Below is a network graph showing the accounts in action. There was probably around 100 unique accounts repeating identical messages, most of them replying to the @politicsforali account. Many of the accounts were 'football fans'.
3/ Many of the accounts sent the same tweet multiple times, to the same account. Not clear whether it's 1) something sinister trying to stir the pot, 2) someone trying to generate artificial engagement or 3) people having a 'laugh'.
Read 4 tweets
29 Jun
[Thread] 1/ Here are some reflections on legal repression as applicable to how Israel uses it against Palestinians to facilitate ethnic cleansing #SaveSilwan #PalestinianLivesMatter
2/ 'Law is used as an instrument to extend control over society, subjecting persons to rules laid down through particular institutions. The establishment of specific laws and the use of legal repression can result in ‘rule by law’ instead of ‘rule of law’' #SaveSilwan
3/ 'In ‘rule by law’, or repressive law, ‘there is little or no separation between law and politics, and the dictates and policies of the rulers trump laws’....repressive law are those laws and systems in which law is designed to uphold the social order [The Occupation)''
Read 14 tweets
27 Jun
[Thread 1/4] Strange true story. When I was 21 I worked in #Sudan as an English teacher. Immediately prior to my arrival in Jan 2007, our small 'British English' school had taught the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, the Minister of State for whom was Ahmed Haroun. In April
2/4 that year the ICC issued a warrant for the arrest of Ahmed Haroun for war crimes and crimes against humanity. That month, our small school had published new promotional pamphlets advertising the school. Right on the front page, was a small feature congratulating those
3/4 students from the humanitarian ministry who passed their English exams. Right next to it, in full colour, was the below picture of our English director, beaming and handing Ahmed Haroun a giant trophy! Needles to say, myself and some of the teachers expressed our concern
Read 4 tweets
27 Jun
My latest for @dohanews. "Alaa Al-Siddiq: The smearing of an Emirati hero"… #disinformation cc. @alaa_q
"Although it appears that Al-Siddiq was killed in a tragic road accident in Oxfordshire, England, it has not stopped partisan commentators in the region from exploiting the tragedy as a tool of disinformation to smear her, her family and the political enemies of the UAE."
"Numerous commentators, many linked to the United Arab Emirates, have sought to sew conspiracies that she was assassinated, either by Qatar or by the Muslim Brotherhood"
Read 15 tweets
26 Jun
[Data Thread] I haven't done a British politics thread in a while, but was curious about public anger towards @MattHancock ! What follows is a thread analyzing those who've tweeted at Hancock since beginning of June. #sackmatt #thematterisnotclosed
2) First, I scraped around 23,361 tweets. As you can see, there is a big spike in tweets to @matthancock on 25th June, when news of his kiss properly broke. (nb: The scraping method doesn't include all tweets, and tends to favour more recent tweets from what I can tell)
3) Since the same people probably tweet at @matthancock a lot, I removed duplicate tweeters using an algorithm. This resulted in around 15,175 unique users tweeting at Hancock. As you can see, the pattern of tweets is roughly the same #sackmatt
Read 9 tweets
7 Jun
[Thread] 1) I've had a chance to look at the HJS report that are the basis for the May 2021 Times article and June 2021 article in the Telegraph. There's no doubt Iran is a bad actor with regards to digital disinformation, but this type of reporting is somewhat disingenuous
2) My main concern is that both articles are based on the same report by the @HJS_Org . Although HJS_Org are known for their Islamophobic, neo-con agenda, that is not particularly new. What I find bizarre is that there are two mainstream newspapers commenting on the report as if
3) it were providing new and revelatory information, giving it a 'scoop' and sensationalist quality when in fact all the information about Iran's manipulation on Facebook and Twitter has been revealed by either FireEye, FB themselves or Graphika. No new networks have been
Read 7 tweets
5 Jun
Happy to announce that my article in IJMES is now open access (free to read). Digital De-Citizenship: The Rise of the Digital Denizen in Bahrain cc @QNLib @HBKU @CHSS_HBKU #Bahrain
"Beyond autocratic Bahrain, democratic states such as the UK & the US enable and abet the erosion of digital citizenship. The global surveillance industrial complex, less regulated than the arms trade, although no less insidious, has profited enormously from the Bahrain uprising"
"Perhaps the most striking notion of this is the dystopian potential of a civil society simulacrum, one in which online performances of citizenship are neatly orchestrated by autonomous accounts to give the illusion of a functioning and healthy public sphere" #disinformation
Read 9 tweets
7 Apr
[Thread] 1/6 Interesting accounts tweeting on the chopped hashtag بس_ار - which is the middle portion of the anti-MBS hashtag ارحل_مبس (Leave MBS) .

Summary: sockpuppets in this network appear to be mostly using Twitter for Iphone

I estimate around 300 sockpuppets #Saudi Image
2/6 It starts with accounts tweeting the suspicious hashtag in isolation (why would you tweet a deliberately nonsensical hashtag spontaneously unless it was co-ordinated?) Graph shows tweets (i.e. not RTs, mention etc) in green starting off the activity Image
3/6 Almost all the tweets that begin the hashtag are sent from iphone (see turqouise colour). Again, multiple accounts, tweeting a strange hashtag in isolation, using the same devices) Image
Read 6 tweets
30 Mar
[Thread on Sockpuppets] 1/8

Summary, there is a network of around 629 sockpuppet accounts using 'chopped hashtags' to drown out a hashtag advertising a broadcast from Saudi dissident @oamaz7

#disinformation #deception
2/8 As this screenshot shows, the original hashtag promoting broadcasting of @oamaz7 is بث عمر عبد العزيز while the chopped hashtag takes four consecutive consonants from the middle of the hashtag: مر عب
3/8 As with similar networks, the accounts do not generally interact with each other. The fact they are tweeting the same nonsensical chopped hashtag 'independently' of each other with few RTs indicates it is co-ordinated sockpuppet activity.
Read 8 tweets
24 Mar
[Thread] 1/4 Around 1956 sockpuppets tried to disappear a hashtag critical of MBS, translated as "The loser MBS". In Arabic this reads as #المهزوم_مبس .

The same chopped hashtag technique was used, with #وم_مب trending. Again, see the two screenshots #Disinformation
2/4 As with before, most of the accounts are not interacting with each other and are using Twitter Web Client

Graph below show lots of isolated accounts tweeting on the hashtag but not interacting with each other.

This successfully trended

3/4 Some pretty funny sock puppets too, like Country Shirl (aka Drayton ) here

.... and my personal favourite, "Mels boobs are nice" (melsboobsrnice) #Disinformation
Read 4 tweets