The Gulf Information War| Propaganda, Fake News, and Fake Trends: The Weaponization of Twitter Bots in the Gulf Crisis
To address the dual need to examine the weaponization of social media and the nature of non-Western propaganda, this article explores the use of Twitter bots in the Gulf crisis that began in 2017. Twitter account-creation dates within hashtag samples are used as a primary indicator for detecting Twitter bots. Following identification, the various modalities of their deployment in the crisis are analyzed. It is argued that bots were used during the crisis primarily to increase negative information and propaganda from the blockading countries toward Qatar. In terms of modalities, this study reveals how bots were used to manipulate Twitter trends, promote fake news, increase the ranking of anti-Qatar tweets from specific political figures, present the illusion of grassroots Qatari opposition to the Tamim regime, and pollute the information sphere around Qatar, thus amplifying propaganda discourses beyond regional and national news channels.