Digital Authoritarianism in the Middle East
Deception, Disinformation and Social Media
A probing study of how the Gulf’s authoritarian regimes hoodwink citizens across the world in digital propaganda wars.
You are being lied to by people who don’t even exist.
Digital deception is the new face of information warfare. Social media has been weaponised by states and commercial entities alike, as bots and trolls proliferate and users are left to navigate an infodemic of fake news and disinformation. In the Persian Gulf and the wider Middle East, where authoritarian regimes continue to innovate and adapt in the face of changing technology, online deception has reached new levels of audacity.
From pro-Saudi entities that manipulate the tweets of the US president, to the activities of fake journalists and Western PR companies that whitewash human rights abuses, Marc Owen Jones’ meticulous investigative research uncovers the full gamut of tactics used by Gulf regimes and their allies to deceive domestic and international audiences. In an age of global deception, this book charts the lengths bad actors will go to when seeking to impose their ideology and views on citizens around the world.
‘By the time readers arrive at the end of Jones’s astonishing examination of social media in the Middle East, they will be completely persuaded that it is now impossible to tell whether anything they read online is true.’ — Foreign Affairs
‘The scholarly passion of Marc Owen Jones on the pseudi-isation of reality has become a seminal study for understanding the rise of digital authoritarianism in the Arab world.’ — AL SHARQ
‘A much-needed addition to the field of post-truth and disinformation studies.’ — Bustan
‘This readable volume is a highly educational warning to all those who may not be aware of the manipulations and sophisticated social media deception mechanisms deployed by states and private agencies to influence world politics.’ — Asian Affairs
‘Jones’s knowledge of media manipulation in the Middle East is unrivalled. Pioneering, surprising and entertaining, this book will be the central reference text for years to come.’ — Alexei Abrahams, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Citizen Lab, University of Toronto
‘With its flowing, engaging and catchy style, and its rich and timely content, Digital Authoritarianism in the Middle East appeals to a wide audience. A welcome contribution to the growing literature on social and digital media, and their paradoxical implications.’ — Sahar Khamis, Associate Professor of Communication, University of Maryland, College Park, and co-author of Egyptian Revolution 2.0: Political Blogging, Civic Engagement, and Citizen Journalism
‘An insightful and entertaining tour of disinformation in the Middle East and beyond. Jones combines deep regional knowledge, sophisticated theoretical analysis and sometimes surreal personal experience to unpick a global web of shadowy actors in the service of digital authoritarianism.’ — James Shires, Assistant Professor in Cybersecurity Governance, Institute for Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University, and author of The Politics of Cybersecurity in the Middle East
‘Meticulously researched and engagingly written, Digital Authoritarianism in the Middle East is a very timely and extremely accessible account of an emerging set of issues that have become such a feature of the regional and international landscape in recent years.’ — Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Fellow for the Middle East, Rice University
Marc Owen Jones is Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar, where he researches disinformation and digital media. He holds a PhD in Government and International Affairs from Durham University and has published extensively on Gulf politics and media.