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The Coup That Only Took Place on Twitter

Islam Aziz Islam Aziz
29th June 2020
The Coup That Only Took Place on Twitter
Misbar published an investigation report of these claims (Getty)

Note: The views and opinions expressed in blog/editorial posts are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the views or opinions of Misbar.

Early in the morning of May 4, 2020, the social media website Twitter witnessed a series of rumors alleging that a coup attempt took place in the Qatari capital Doha. In addition, a number of videos that look like armed clashes were posted.

Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor of Middle East studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Doha who specializes in digital propaganda, was the first to reveal the truth about the coup rumors through a series of tweets posted on his official Twitter account. He explained the manipulation of misleading videos.

The most notable was the video of the shooting, which was manipulated to have the sound of gunshots added to it. Meanwhile, the original video was posted from a Qatari-based Twitter user who filmed through the window of his residence to make fun of the rumors.


Jones noted that the accounts with the rumors were mostly not Arabic accounts, although the tweets were written in Arabic. He posted a thread explaining his analysis on of the disinformation campaign that used the hashtags "al-Wakra" and "Coup in Qatar" [Inqilaab fi Qatar], and found that the tweets shared in the two hashtags were retweeted about 20,000 times from about 12,000 accounts. He found a pattern of "sock puppets," fake accounts used for disinformation purposes. Each of them retweeted the false stories 22 times.

The following day, a fabricated tweet by former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim implying a possible coup was widely spread. Jones posted videos analyzing the reasons for the tweet's falsification and how the fabrication took place.

On May 8, Jones published a chart showing that most of the verified accounts published false news with the hashtag "Coup in Qatar." The chart also depicts another one of the most visited accounts with retweets and responses to coup rumors.

In another tweet posted on May 9, Jones said that although the rumors have calmed down a bit, they are still ongoing.

On May 4, Misbar published an investigation of videos alongside false claims of a coup in Qatar and explained the truth of what happened, as well as another investigation about Hamad bin Jassim's fabricated tweet.

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