Anti-Qatar advertisements promoted by anonymous accounts on Twitter are receiving flak from users of the platform who described the material as “propaganda” and expressed irritation over the appearance of such ads on their feeds.
Twitter receives money for promoted content, raising questions about how the platform can be used by anonymous users to highlight questionable material.
The anti-Qatar sentiment comes amid a blockade against the Gulf nation by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, which was imposed on June 5.
The countries accuse Doha of supporting “terrorism and extremism” – accusations that Qatar strongly denies.
One Twitter account in particular, “Qatar Exposed”, has promoted a post with a video that says: “Why does the richest country in the world support terrorism?”
The two-minute video shows the moment when Qatar won the bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and claims “financing and promoting extremism has become state policy”.
“The rogue state is now isolated and alone. It’s sovereign neighbours have taken a stand, they won’t back down,” the video continues, after offering an explanation of the Gulf crisis that is in line with the views of the states blockading Qatar.
Another post by the same account said: “REMINDER: tomorrow is Halloween. What’s scarier than Halloween? State-sponsored extremism. #Qatar_funds_terror”.
Here’s how Twitter users responded:
Why is this illegally promoted rubbish appearing on my page?
— Andreas Freeman Stahl 🚫 (@AFSUnidentified) October 24, 2017
Another account, “Kick Qatar Out,” promoted a tweet that claimed there are “projections of 4,000 dead workers” ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.
Similarly, Twitter users responded as follows:
Someone with deep pockets keeps putting anti- #qatar promoted tweets in my feed. Don't care for football, care less for propaganda, Saudis!
— Tom Peacock (@peacocktw) October 29, 2017
In July, Al Jazeera revealed that a Saudi lobby in the United States launched a television advertisement campaign against Qatar worth $138,000 for 30-second TV spots.
Although it is unclear whether Saudi Arabia or any of the countries blockading Qatar are involved in the Twitter ads, Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal is known to own about five percent of Twitter Inc.
When asked for comment, Twitter’s Ian Plunkett forwarded advertiser rules and a blog from last week that outlined plans for a “transparency centre” to be launched in the coming weeks. The centre will “offer everyone visibility into who is advertising on Twitter, details behind those ads, and tools to share your feedback with us”, it said.
The countries blockading Qatar also accuse it of having close ties to Iran, their principal rival in the region.
They have imposed a land, sea, and air blockade that has threatened the unity of the Gulf region.
The four countries have not provided any evidence for their claims, while Qatar has repeatedly rejected the allegations.