Hoax Journalist Liliane Khalil Returns, This Time as Habiba Dalal

Eminem once posed the question ‘Guess who’s back?’. The answer was of course, the Real Slim Shady. While it has so far been impossible to determine whether Liliane Khalil was slim or not, she was certainly shady. That’s assuming that she was actually a she. Anyway, it appears that Liliane Khalil is back on Twitter and Linkedin, this time under the guise of @HabibaDalal and Gisele Nasr.

For those who need a recap, Liliane Khalil was exposed last year for being a hoax journalist. She used Twitter, blogs and social media to spread pro-regime propaganda messages, apparently on behalf of Task Consultancy, a Bahrain based company who received government funds to do PR work on their behalf . Task Consultancy have denied these allegations, claiming that they never tendered for any PR, despite the fact that the award appears on the government’s website.

Some of Liliane’s notable claims included interviewing King Hamad, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Dr. al-Baradei and Natan Sharansky. She also claimed to have written several articles for Reuters. When challenged about these things in a phone interview, she either made up elaborate stories, said the interviewees didn’t turn up, or claimed she was drunk. Despite being invited to appear on both Al-Jazeera and France24 she never went ahead with it.

Liliane also operated accounts under other names, such as Gisele Cohen, Victoria Nasr, and Susan Hadad (to name but a mere few). These other accounts, which go back 2 years, don’t solely focus on spreading anti-Iranian propaganda. They are all linked, yet some seem to focus on marketing specific products. Gisele Cohen appears to be in the medical business.

With regards to the ‘new’ accounts Habiba Dalal and Gisele Nasr, the trend seems to remain the same. The Gisele Nasr Linkedin account is a name based on two of Liliane’s previous personas (Victoria Nasr and Gisele Cohen). Despite the name and a new photo, the account appears to be the same as its ‘Gisele Cohen’ predecessor. The email address is the same, as are the educational qualifications. Apart from this new profile ‘makeover’, there doesn’t seem to be too much account activity on the Linkedin side of things. Oddly enough though, the profile picture looks a bit like an older, less photoshopped version of Lia Boustany –  Liliane Khalil’s fake sister.

The Habiba Dalal account links to Liliane Khalil’s account on Topsy (or here). Her first tweet was in October 2011, and after changing her bio a few times, it appears she has settled on the following:

I am a journalist following the Iran threat, the Arab Spring and US foreign policy in the Middle East. | New York

As with Liliane Khalil, she tweets and retweets a lot of articles regarding the rising Iranian threat. A number of her tweets concern Bahrain, including high praise for Rob Sobhani’s Huffington Post piece ‘Iran’s Target: Bahrain’. She also retweeted something from another stock-photo-using, suspicious account called @Chelseadraws.  This tweet concerned the links between Hezbollah and al-Wefaq, a connection many al-Watan reading hardliners continue to hammer home.

For a new account that adds no value to any discussion, Habiba Dalal’s has a surprising number of followers. About 1,128. Whether these were bought or remain from Liliane’s old account is hard to determine, though in terms of ‘following’, some of the usual suspects are there, including the anonymous author and former undercover CIA-Revolutionary Guard double agent Reza Kahlili. Indeed, Liliane Khalil’s expose on the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights’ links with Iran was posted on Reza Kahlili’s website. Incidentally, the article is still there despite the fact Liliane Khalil has zero credibility.

Habiba/Liliane is also followed by Reem Zain and Evie Varthi. Evie Varthi  wrote for BahranViews, a pro-regime blog that is believed to be run by the aforementioned, alleged former employer of Liliane, Task Consultancy. Reem Zain is the managing director of Task Consultancy, and was Liliane’s publicist in the days following her expose.

Liliane’s determination to keep tweeting about Iran is impressive. However, there are a large number of anonymous account such as hers, each tweeting vitriol against Iran, al-wefaq and hezbollah. While there are real people who genuinely believe in these links, it’s hard to believe that many of these accounts are not just sock puppets set up by PR companies to distort the online public sphere with propaganda. In an investigation published by the Independent, London based PR firm BGR Gabara claimed they had planned to orchestrate an “online social media campaign” by Kazakh children to protest against the fact Sting cancelled his gig there. Interestingly, the Independent reported that BGR Gabara also work for the Bahrain government. That’s another one to add to the growing list of PR companies employed by the country. You’d think all that PR money could be better spent.

While these fake accounts are arguably crude and ineffectual, it is hard to determine their true extent. Many people even question the authenticity of the likes of Reza Kahlili. It’s easy to see why, since he does not ever reveal his true identity. In TV appearances he wears a handkerchief and uses a voice decoder. Establishing someone’s credibility is difficult when you cannot verify their identity, yet establishing someone’s credibility becomes crucial when they make such dramatic claims. I personally learned after the Liliane Khalil expose that it was important to put a name to the story. Obviously I’m not doing what Reza Kahlili does, and trying to claim that Iran has thousands of suitcase nukes, but the principle is still the same. With regards to this anonymity, one of Habiba Dalal’s previous bios reads

I am a journalist following [r]evolutions in societies, governments + citizen journalism. Working anonymously due to the nature of my job.

Well, Habiba Dalal is no longer anonymous, because she’s Liliane Khalil, and Liliane Khalil wasn’t even real. Wait, I guess that makes her anonymous?

I have no love for the Iranian regime, yet I have even less love for companies or institutions manipulating people’s beliefs by distorting the information available in the public sphere. This proliferation of propaganda, in its myriad of forms, attempts to subvert rational debate by appealing to a person’s visceral fears. Subtler accounts might attempt to influence the public sphere by imbuing it with information that may seem credible, but is ultimately a plant (black propaganda).  Other potentially concerning aspects of these fake accounts are evident when they are used to attempt to influence political society. For example, a twitition (twitter petition) that went round last year claimed to be a proposal listing the demands of Bahrain’s Youth for the upcoming National Dialogue. Over a thousand people signed it, though who knows what number of them were anonymous sock accounts. The following day the National Unity Gathering ( Bahrain’s new pro-gov leaning political party) used the petition as a basis for determining what youth wanted. I believe this could be termed as a #civilsocietyfail . An absurdly dystopian/1984 type analysis would suggest that such practices might become common in the future. Just imagine  if Twitter’s new censorship policy led to a crackdown on all legitimate tweeps,  resulting in regime-paid companies dominating cyberspace with newspeak, propaganda, and complete bollocks. Haha, now it’s my turn to be sensationalist!

Moving swiftly on…

Paradoxically, these fake accounts undermine the rhetoric of legitimate loyalists in the online world, as the prevalence of dubious accounts leads people to associate regime supporters with paid PR. It’s hardly surprising though considering the Bahrain government’s unquenchable thirst for Public Relations . Even at this very moment  I am being accosted by someone who is almost certainly a black propaganda sock account. A very very unsubtle one at that…

Of course Mohammed Abdul Nabi is not alone. There are plenty of other suspicious and/or anonymous accounts. I’m sure many people would enjoy seeing who is behind  @SallyfromSaar , @gloriahere , @ChelseaDraws etc. However, until that glorious day comes, let’s just content ourselves by observing their unscrupulous and incestuous meta-orgie of mutual congratulation and retweeting.

 

Further Liliane Khalil reading

Update on the Liliane Khalil investigation

Busted. Journalist Liliane Khalil Exposed

The Mystery Continues: Phone Intervie with Liliane Khalil

An Epilogue for Liliane Khalil

The Hunt For Liliane Khalil 

أصوات الشبكة: ليليان خليل، ضحية أم أكذوبة؟

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12 comments

  1. H says:

    Hi Marc

    Just wanted to point out that this Mohammed Abdul Nabi is using a Saudi Shia detainee’s picture. His name is Ali Almarhoon and he’s been detained since 1996 after the bombing of al-Khobar. Full story here:
    http://rasid.com/english/?act=artc&id=237

    Amazing how these people can shamelessly lie and continue to do so even when exposed!

    • Hi, thanks for that comment. Yes this came up early and someone posted that picture. If you look at his timeline for today and mine, you can see the interactions. They get pretty funny, but he didn’t answer when we asked who the photo was!

  2. Another Account is liz_lane, an irish girl who lives in bahrain, attacked by protestors in her car, running the FB acc of Expats then suddenly disappeared and ElishNeLine appeared instead of her, I have asked Elish where in ireland she is from and to date got no reply!

  3. Dutch Johnson says:

    Marc, great work. Thanks for the update. I knew she hadn’t gone away. She’s not that type.

  4. Fred Williams says:

    People other than the anti brigade live here in Bahrain. We are real people with real concerns – we see the facts with our own eyes and actually often know the players involved personally. Where is Matt from Corvis these days well he’s long gone from here he left last year, did you know that. You see we are just as capable as you and have a greater right at working for doughnuts as anyone, to express our opinions on the situation. Unlike all you armchair pundits we are actually heavily involved on a daily basis often I must add not by choice. My house get tear gassed regularly as a consequence of roaming idiots rioting in my local street I haven’t died yet as a consequence by the way. We don’t rely on snippets of fed mis-information, we know what happens as it happens. Living here we don’t need any PR company or bigoted idiot from the street to keep us informed we just have to look out of the window or walk down the street.

    So I suggest you get a real job – instead of pretending to be something you are not, experts on Bahrain.

  5. Fred Williams says:

    Well what do you expect you left here for boarding school age nine – one of the privileged few. We have sat through years of Iranian inspired violence – surely you recognise that Bahrain was never part of any Arab spring – that this is a sectarian fuelled fight not between have and have nots but between three ideologies yes between three – Saudi Iran and those that rather liked the secular status quo prior to Feb 14th.

  6. Maybe the gov should pully Ebrahim Sharif out of jail, that might help convince people they’re not trying to fuel the sectarian fire

  7. […] regime propagandist and paid shill Liliane Khalil is back with new fake identities, including @HabibaDalal and Gisele Nasr. […]

  8. Moosa Ali says:

    Its funny how you think all the accounts you mentioned are suspicious and you don’t even realize that your account is suspicious as well. Why do you care so much about Bahrain anyway? There are a million problems in your own backyard that you are more qualified to discuss and try to solve. It seems that you are one of these naive, idealistic white people that think that its your duty to help us poor, simple-minded Middle Easterners and comment on how we should live and act. As if your country is so civilized. There are plenty of expats that actually live in Bahrain that are more qualified to talk about issues than you. Do you see any Arab or Middle Eastern journalists and newspapers talking about unemployment, poverty and police brutality in your neighborhood? I think you would be more qualified to discuss those issues then someone from here would. We know what is going on in our own country better than you do and better than you ever will. Let Bahrainis solve our own problems. We are more than capable and we don’t need more foreigners to tell us what to do. Maybe you suffer from Post-Imperial Guilt because Al-Khailfa was given power by people from your country.

    That sad part is Bahrainis are discussing issues with foreigners more than they are with each other. I guess they make you feel important because now you feel you have a purpose in life: ‘Human Rights Activist seeking justice and freedom for the people of Bahrain’. Pathetic. Like Fred said ‘go get a real job.’ Anyway Mr. Marc, its our job now to determine our future without interference from (to quote Fred again) armchair-pundits like yourself. Expert on Bahrain? What a joke.

    Moosa Ali
    Manama, Bahrain

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