It’s been a year of many firsts for me, yet the familiarity of what happened today reminded me that some rarely change. In a Twitter Event organized by Zed Books on Bahrain, Trolls, many of whom are familiar to the vetern Bahrain observer attempted to inundate the hashtag by providing evidence to defame the entire Bahrain opposition are violent, religious and radical. For example, see the image below [graphic]
This tactic of propaganda and disinformation has been prevalent since 2011. As we describe in Bahrain’s Uprising,
A number of studies noted unusual patterns of tweeting prior to bouts of government repression. One group of bloggers noted that a ‘large group of organized troll accounts were created by the government. They then flooded twitter with a disinformation campaign. Once violence broke out the Troll Army vanished’. While there is no evidence that the above is the regime, or companies operating on the regime’s behalf, it is certainly an unusual pattern of tweeting. A report by Freedom House adds, ‘hundreds of accounts suddenly emerged to collectively harass and intimidate online activists, commentators, and journalists who voiced support for protests and human rights’.
The accounts that engage in this are almost always anonymous, with the exception of gloriahere, who briefly hosted a rather disturbing (read creepy) show on Bahrain. Their activity on the #BahrainUprising hashtag began, hardly by coincidence, an hour or two before the Event was about to start. Prior to that, the only real activity on that hashtag had been from early 2014.
Also present was the anti-opposition @LexBirch, who won the most distinguished expat award in Bahrain in 2012 (awared by the government controlled Information Affairs Authority). Despite being anonymous, the account appeared to be rewarded for Tweeting against the opposition.
Yet Bahrain trolls are so notorious, they have been singalled out by internationalist columnists and journalists. In particular, one Bahraini Twitter troll (7areghum) was said by an independent panel of legal experts to have broken international law for putting people’s lives in danger . They have issued death threats, threats of rape, and engaged in rampant homophobia. Perhaps more amusingly, they have attempted to defame activists (or bemuse them) with cariactures…See below!