The first-of-a-kind project allows households across Qatar to volunteer to host visiting fans during sports events in the Gulf state.
A viral post detailing alleged regulations for the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy’s [SC] ‘Host a Fan’ initiative has been confirmed fake, a source from the World Cup body told Doha News.
The circulating image, first posted by an Emirati-linked Twitter account, listed six conditions for those wishing to host a fan during the FIFA World Cup 2022 next year.
The fake post says guests will be distributed “based on their spoken language and the colour of their skin “, the interior ministry will carry out periodic inspections, and hosts will not be allowed “to marry their guests”.
— حمد مبارك ال شافي (@AlshafiHamad) September 27, 2021
Despite the post not including the SC’s logo or being posted by any official Qatari entity, it managed to cause outrage among social media users who failed to identify it as a clear fabrication, with many describing it as “racist”, “disappointing” and “backwards”.
An SC source who spoke to Doha News confirmed the organisation was not responsible for the image, while another source from outside the organisation, pointed to the UAE-linked Twitter account, which has on several occasions pushed an anti-Qatar agenda and actively engaged with similar accounts, including ‘Qatari Leaks’, that primarily share fake news related to Qatar.
The fabricated image was first posted in a tweet by @kuwarimud, named ‘Mohammed Kuwary’, in which the SC initiative is described as a project that “exploits” the idea of the Gulf region being a “hospitable” part of the world, alleging that Qatari authorities are “forcing” nationals to host guests during the upcoming FIFA World Cup.
The account also retweeted a post from a similar profile on Twitter that said the initiative aimed to reduce travels to the UAE and to provide fans the ability to stay in Qatar rather than travelling back and forth between the two neighbouring countries.
One of the hashtags analysed as part of the probe was “#Qatar_Revolts” which attempted to exaggerate a small-scale demonstration launched by members of one tribe that protested the exclusion of some Qataris in the upcoming Shura Council election due to the country’s constitution and electoral law.
While Doha News was unable to determine beyond doubt who was deploying the fake bots, other reports and experts pointed towards authoritarian regimes in the Arab world who have in recent months and years been exposed for utilising this tool to maintain further control on citizens – extending social media to their existing, vast and ever-evolving repressive global security apparatus.
In April 2020, Twitter confirmed the removal of 2,541 accounts in an Egypt-based network, known as the El Fagr network, which it said created inauthentic accounts to push messaging critical of Iran, Qatar and Turkey.
Similarly, a network of accounts associated with Saudi Arabia and operating out of multiple countries including KSA, Egypt and UAE, were amplifying content praising Saudi leadership, and critical of Qatar and Turkish activity in Yemen.
Twitter said that it removed a total of 5,350 accounts at the time.