The embattled government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria has stepped up its “cyberwar” against the Qatari government, planting fake stories online about the prime minister’s sacking and a natural gas field explosion, the Financial Times reports.
Apparently the social media accounts of Al Arabiya were hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army on Monday, and used to spread the latest stories.
The FT reports:
Arabiya’s Facebook and Twitter pages began reporting false news late on Monday night, including reports that the powerful Qatari prime minister and foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, had been “relieved” of his posts and replaced by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the son of the Qatari ruler.
Before Al Arabiya was able to take back control of their social media accounts, hackers “also posted news claiming one of Qatar’s natural gas facilities had caught fire, killing dozens,” according to the FT report.
Just last week, stories of a failed coup in Qatar were being circulated, which Al Arabiya also attributes to Syrian hackers. Other previous hits in the misinformation campaign include faked reports of an assassination attempt of the emir and coordinated real-time reports of widespread non-existent protests early last year.
The obvious reason for all of this is Qatar’s repeated and consistent calls for an immediate halt to Syria’s violent crackdown on dissent in the country.
What’s the end game to all of this?
Credit: Photo of anti-Assad demonstration in Qatar by Omar Chatriwala