Disinformation or fake news can have far reaching consequences, disrupting domestic and social lives, noted HE Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed al-Thani, director, Government Communications Office, and chairman of the Media City.
Sheikh Saif was speaking at a workshop during the Global Security Forum that concluded at St Regis Doha Wednesday.The two day forum highlighted the consequences of disinformation and urged for measures to counter it.
Speaking at a workshop organised by Hamad Bin Khalifa University(HBKU) on the topic “A War of Words, Disinformation in Transnational Challenges,’ Sheikh Saif also narrated the sequences of how Qatar News Agency was hacked in the midnight, resulting in a blockade on Qatar.
“We did not know what extent it will go. But it has resulted serious consequences leading to the Gulf Crisis,” he recalled.
“Now, fake news is collectively orchestrated through political and economic measures to pressurise countries. It is a very complicated issue,” noted Sheikh Saif.
At the workshop moderated by Susan L Karamanian, dean, College of Law, HBKU, the speakers also advocated for keeping the families and young generation out of the social media bubble of fake news and spend more resources in knowledge exposure. They also highlighted the need for more international collaboration in education and media literacy as well as the need to attribute an activity to a particular entity.
Taking part in the discussion, Dr Ahmed Elmagarmid, executive director, Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI), HBKU said that QCRI has developed certain technologies to identify disinformation on Twitter. “We have identified about 3,000 Twitter accounts from the blockading countries created for propaganda against Qatar. Some of them were started about two weeks before the blockade,” explained Dr Elmagarmid.
Dr Leslie Pal, dean, College of Public Policy, HBKU noted that disinformation is a deliberate attempt to make any fake idea look genuine. “In some cases, simple biases by established media outlets can result in misinformation. It can sometimes be amounted to disinformation to create bias on some aspects,” noted dean Pal.
Carlo Nardi, strategy manager, Counter Daesh Strategic Communications Cell pointed out that fake news has become part of the daily life of people for the past several years. “ However, the speed of such news using technology is a serious issue as it reaches a wide number of people within no time. Such news are put out to achieve some specific goals,” he added.