Fake news network vs bots: the online war around Khashoggi killing
London/Dubai, November 1
On October 20, Arabic-language website alawatanews.com published a report that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had been forced out of power.
Citing the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), it said King Salman had signed a decree removing the prince “against the backdrop of growing pressure that accompanies the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
The report was false. The SPA has never published such an article, the wording and picture were lifted from a year-old royal court announcement about the removal of a former crown prince and MbS, as he is widely known, remains in his position.
The story and the website that published it are part of a fierce information war being waged online over the killing of Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi government last seen entering Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Automated accounts known as bots have flooded social media in recent weeks, many of them promoting messages, which support Saudi Arabia and are intended to cast doubt on allegations that the kingdom was involved in Khashoggi’s death.