Bill Gates The Joker dressed his hair fluorescent green, his face white and his prolonged smile cut his face. In his hand is a large needle, filled with bright green liquid. The Facebook post has been shared more than 700 times and thousands of people have watched a caption below it teasing Gates as a “horror plan”. This is a baseless conspiracy theory that has spread on Facebook throughout the epidemic. But this post is different. It is in Arabic. And this is an example of a much larger problem.
In dozens of Arabic pages and groups, dangerous conspiracy theories about the epidemic are presenting millions of views and likes. New Research from the Strategic Dialogue Institute (ISD)Which has been shared with YREDRD, shows that vaccine lies have spread very quickly in Arabic on Facebook. Sophisticated disinformation operations have garnered millions of views on vaccine disruption videos and generated hundreds of thousands of followers. And while Facebook has been repeatedly criticized for failing to address the issue in English, little attention has been paid to the scale of the problem in Arabic, a language spoken by more than 400 million people.
Between January 1 and February 28, ISD researchers shared epidemic-related misinformation and conspiracy theories in Arabic on 18 Facebook pages and ten groups. They had a combined following of more than 2.4 million people. “It was very easy to find,” said Mustafa Iyad, executive director of ISD in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Facebook’s popularity in the Arab world has grown in recent years, with more than 164 million monthly active users Reported in 2019.
To get an idea of the scale of Facebook’s Arabic disinformation problem, Iyad and ISD analyst Syran O’Connor compiled a list of epidemic-related terms and searched for the pages and groups that used them. Using Crowd Tangle, an analytics tool owned by Facebook, they then created a snapshot of the most prominent community, including pages with groups of up to 10,000,000 members and 50,50,000 followers.
Some of it is shameless: group names, while translating into Arabic, “coroner lies”, “covid-1 conspiracy” and “no vaccine coronary termination” as the posts on these pages contain false claims about vaccine ingredients, production and rollouts. Theories also spread, claiming that the world was about to end and that the epidemic was being manipulated.
In this mud of lies and disbelief, Gates emerges as a common theme. These same lies have been translated into Arabic by adding text or voice-overs to videos and images of a central figure in Western conspiracy theories surrounding the Microsoft founder epidemic. A video of Gates’ “horror plan” on a page with more than 134,000 likes has been unfounded, accusing him of wanting to depopulate the planet and make money from vaccines. (Here No truth it is true.)
Other conspiracy theories about Gates that have gone viral on Facebook in Arabic include advice that people should “get ready for the Hunger Games.” Another video shows her lips sewn together. The video has been shared several times. “Bill Gates is talking to videos with millions of opinions about blocking the sun, or Bill Gates is planning to put the animal mark between individuals through an injection,” Iyad said.
ISD researchers say the videos are so irrational and clearly false that it should be easier for Facebook to sharply identify and remove them, ISD researchers say. Their report states that Facebook’s addition of Arabic misinformation is not as effective as English. Iyad says, “You can’t just address it on a part of Facebook. “You need to address communities across the board.”