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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Misleading 'UAE blocks Twitter' hashtag draws tens of thousands into Qatar row 

Qatari-based accounts falsely claim Emirates blocked social media platform

On Sunday Qatari-based accounts were tweeting that Twitter was blocked in the UAE. Brendan McDermid / Reuters
On Sunday Qatari-based accounts were tweeting that Twitter was blocked in the UAE. Brendan McDermid / Reuters

Social media users in the Emirates have taken to Twitter to vent their frustration over a misleading trending Arabic hashtag “Twitter is blocked in the UAE”.

The diplomatic standoff between Qatar and other Gulf states has recently escalated on social media where users from the Gulf countries have been using the platform to voice their anger towards each other.

The hashtag - which was briefly number one in UAE’s top trends on Sunday - generated over 74,000 tweets from users in the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in fewer than twenty-four hours.

Users in UAE took the opportunity to confirm that Twitter was indeed working, whilst accusing users in Qatar of spreading the fake news.

“I’m currently in the UAE, in Dubai, how can Twitter be blocked if I’m able to tweet?” said Sky News producer, Mashael Al Saad.

Emirati academic Dr Ali Al Noaimi said that “this hashtag portrays the deception and lies that Qatar’s authorities thrive on to distract their citizens from the unknown future”.

Emirati-Moroccan actress, Maysaa Maghrebi said: “I’m tweeting from the UAE... the land of dignity, tolerance and freedom… how can Twitter be blocked?”.

On the other side, Qatari user Dr Mohammed Al Asaadi wrote: “They don’t have access to Facetime, WhatsApp calls or Twitter”.

Fake and misleading news has become a significant problem for Twitter and other social media platforms.

Saudi information minister Awwad Saleh Al Awwad has accused Doha of being behind thousands of Twitter accounts it blames for “trying to stoke dissent in Saudi Arabia”.

“We have found over 23,000 Twitter accounts driven by Qatar, some of them are linked to accounts calling for a “revolution in Saudi Arabia”, he said during a visit to Paris last week.

On the June 5, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other GCC states imposed a travel boycott against Qatar, over the country’s alleged support of terrorism.