Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

How Did Qatar Lose its Most Important Weapon?

The current dispute with Qatar aims at disarming it from its basic instruments: media and information. The dispute accelerated the quest to control the information society which had been hijacked by terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, not to mention “hostile” governments such as Iran and Qatar that had utmost goals to overthrow political regimes.

This is what happened for real. A surge of digital websites, additional TV channels and cyber-armies antagonistic to Qatar and its extremist Islamist allies have made large scale changes in the conflict zone. Such changes are evident more than ever.

Saudi Arabia was among the countries highly prone to influence because of the spread of mobiles and satellite televisions. Each person has an average of two phones, when every three persons used to have one device. Nowadays, there are 50 million active phones on social media. The situation was adequate for plotters to influence public opinion with little resistance.

Risks of forming public opinion by foreign parties aren’t restricted to the four states that are in a cyber warfare with Qatar. After US accusations to Russia of electronic intervention in influencing voters in the presidential polls and targeting the society’s stability, the case aggravated.

If any foreign force has the ability to shape public opinion in another state, then this means that it is capable of overthrowing the government or influencing its decisions, which in the past was sufficient to wage military wars.

In the Gulf crisis, the objective is to recover the hijacked public opinion from adversaries – Qatar, “ISIS” and other parties with hostile agendas that dominated the scene.

There are key international developments. After the figures of “the information society” discovered that the freedom provided to people via technology was exploited by terrorist groups and hostile governments, they backed off and surrendered.

They enabled institutions in local governments to identify the sources of information published on “Twitter”, “Facebook” and others. They can now know if these campaigns are spontaneous or deliberate, and get introduced to cyber-committees or armies as well as those interacting with them.

Based on this, activists who worked for foreign states were arrested. They were anonymous in the past but not anymore.

As for controlling content, which remains an obstacle, the most important development is how Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others met the US Congress demands to cooperate due to serious accusations which I have thoroughly discussed in another article.

TVs, news agencies and e-newspapers still have a significant role after their gradual move to being part of the social media. They are still the basic suppliers of content. The latest developments have put television services under control shifting them to phones, satellitess and fiber optics in “regulated” states such as UAE and Qatar, which have been able to restore the management of their communities to a large extent.

These countries don’t just prevent access to services but offer similar alternative services so as not to push millions of viewers to using proxies to access banned media, which is what’s happening in Iran today.

A lot of what is on the internet and social networks is produced by e-armies. Are they our armies or theirs? Which army is more persuasive? Cyberspace was dominated by small groups whose unilateral dominance collapsed, mainly led by Qatar and its ally the Muslim Brotherhood.

The past six months witnessed the fiercest levels of war when both parties published fake and real news and pictures. The result was a huge loss for Qatar that was saying it pushed Tunisians and Egyptians to protest and topple their regimes in 2011.

This time the result is the opposite. Qatar’s government was undermined by its opponents. Even rival Qatari tribes launched campaigns against it, not to mention some Qataris who spoke out against the regime for the first time.

I believe that the free cyberspace stage and the external invasion phenomenon is about to end.