Anita R Gohdes
'You are being lied to by people who don't even exist' – with this explosive starter on the dust jacket, Marc Owen Jones grabs the reader for a tour of the land of online disinformation, deception, and manipulation, all running together on the social media colossus that is Twitter. He traces the ecosystem of online information campaigns that are, at the macro-level, aimed at influencing domestic and foreign politics, and, at the micro-level, used to harass and discredit journalists and dissidents. Jones turns the much-celebrated notion of liberation technology on its head, arguing that neo-liberation technology is a more apt description of how 'the economic logic of neoliberalism has facilitated the proliferation of technologies in markets governed by autocratic actors' (p 18). The brunt of evidence describes Saudi disinformation, an intricate web of actors responsible for coordinated disinformation campaigns through inauthentic engagement on social media, fabricated content on digital news outlets, and sleek Western PR firms specialized in nation-state image management abroad. With its emphasis on patterns of disinformation in the Gulf, the book offers a refreshing addition to a field that has oftentimes implicitly equated online information operations with Russian state activity. The book is written in an engaging and personal way: Jones describes how his work and being based in Qatar turned him into a repeated target of deception and discreditation campaigns. Because it is so personal, a deeper discussion of his positionality would have been interesting. Jones' expertise regarding the political sensitivities and subtleties that underly many of the operations described in the book make this an important read for anyone interested in the future of information warfare.