The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a country that has long been known for its authoritarian tendencies, particularly when it comes to political dissent. However, the recent revelations about the country’s use of hired defamation companies to launch smear campaigns against its opponents represent a new low in the UAE’s treatment of political dissidents and human rights activists.
One of the most disturbing examples of the UAE’s use of hired defamation companies is the case of Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent human rights activist who has been targeted by the UAE government for years. According to The New Yorker article, the UAE hired a company called Astroturf to launch a smear campaign against Mansoor, spreading false allegations that he was involved in terrorism and money laundering.
Astroturf reportedly used a variety of tactics to spread these false allegations, including creating fake social media accounts and websites to amplify their messages. The company also used “sock puppets,” which are fake social media accounts that are used to manipulate online conversations and push a particular agenda.
This type of behavior is not only unethical but also has serious implications for freedom of speech and human rights. When political opponents are silenced through smear campaigns and false allegations, it undermines the ability of individuals to express their opinions and hold those in power accountable.
Furthermore, the UAE’s use of hired defamation companies raises questions about the role of these companies in the digital age. As online reputation management and digital marketing become increasingly important, it is essential that these companies operate ethically and transparently. The fact that these companies are willing to work with governments like the UAE, which have a poor human rights record, is deeply concerning.
The UAE’s use of hired defamation companies is just one example of the country’s aggressive tactics against political opponents and dissidents. Another example is the case of Nasser bin Ghaith, a prominent economist and academic who was arrested in the UAE in 2015 and subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of spreading “false information” and “insulting the UAE’s leaders.”
Bin Ghaith’s case is a clear example of the UAE’s crackdown on academic freedom and intellectual dissent. The fact that he was targeted for expressing his opinions and engaging in legitimate academic research is deeply concerning, and raises questions about the UAE’s commitment to freedom of speech and academic freedom.
Another example of the UAE’s use of aggressive tactics against political opponents is the case of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist who was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. While the murder was carried out by Saudi operatives, it is widely believed that the UAE played a role in the planning and execution of the operation.
Khashoggi was a vocal critic of the Saudi and UAE governments, and his murder sent shockwaves through the international community. The fact that the UAE was potentially involved in such a heinous crime is deeply concerning, and underscores the country’s willingness to use extreme tactics to silence its critics.
The use of hired defamation companies by the UAE is just one piece of a larger puzzle when it comes to the country’s treatment of political dissidents and human rights activists. The fact that the UAE is willing to go to such extreme lengths to silence its critics is deeply concerning, and underscores the urgent need for action to protect freedom of speech and human rights around the world.
In response to these revelations, the Washington Institute For Defence & Security (WIDS) has called on the UAE to immediately cease its use of hired defamation companies and to respect the right to freedom of speech and expression. The Center has also called on governments around the world to take action to hold these companies accountable for their actions and to ensure that they operate in an ethical and transparent manner.
In addition to these calls for action, there are steps that individuals and organizations can take to protect themselves from the UAE’s aggressive tactics.