Qatari University Says it Has Solution to ‘Fake News’
Environmental activists read copies of a fake newspaper with fictional headlines about climate change during an October 18 protest in London. (Richard Baker/In Pictures via Getty Images)

Qatari University Says it Has Solution to ‘Fake News’

Academic in Saudi Arabia, however, insists that Doha is part of the problem

Qatar’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University says it has developed a software program that is able to evaluate news stories and determine whether they are factual and objective, or merely fake.

The university says the program can analyze news in the Arabic and English media, and that it is working to expand the program’s ability to do the same with other languages.

The program checks several factors, including whether the story has an emotional or subjective style, whether it contains contradictions or attempts to impose an opinion, and how its headline is related to the text.

Saleh Ghareeb, a Qatari writer and political analyst, told The Media Line that work on the program began “after the piracy of the Qatari News Agency in 2017 and the broadcast of fabricated content about Qatar’s prince.”

Ghareeb said that “although the Qatari News Agency, the Qatari Foreign Ministry and the government news office all announced that the agency’s website had been hacked,” several countries imposed a boycott on Doha.

“These countries ignored the Qatari government’s clarification and started broadcasting and analyzing the prince’s statements as if he had actually said them,” he said.

As a result, he continued, the university came up with this “innovative program to evaluate the news transmitted through channels and media platforms, and to prevent the broadcast of false and fake news.”

Ghareeb also pointed out that some media outlets rely on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Telegram as news sources – which they are not.

“Even newspapers are relying on these [social media] platforms for content,” he complained. “The importance of the program is to help prevent fabrications from being presented as facts.”

Khaled Batarfi, a professor of communication at Saudi Arabia’s Alfaisal University, is less enthusiastic about news of the program, saying Qatar has “a long history of producing fake news” and propaganda.

“Qatari media outlets publish lies and fake news regarding Saudi Arabia and the Houthis,” he told The Media Line, referring to Iran’s proxy in Yemen.

Doha is an ally of Tehran, and Riyadh has been leading the fight against the Houthis in order to restore the government of Yemen’s president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Batarfi said that Qatar is “trying to show the world that it is being targeted and is under attack” by campaigns of fake news.

“It’s the usual Qatari grievance speech,” he charged, “which it learned from Iran.”

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