Why is social media so useful to Middle Eastern governments?

Social media offers several advantages for government information operations.

1. social media campaigns are relatively inexpensive and have low barriers to entry.

With so many Middle Easterners using social media, manipulating these platforms is an inexpensive way for the regime to influence large audiences. More importantly, outside of the English-speaking environment, social media companies have weaker guardrails because they may be more concerned with profitability and innovation than with security and message quality.

2. Social media contains an enormous amount of information.

People are more likely to believe rumors and conspiracy theories if they are repeatedly exposed to them, and the constant promotion of conspiracy theories across multiple platforms can make wacky things seem plausible.

3. Social media sources are often trusted more than traditional media.

Family and friends pass along news and other information through Facebook and other platforms, implicit endorsements, and the fact that they are trusted more than the media and the government. When governments have access to these personal networks, their messages are more likely to be believed and supported.

4. Social media also offers the perfect combination of differentiation and influence.

Large social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are excellent ways to reach elite Saudis who follow politics, as well as more ordinary Saudis who may use these platforms for sports, work and entertainment. At the same time, through micro-targeting, these regimes can focus more specialized information on different constituencies at relatively low cost. Political micro-targeting is not adequately regulated, especially for non-English speaking users.