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The New Arab

UAE hires Bannon-affiliated company to spread anti-Qatar ads

Bannon has held several controversial private meetings with Emirati officials [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 November, 2017

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In-depth: SCL Social, a media company linked to former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, has been paid handsomely by the UAE to peddle anti-Qatar ads on social media.
A company with close ties to President Donald Trump's former chief strategist was hired by the United Arab Emirates to launch an anti-Qatar social media campaign, according to recently published reports.

SCL Social Limited disclosed a $330,000 contract with the UAE for "a wide range of services specific to a global media campaign", shortly after Steve Bannon resigned from the White House in August, according to Foreign Agents of Registration Act records, as reported by The Sacramento Bee.

The company shares the same ownership and leadership as Cambridge Analytica, where Bannon is believed to retain a stake valued at between $1 million and $5 million, and which was used by Trump during his presidential campaign to reach voters through targeted emails and social media posts.

Records show the company had a social media campaign budget of $75,000 to peddle anti-Qatar ads to non-governmental organisations, foreign diplomats and specific reporters across Facebook, Twitter, Google AdWords, YouTube and Outbrain.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt announced in June that they had cut all relations with Qatar, accusing Doha of ties to Islamist fundamentalists and Iran.

Qatar has categorically denied the allegations and has rejected the conditions of a proposed settlement to the diplomatic and economic boycott. 

Since then, multi-million dollar efforts by the blockading countries have targeted Qatar in an attempt to isolate it in a bid to force it into submission.
They pay to spread disinformation about Qatar through advertising and social media. That is their choice, but it won't change the facts


"While Qatar works openly and transparently with the United States and its allies to share information and fight terrorism wherever it exists, UAE spends its energy and resources hacking websites and planting fake news stories," Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed al-Thani, director of Qatar's government communications office, told the Bee.

"When that doesn't work, they pay to spread disinformation about Qatar through advertising and social media. That is their choice, but it won't change the facts."

Secret meetings

Bannon, who kept his views on Qatar somewhat private while at the White House, returned to lead the far-right quasi-conspiracist media platform Breitbart News following his resignation in August. The outlet has since dished out a range of anti-Qatar reports.

More than 80 stories - all of which have been critical of Qatar - were published by Breitbart since the blockade began in June, including headlines such as "Jihad-Friendly Qatar May Have Inspired Former Gitmo Detainees to Return to Terror" and "Report: Qatari Ruling Family Importing Hezbollah Fighters for Protection".

But despite his previous reluctance to publicly air his opinions, Bannon confirmed the blockade on Qatar was set in motion after President Trump's official visit to Saudi Arabia just months after his inauguration.
Bannon has been widely accused of anti-Semitism, and of being a white supremacist, and has made headlines on several occasions for a range of racist and Islamophobic remarks


In a speech at a conference entitled "Countering Violent Extremism: Qatar, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood" hosted by the conservative Hudson Institute, Bannon said: "We went into the summit with UAE, Saudi Arabia and others; the number one thing was that we must take care of this financing of radical Islam, and there can be no more - as President Trump said - no more games."

The Saudi-led blockade on Qatar is "the single most important thing that’s going on right now in the world", he said.

Bannon has been widely accused of anti-Semitism, and of being a white supremacist, and has made headlines on several occasions for a range of racist and Islamophobic remarks. The former US official has also held several private visits with UAE officials and only recently travelled to the Gulf country to meet with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Meanwhile, Bannon, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the son-in-law of President Trump, Jared Kushner, met with Mohammed bin Zayed at the Trump Tower during the presidential transition last December.

The meeting sparked widespread controversy after it was revealed the UAE failed to inform President Barack Obama's administration of the visit, as per diplomatic protocol.

 
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