Marc Owen Jones

Marc Owen Jones



1/ One of the most pervasive and re-occurring pieces of #disinformation about the Qatar has been the figure that 6500 migrant works have died in connection with the World Cup. I wanted to do a thread on how this piece of news has been transmitted on Twitter over the past year

2/ The figure 6,500 comes from @guardian - a usually reputable British publication. The original Guardian headline heavily implied 6,500 deaths were connected to World Cup. According to my analysis, this has been the MOST RETWEETED article about the Qatar world cup in English

3/ The Guardian later amended the headline to make it clear the figure of deaths was over a ten-year period. Nonetheless, the original allusion still stood - with the headline still heavily implying the deaths were anomalous and connected to the World Cup.

4/ The 6,500 figure actually refers to all deaths of migrant workers from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, regardless of cause. It's not an 'excess' death figure. An equivalent 'spin; would be "100,000 dead as COVID rampages through UK" to be clarified that only

5/ say, 0.1% of those deaths were actually from Covid. In disinformation terms this falls under either 'misleading content', 'false connection' or 'false context'. Selective use of statistics in particular are prone to misuse >

6/ The longevity of this figure is interesting. I downloaded all tweets mentioning 'Qatar' & '6500' (filtering out false positives where possible). The figure resurfaces constantly, & has been tweeted about over 400k times since Feb 2021 when the Guardian article was published

7/ Like everything on Twitter, most content is retweets, and recontextualized information. The predictable thing about misleading statistics is misinterpretation. See below, within 24 hours the original Guardian headline was interpreted to mean 6500 died on construction sites

8/ This is a great lesson on how 'misleading information' becomes 'false information' very quickly. In fact, in this case, the original headline was sensationalist precisely because it wished to invoke such misinterpretations. Otherwise, why publish the figure?

9/ Below is an example of some highly shared tweets from various influencers/politicians/journalists over the past three months that have understood the 6500 figure as deaths on construction sites. Again, this is false information. A lot of the recent tweets are French

10/ the below graph shows that the 6500 deaths story is being shared in English, French, English and Dutch. However what's also interesting about this network is that at the centre is the Guardian article. Essentially the Guardian headline has become the centre of a multilingual

11/ evidentiary claim about deaths in Qatar. I emphasise 'headline' because for many that's all they read, and the content of the article even clarifies that the number is all workers, and not construction deaths (after an addendum).

12/ So much of the outrage around Qatar is held together by a single thin thread that goes back to a sensationalist newspaper headline using misleading statistics. Although we can lambast people for not being critical, newspapers are abusing the trust of their readers

13/ by engaging in such sensationalism and disinformation (and it is disinformation). Another sad part is that I wonder if the Guardian would get away with publishing similar stats closer to 'home'. One of the reasons that coverage of the World Cup has been as it has

14/ is partly because there is less nuanced coverage about the Middle East and/or the Global South. This is a long-standing issue of Orientalism. Countries outside zones of privilege become caricatures, often of their most negative traits, and people are primed to believe

15/ figures like 6500 deaths because many are also primed to believe that the Global South is a barbaric and less civilised place. I won't get started on why also reducing 6500 South Asian workers to construction workers is also racist. Neither will I go into the

16/ various interests at play behind these disinformation campaigns. Safe to say, disinformation is disinformation, and it takes on a different quality when it is aimed at places outside usual 'zones of privilege' (would be an interesting study actually).

17/ Anyway, what better way to end the thread than with a cliche of unclear provenance: "There are three types of lies -- lies, damn lies, and statistics."

18/ am adding this to be clear and because as this thread highlights, people misrepresent or misunderstand. This does not negate very real human rights issues, it just means we don't need to lie about them when they're real.

19/ neither does it mean there are good and accurate articles written about this. This is why this is thread is focused on one single sensationalist headline, and its reach. It is also not a comprehensive assessment of all 'news values' that go into Euro media coverage.

20/ Check out @MigrantRights for their excellent work on the Gulf region

21/ I should also clarify that this is probably more Misinformation than disinformation ( for the most part as it's hard to know without intent why people are sharing such things) - also the news covered here covers false information AND misleading information

22/ Here is another thread about 15000 migrants dying that was framed in a misleading way

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