How many followers have been lost by the Gulf’s Instagrammers?

Instagram has deleted millions of fake accounts, pulling down the follower numbers for many accounts in the Gulf (image source: http://cdn.slashgear.com)

This week, photo-sharing app Instagram removed millions of accounts believed to be posting spam. The action, which has been dubbed the “Instagram Rapture”, hasn’t spared Instagrammers in the Gulf. Instagram is popular in the Gulf, particularly in Kuwait, where some Instagrammers have become celebrities in their own right and have turned the application into a living.

Globally, many of the world’s top 100 Instagram accounts have been hard hit by Instagram’s move to delete fake accounts. Figures released by developer Zach Allia have revealed that celebrities such as Justin Bieber lost over 3,500,000 followers.

So, how did our own Instagrammers do? For Kuwait, stats compiled by the website Kuwaitiful compare numbers before and after. Have a look below at the top accounts in Kuwait (not all are Kuwaiti based, mind you).

Before and after the Instagram purge in Kuwait. Some accounts have hardly been affected, while others have seen their follower numbers fall drastically (source: www.http://kuwaitiful.com/)

Before and after the Instagram purge in Kuwait. Some accounts have hardly been affected, while others have seen their follower numbers fall drastically (source: www.http://kuwaitiful.com/)

For Saudi and the UAE, I’ve gone to Social Insider which also compiled the numbers before and after. Again, we’re seeing a similar picture, with some accounts hardly affected, while others have lost a double-digit percentage of followers (apologies for the image size, but you can zoom into the image to read the numbers).

This list of Instagram accounts from Saudi and the UAE includes the numbers from before and after the purge. One account lost 40% of its followers (source: www.http://social-insider.com)

This list of Instagram accounts from Saudi and the UAE includes the numbers from before and after the purge. One account lost 40% of its followers (source: www.http://social-insider.com)

The reaction from celebrities in the US hasn’t been kind. Rapper Ma$e, who lost more than a million followers, deleted his account after being accused for buying followers. How will those celebrities in our region respond, especially the accounts which have lost over ten percent of their total follower numbers? Also, will this affect how much these Instagrammers are charging for posting paid content? It’d be interesting to hear your thoughts on this one.

Beware of the booze! The UK Embassy in Qatar’s @ukinqatar Twitter feeds spreads its Christmas message

Christmas is a merry time of year, and, if you are following the UK Embassy in Qatar on Twitter, then you’d be forgiven that all of us Brits are enjoying ourselves much more than is safe during December.

In the run up to Christmas on the 24th/25th of December, the UK Embassy began tweeting its annual countdown using the lyrics of the traditional song ‘the 12 Days of Christmas’. The Embassy has decided to remind British nationals in Qatar of their behaviours, with a specific focus on alcohol and its side effects.

While there’s not been a backlash as much as bemusement around the campaign (see below for reactions), the reasons for this messaging seems to be the need to stress good behaviour among British nationals in Qatar and the wider Gulf. A British Embassy spokesman told the Doha News that debate around its campaign was welcome.

“We are glad our 12 days of Christmas tweets have sparked a debate amongst Doha’s Twitter community. Whether you love them or hate them, we hope that they make people stop and think about the best way to enjoy a safe and happy festive season.

Christmas is a special time for many of us in Doha but it can be a time when people become carried away with the festivities and forget that the culture and laws in Qatar are different to that of the UK.”

The following Tweets from the Embassy have focused less specifically on alcohol, and whilst some of the responses to the account, which is followed by over 9,000, have been positive and thankful for the reminders, others have been less than impressed. Let’s hope the embassy focuses on positive messaging next year.

#Sit_Down_Hind (#اقعدي_يا_هند) and sexism in Jordan’s politics

All credit to #BBCTrending for an amazing piece on politics in Jordan, following a bizarre debate in the country’s Parliament which turned from a discussion on the Muslim Brotherhood to one of sexism in politics. Please read the full story here from the BBC’s website. In the meantime, I’m going to quote from the BBC piece below. Even if you’re not an Arabic speaker, the body language of those in the video can be understood by anyone.

The Jordanian parliament is no stranger to screaming matches but a recent incident was so controversial that it provoked people to poke fun at their MPs online.

Earlier this week, during a heated argument over the Muslim Brotherhood, independent MP Yehia al-Saud was cut off by one of his female colleagues, Hind al-Fayez.

“Sit down Hind!” al-Saud yelled several times.

When al-Fayez ignored him, al-Saud turned his gaze and hands upwards and shouted “May God have his revenge on whoever brought quota to this parliament!” – a reference to female parliamentary quotas.

Local media reported that al-Saud later made another comment that women were created to put on make-up and cook for their husbands.

Videos of the incident have had over a million views on Facebook and YouTube, and were quickly followed by sarcastic comments and memes.

The Arabic hashtag “Sit down Hind” mocking the MPs also became popular in Jordan.

If there’s anything we have in abundance in the region, its a sense of humor. With scenes like this and outdated views on the place of women, we need a sense of humor more than ever.

#ChallengeBahrain, an island in gridlock and a social media backlash

If you were planning to enjoy a quiet weekend in Bahrain this weekend, you’ll have been disappointed. Most likely, you’ll have also spent your Saturday stuck in traffic. The island kingdom was host to Challenge Bahrain, a professional triathlon with a $500,000 prize purse. Most importantly, for the smallest country in the Gulf (which measures a whopping 765.3 km²), the Challenge Bahrain triathlon covered a total of 113 kilometers.

The size of the triathlon meant that many of the roads around Bahrain were closed for most of Saturday, including the island’s key highways such as King Faisal Highway, and Sheikh Isa Bin Salman Causeway. Unfortunately, most of Bahrain’s residents seemed to be unaware that there was 1) a race, and 2) that the race would mean traffic chaos during the weekend.

To give you an idea of how much the race affected the island, this is a map of the race's path across Bahrain

To give you an idea of how much the race affected the island, this is a map of the race’s path across Bahrain

The ensuing disruption to traffic meant that most people decided to stay at home. Instead, they vented their annoyance online, on social media. To give you an idea of how popular the topic became, have a look at the below analysis from Keyhole, and remember that the total population of Bahrain is just over 1.3 million people.

An analysis of the #ChallengeBahrain hashtag by Keyhole

An analysis of the #ChallengeBahrain hashtag by Keyhole

Tweeting and messaging with the hashtags #ChallengeBahrain and #ترايثلون_البحرين Bahrainis showed their feelings about the race and its planning. They let the race organizers know of their displeasure.

A small selection of the Twitter posts using the hashtag #ChallengeBahrain

A small selection of the Twitter posts using the hashtag #ChallengeBahrain

More tweets from yesterday's #ChallengeBahrain

More tweets from yesterday’s #ChallengeBahrain

For those heading to the airport it was even worse. As many of the roads to Bahrain International Airport were closed people had to walk for kilometers just to make it to the terminal.

Images of the traffic from Al-Deir and Samaheej near to the Bahrain International Airport. People had to walk for miles to reach the terminal building.

Images of the traffic from Al-Deir and Samaheej near to the Bahrain International Airport. People had to walk for miles to reach the terminal building.

Unfortunately, Bahrain’s Gulf Air was one of the sponsors. Forty two flights were delayed due to transportation in and around the Airport; hardly the type of brand association any airline would need.

The traffic was so bad that even Bahrain’s chief traffic cop had to apologize publicly for the mess.

Bahrain's top traffic cop apologizes for the gridlock during #ChallengeBahrain

Bahrain’s top traffic cop apologizes for the gridlock during #ChallengeBahrain

Some Bahrainis did see the funny side. Many created and shared memes, particularly on dark social sites such as Whatsapp, hinting at how successful the event had been in shutting down Bahrain, a feat which even Bahrain’s main political opposition couldn’t achieve.

A meme of AlWefaq's leader and #ChallengeBahrain

A meme of AlWefaq’s leader and #ChallengeBahrain

While the event came to a close on the same day, many of the organizers are looking ahead to 2015 and the second edition of Challenge Bahrain. For most Bahrainis, their hope is that someone will be listening to their social media and that whatever happens next year will not impact the island on the scale as they saw yesterday. If it takes several months to get in shape for a triathlon, I can’t wait to see what the island’s residents have in store for next year’s gridlock as they prepare over the next 12 months for Challenge Bahrain 2015.

The Abu Dhabi Reem Island Murder Video – the ethical and moral considerations

The past week was witness to a tragic incident in the UAE’s capital. On the first of December a women, a US national, was fatally stabbed by a suspect wearing an abaya and niqab, the traditional cloak worn by women and a full face covering. You can read the full background here at The National.

This incident is unique; the country is known for its safety for both nationals and expatriates. A major operation was launched by Abu Dhabi police to locate and capture the suspect(s). Two days following the killing, Abu Dhabi Police shared with the media and via their YouTube channel CCTV footage from the mall of the suspect entering and leaving the location. The video has been seen more than two million times in the space of 48 hours.

The next day, on the 4th of December and 48 hours after the murder, the Ministry of Interior made the announcement that everyone was waiting for. The suspect had been caught. The Ministry shared more details of events on that day, including how the suspect had placed an explosive device outside the flat of another American national.

But that wasn’t all. Abu Dhabi Police shared a video, which was an edit of the CCTV footage along with video from the raid on the house where the suspect was arrested. Do watch the video, which is posted below.

Personally, I’ve never seen such footage broadcast before a trial has begun. The video, which runs for over six minutes and has now been watched almost two million times, plays music for dramatic effect on top of the footage.

I have a number of questions and issues, which I’d like your opinion on. Firstly, was the timing right? The video sends out the message that we will catch the perpetrators of such crimes as soon as is possible, but how will this affect a family which is still grieving? Secondly, does this prejudice the defence’s case and the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty?

Most importantly, the video doesn’t answer why the crime was committed. If certain individuals hold views that are anti-foreigner, how are these views to be addressed?

For me, there’s more questions than answers about this case. I’d love to hear your feedback.