Governments and social media influencers can work together to fight fake news on online platforms, a popular Bahraini YouTuber told a government forum in Sharjah on Sunday.
Omar Farooq, 27, a social media star, influencer and filmmaker, urged authorities to reach out to younger audiences through YouTubers who have millions of followers and subscribers on social media.
He said governments should engage with young people and not be dismissive of their “seemingly crazy ways”, as these can also bring about change.
Mr Farooq told the International Government Communication Forum, at Expo Centre Sharjah, that he started as an average YouTuber.
But he evolved into making short films that have a social impact.
“To the many officials here, do not be dismissive of the young generation, instead guide them,” Mr Farooq said.
Mr Farooq’s YouTube channel Omar Tries has more than 4.6m subscribers, while he is followed by more than 2.5m people on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Through his videos, he informs his viewers about official procedures and social and humanitarian issues.
“I have posted around 130 different videos which focus on social issues, and more than half a billion people have viewed them,” he said.
At the forum, Mr Farooq shared a documentary on life inside a prison in Bahrain.
“I was with people from the Ministry of Justice talking about alternative penalties and reduced sentences based on good behaviour," he said.
“I suggested I could do a video on it, and they were happy about it."
Through his documentary, he helped educate the public in Bahrain about the country’s legal procedures and showed how prisoners lived, Mr Farooq said.
“I also came across a number of artworks made by prisoners, with the help of the jail authorities. We had them auctioned.”
The money raised was used to help the prisoners' families, he said.
The short movie was a success and Mr Farooq was subsequently approached by the government to help focus on the work of custom officers.
For that project, Mr Farooq worked as an undercover customs officer and was part of a team involved in a drugs seizure.
He shot another video showing the aftermath of the devastating chemical explosion at Lebanese capital Beirut's port in August 2020. The blast killed 218 people and injured thousands.
In another video, Mr Farooq disguised himself as a disabled man and showed how disability made his Umrah – a pilgrimage to Makkah – extremely difficult.
The story generated considerable interest.
“I posed as a disabled person in a wheelchair to make the video but I was prevented from filming,” he said.
“When I was inside [the holy site], I decided to take the risk and started shooting.”
The video went viral and authorities in Saudi Arabia got in touch with him.
“They thanked me for the video,” he said.
Mr Farooq said his work focuses on the things that affect ordinary people – whether it is wars, natural disasters or the everyday problems of daily life.