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How Saudi Arabia activates against its critics on Twitter


How Saudi Arabia activates against its critics on Twitter

Dubai (AFP)

Two former Twitter employees, an American and a Saudi, and a second Saudi national have been charged in the United States for providing Ryad with information about social network users critical of the Saudi royal family.

According to US justice, the trio provided Ryad with e-mail or IP addresses, phone numbers or the birthdays of critics, on Twitter, of a character called "Royal Family Member-1" by a prosecutor. American.

According to the Washington Post, this character is none other than the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Here is an overview of how Saudi Arabia targets dissidents and responds to criticism on social networks.

- "Mr Hashtag" -

Saud al-Qahtani, a close friend of Prince Mohammed, has long stirred fear in the kingdom, earning the nicknames of "Mr Hashtag" or "lord of the flies" for leading an army of social media workers charged with intimidating those who criticize Saudi Arabia.

Qahtani was removed from the royal court for his alleged role in the murder of the regime's critical journalist Ryad Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

He has not appeared in public since the murder, committed in early October 2018 and the global repercussions. We do not know where he is.

Last year, the New York Times reported that Qahtani was the architect of the campaign to harass and silence the kingdom's critics on Twitter.

According to the Bellingcat investigation site, he also tried "to acquire the means to ban Twitter accounts."

In September, Twitter shut down thousands of accounts around the world for broadcasting false news, including some that were amplifying pro-Saudi messages as part of a regional propaganda campaign.

He also closed Mr. Qahtani's account, followed by about 1.3 million people.

- aggressive digital diplomacy

Saudi Arabia has used Twitter to attack governments critical of it, such as that of Qatar, an emirate it has been boycotting since June 2017.

Last year, a crisis erupted with Ottawa because of a tweet in Arabic from the Canadian Embassy in Ryad calling for the "immediate release" of Saudi activists.

Saudi Arabia expelled Canada's ambassador and froze all trade with Ottawa.

Western officials said Canada was asked to remove the tweet, which was seen as an attempt to communicate directly with the Saudis, which is a serious interference in Ryad's eyes.

- To create suspicion

Saudi Arabia has more than 11 million Twitter users, according to the marketing and research company Talkwalker, which states that about 70% of the 34 million people are "active users of social networks."

But fear of prosecution has prompted many Saudis to close their Twitter accounts.

In a televised debate last year, Abdallah al-Fawzan, a member of the Advisory Council, said the Saudis had the right to call a person a "traitor" if they do not defend the country or remain silent in the face of criticism. directed against Ryad.

Saudi economist Essam al-Zamil was targeted last year after criticizing on Twitter the government's plan to float Aramco, the oil giant.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Zamil, "who has expressed doubts about the projected amounts expected from Aramco IPO" is sued for belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group declared out-of-state. law in Saudi Arabia.

© 2019 AFP

Source: france24

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