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NY Times: Saudi Arabia deployed Twitter army against critics

Protesters in front of the White House after Jamal Khashoggi's death was confirmed [Twitter]
Protesters in front of the White House after Jamal Khashoggi's death was confirmed [Twitter]

Saudi Arabia deployed an online army to harass dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and other critics of the kingdom on Twitter, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The efforts to attack Khashoggi and other influential Saudis, and sway public opinion against them on the social media service, included a so-called troll farm based in Riyadh and a suspected spy within Twitter that the kingdom utilised to monitor user accounts, the New York Times reported.

Twitter declined to comment. A representative from the Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read: Twitter suspends fake accounts defaming Khashoggi

Saudi officials said on Saturday that Khashoggi died in a fight in its Istanbul consulate. But Turkish officials say Khashoggi was assassinated and dismembered by Saudi security forces.

The Times reported Saudi operatives began a social media campaign to harass critics in 2010. Saud al-Qahtani, an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, created the strategy behind the effort, the newspaper said, citing US and Saudi officials.

Qahtani was one of five officials Saudi King Salman has fired, according to Saudi state media, following the global controversy over Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Read: ‘The King ordered Khashoggi’s death and Mohammed bin Salman carried it out’

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