Twitter has suspended the account of one of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s senior aid, Saud Al-Qahtani, who is regarded by many as the kingdom’s enforcer following his involvement in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi nearly a year ago.
The suspension of Al-Qahtani’s page is part of a much wider crackdown on Twitter accounts that are being used for propaganda purposes by users of the social media site in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. The social network also separately removed accounts linked to Riyadh’s “state-run media apparatus” and others in the Emirates and Egypt, all of whom are said to be amplifying pro-Saudi messages.
A company blogpost of Twitter reported that the social media site had removed a total of 267 accounts originating from the UAE and Egypt. “These accounts were interconnected in their goals and tactics: a multi-faceted information operation primarily targeting Qatar, and other countries such as Iran. It also amplified messaging supportive of the Saudi government,” the social media gian said.
Twitter confirmed that it had “found evidence that these accounts were created and managed by DotDev, a private technology company operating in the UAE and Egypt.” These accounts have been “permanently suspended” including “all accounts associated with them, from [our] service”.
A further 4,248 accounts were also suspended. They are said to be operating uniquely from the UAE, mainly directed at Qatar and Yemen. Twitter revealed that “these accounts were often employing false personae and tweeting about regional issues, such as the Yemeni Civil War and the Houthi Movement”.
The social media company’s “investigations also detected a small group of six accounts linked to Saudi Arabia’s state-run media apparatus which were engaged in coordinated efforts to amplify messaging that was beneficial to the Saudi government.” They are said to have presented themselves as independent journalistic outlets while tweeting narratives favourable to the Saudi government.
As part of its sweeping cull of false accounts Al-Qahtani’s account was suspended for what Twitter said were “violations of [our] platform manipulation policies”.
Al-Qahtani was fired from his influential role in January over allegations that he had a major role in Khashoggi’s death. The former advisor to the crown prince allegedly communicated with the hit-squad sent to Istanbul to kill the Washington Post journalist.