Twitter announced on Friday that it had suspended thousands of state-sponsored accounts with ties to Middle East governments, including one belonging to a former Saudi Arabian official who’s been implicated in the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The company announced the suspensions in a Twitter Safety blog post on Friday. In the post, the company said it had suspended the account of Saud al-Qahtani, a former aide to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed. Implicated in Khashoggi’s death, he was also the target of sanctions enacted by the Trump administration in response to the journalist’s killing.
Not much has been heard from Al-Qahatani since his dismissal by Prince Mohammed in Oct. 2018, on Twitter or otherwise, leading to recent speculation he was dead.
Twitter only said the account was suspended for “violations of our platform manipulation policies.” The company had no further comment on the situation after a subsequent email from Mashable.
Among the other accounts banned:
- 271 from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt, for attacking Qatar and Iran
- 4,248 accounts from the UAE targeting Qatar and Yemen that “were often employing false personae and tweeting about regional issues, such as the Yemeni Civil War and the Houthi Movement”
- Six accounts from Saudi Arabia that were spreading pro-Saudi propaganda
- 259 accounts in Spain tied to the People’s Party for “engaging in spamming or retweet behaviour to increase engagement”
- 1,019 accounts in Ecuador tied to the PAIS Alliance political party for “hashtag manipulation.”
In addition to the suspensions, the company published a data set on over 4,000 accounts that had previously been flagged for running state-sponsored propaganda targeting Hong Kong protesters.
Last October, following Khashoggi’s initial disappearance, Twitter suspended a slew of accounts that were spamming the platform with pro-government, pro-Prince Mohammed messages. At the same time, the story broke of a pro-government Saudi spy who had actually infiltrated Twitter and worked within the company to aid the Prince Mohammed’s regime.
Twitter has made the data sets available to download and peruse here in exchange for an email address.