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Twitter suspends 90,000 accounts in Saudi

Twitter suspends 90,000 accounts in Saudi

Researchers traced the source of the coordinated activity to a Saudi-based social media and marketing company

Twitter removed almost 90,000 accounts linked to Saudi Arabia that researchers identified as part of a propaganda campaign to spread their geopolitical interests.

The accounts were “amplifying messages favourable to Saudi authorities” by using their large volume to aggressively like, retweet and reply to tweets related to local and western politics, Twitter said Friday in a blog post. The messaging specifically targeted discussions around Iranian sanctions and the murder of Saudi national and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said Renee DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, which analysed the tweets.

Researchers traced the source of the coordinated activity to Smaat, a Saudi-based social media and marketing company. Smaat’s own accounts have been suspended, along with those of the company’s senior executives, according to the blog post.

The campaign removed by Twitter is the type that tech companies say they are hunting down in the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in which Russian operatives used platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google’s YouTube to try to sway voter opinion.

Facebook had removed more than a dozen “coordinated inauthentic behavior” campaigns this year from countries like Russia, Iran, China and Israel. On Friday, the company announced it had taken down two unconnected networks of more than 1,300 accounts, pages and groups that originated in Georgia, Vietnam and the U.S. for engaging in foreign and government interference. In these efforts, actors spread disinformation and even created fake profile photos using artificial intelligence in an attempt to influence public opinion using false identities, a violation of Facebook’s policies.

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