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Twitter Removes Thousands of Accounts Linked to Saudi Government Influence Operation

(Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

Twitter announced Friday that it has pemanently removed over 88,000 accounts associated with Saudia Arabia, many of which were linked to state actors.

The mammoth social media platform said in a blog post that it has released data about 5,929 now removed accounts linked to a “significant state-backed information operation” originating in Saudi Arabia for violating Twitter’s platform manipulation policies.

That group of accounts was part of a larger network of more than 88,000 accounts engaging in “spammy behavior,” Twitter’s investigative team found. The platform has permanently suspended all of the network’s accounts and shared details about the network with peer companies, according to the blog post.

Accounts associated with the network inserted themselves into discussions on Twitter about Saudi Arabia and attempted to advance the country’s interests, including promoting political messages favoring Saudi authorities, the social media company said.

The malicious account network’s discussions also touched on sanctions in Iran and appearances by Saudi government officials in Western media.

Twitter said it was able to trace the network’s activity back to Smaat, a Saudi-based social media marketing and management company.

“We exist to serve the public conversation around the world,” Twitter said. “To this end, we’ll continue to take strong enforcement action against any state-backed information campaigns which undermine our company’s mission, principles, and policies.”

It is not the first time Twitter has removed networks of accounts linked to state actors. In August, the social media giant said it shut down 936 accounts originating from within the People’s Republic of China that were involved in a “coordinated state-backed operation” to “sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”

More recently in October, Twitter said it removed four networks of accounts that originated in Russia and Iran and were attempting to interfere in the 2020 elections.

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