Twitter removes 88K accounts tied to Saudi Arabia

Twitter removes 88K accounts tied to Saudi Arabia
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Twitter on Friday announced that it had taken down more than 88,000 accounts linked to Saudi Arabia, citing concerns they were involved in spreading misinformation and spam.

The company wrote in a blog post that it is adding data and information on almost 6,000 of the accounts to its public archive of state-backed information campaigns.

“Today, we are sharing comprehensive data about 5,929 accounts which we have removed for violating our platform manipulation policies,” Twitter wrote, adding that internal investigations "have allowed us to attribute these accounts to a significant state-backed information operation on Twitter originating in Saudi Arabia.”

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The accounts were used to spread positive messages about Saudi authorities, along with advancing the country’s “geopolitical interests on the world stage,” including discussion of sanctions on Iran, Twitter said. The company said the accounts used third-party automated tools to help spread their messages.

The coordinated accounts were traced back by Twitter to Smaat, a social media and marketing company based in Saudi Arabia that is known to manage accounts of Saudi government agencies. Smaat and its senior executives have been suspended from Twitter as a result of the accounts.

Twitter said it decided to not disclose information on all 88,000 accounts due to researcher concerns around pre-filtering spam, but noted that the almost 6,000 accounts added to the archive represent a random sample of the accounts.

Twitter’s actions this week weren't the first time the social media platform has taken down Saudi-linked accounts.

In September, the company removed six accounts linked to a Saudi media group that it said were spreading positive messages about the country’s government. Twitter also removed hundreds of accounts originating in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt that it said were targeting Qatar and Iran and spreading pro-Saudi government messages.

Accounts linked to Russia, Iran, Spain and Venezuela were also taken down this year.

Twitter announced in May that it had suspended 160,000 accounts that were promoting terrorism in the second half of 2018.