Twitter has permanently banned nearly three hundred accounts based in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, citing “platform manipulation” which boosted support for the Saudi government and “targeted” countries like Iran and Qatar.
The latest purge was announced in a blog post on Friday, stating the company had removed a “network of 273 accounts” for coordinated and suspicious activity.
“These accounts were interconnected in their goals and tactics: a multi-faceted information operation primarily targeting Qatar, and other countries such as Iran,” the blog post said, adding “It also amplified messaging supportive of the Saudi government.”
The company said it found evidence that a software firm based in Abu Dhabi, DotDev, managed the operation, and that it had banned all accounts associated with the tech firm.
Twitter additionally suspended a separate group of over 4,200 accounts that, it said, operated “uniquely from the UAE” and employed “false personae” to tweet about “regional issues,” such as the war in Yemen, or the country’s Houthi movement.
Six Saudi accounts linked to the country’s state media were also dumped, along with that of a former aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saud al-Qahtani, infamous for his alleged central role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October, for which he was sanctioned by the United States. Twitter said it would “continue to suspend a range of accounts for other types of political spam violations in Saudi Arabia.”
Mass banning campaigns are nothing new for Twitter, launching a program to archive “foreign information operations” in the fallout of the 2016 presidential election, which it now effectively wields as a social media blacklist.
In August, the platform scrubbed nearly 1,000 profiles it claimed were linked to a “state-backed information operation” focusing on the protests in Hong Kong, and on the same day announced an advertising ban for all “state-controlled” media – though the company has stuck to its own carefully-formulated definition of who qualifies for that label.
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