Saudi Trolls the biggest misinformation network in the Middle East
Saudi trolls emerged after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came to power, who rules the kingdom with repression, killing and arrests.
The young ruler established a vast online army consisting of trolls on Twitter.
Forty per cent of the tweets in the Arab world coming from Saudi Arabia.
This army came in a step that the criminal prince realizes to protect his rule from attacks by human rights organizations, Saudi dissidents and foreign critics.
Saud Al-Qahtani, an adviser to the royal court, led the online army project.
The Turkish prosecution accused Al-Qahtani of taking part in murdering and dismembering the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Al-Qahtani led a campaign to silence critics, recruiting accounts on Twitter to track down critics and deploying an army of trolls, sometimes referred to as “flies,” to harass them online.
Often the trolls use abusive language to discredit human rights defenders and distort the truth to promote the government’s agenda and prevent Saudis from thinking independently.
Since joining the royal court’s propaganda efforts, the Saudi “electronic army” has become one of the largest disinformation networks in the Middle East.
Twitter deleted thousands of fake accounts linked to Saudi Arabia but admitted that it could not eliminate the problem entirely.
It should be noted that cybersecurity efforts are commonly used to protect essential assets from espionage and piracy. But in Saudi Arabia, the priority appears to be watching the royal family’s image, which is wary of any hint of dissent and does not accept criticism, no matter how moderate it is.
The trolls recently targeted and demonized the Palestinians before reaching a possible normalization agreement with Israel.
The Palestinians were described as remnants of the Canaanite and Roman eras, who had become “a burden on the fraternal state of Israel.”
Meanwhile, trolls are bin Salman’s favourite weapon against his domestic rivals.
A coordinated online campaign by his supporters justified the removal of his predecessor, Muhammad bin Nayef, from the crown prince’s position, claiming that he was accused of mismanagement and drug abuse.
The targeting campaign included elites who did not show loyalty to bin Salman’s policies, including the Saudi war effort in Yemen and the controversial “Vision 2030” project.
All about MBS image
Saudi media and online platforms are constantly focusing on the crown prince’s name in the news.
Rarely does a day pass without Saudi newspapers having his picture posted on their websites and highlighting his achievements.
The Saudi media and the trolls are currently celebrating the latest story from bin Salman about reducing carbon emissions in the Middle East by planting 50 billion trees in a massive afforestation project.
The project is part of an effort to rehabilitate bin Salman’s reputation after several scandals and failures.
Bin Salman’s rise to power began with the war in Yemen, which caused a humanitarian catastrophe that attracted criticism from the international community.
In November 2017, bin Salman arrested dozens of Saudi princes, business leaders and government ministers allegedly fighting corruption. Still, in reality, the motive behind this process was an attempt to concentrate power in his hands.
A month later, bin Salman launched Saudi entertainment projects to divert attention from his political and economic changes.
The recent release of the CIA report on Bin Salman’s involvement in killing Khashoggi has tarnished his image in the West.
It is important to note that not all Saudi social media users who express their enthusiastic support for the royal establishment operate under the trolls’ umbrella.
The Saudis often issue deceptive support statements to dispel any belief that they may not be good citizens.