Saudi Plots

Twitter closes thousands of Saudi trolls accounts

Twitter has closed thousands of accounts belonging to Saudi trolls for attacking the US National Intelligence Report on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Washington Post revealed that Twitter closed thousands of fake accounts, which launched a massive campaign as soon as the American report was announced.

The report showed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the embassy in Istanbul, October 2, 2018.

The newspaper said that these Saudi-based accounts, using fake profile pictures and repeated phrasing, sought to undermine US intelligence officials’ conclusion.

The report confirmed that the Saudi campaign targeted an American audience by directly responding to tweets by several news organizations based in the United States.

Standardized pattern

The report pointed out that these accounts used a standard pattern and published them as responses to The Washington Post, Bloomberg, and NBC News tweets.

“The Khashoggi case is closed, with the criminals in prison, because of what they did,” the standard tweet was.

“Other similar and repeated comments have appeared on the tweets of CNN, CBS News and The Los Angeles Times,” the report continued.

“These tweets were part of a broad effort by Saudi accounts, working in both English and Arabic, to form the public narrative about the Saudi crown prince’s role in Khashoggi’s killing.”

Saudi manipulation

Twitter said that thousands of Saudi accounts were closed for tampering with the platform and other violations.

The Saudi operation, which targeted US news agencies’ tweets using dozens of fake accounts, is in line with the Saudis’ operations on social media in the past.

Political content

Jones stressed that “it is easy to determine the coordinated activity of the accounts, which are published about the report issued recently on Khashoggi.”

He stated that in addition to the posts’ timing and the similarity of the content, the accounts are almost exclusively posting non-political content in the Arabic language to remain active.

He added, “But then it turns into political publications in the English language, in an attempt to refute the criticism.”

The Washington Post reported that the Saudi government has long sought to use media and technology to shape public narratives about significant events and politically essential topics.

Researchers say that Saudi officials have found that manipulating Twitter allows them to take advantage of its power without imposing bans or other visible restrictions.

Twitter reported that it had investigated about 3,500 accounts and suspended their comment after commenting on the CIA report. Still, the company was unable to determine who or what was behind the impact campaign.

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