Twitter removes thousands of accounts linked to Saudi, Egypt

Twitter has removed thousands of accounts linked to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and several other countries for either taking directions from the governments or promoting pro-government content.

Twitter said in a post on its platform on Thursday that it had taken down 2,541 accounts in the Egypt-based El Fagr network because it created “inauthentic accounts to amplify messaging critical of Iran, Qatar and Turkey”. 

“Information we gained externally indicates it was taking direction from the Egyptian government,” Twitter said.

Twitter also removed 5,350 accounts associated with Saudi Arabia and operating out of multiple countries including the kingdom, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which had content praising the Saudi leadership and critical of Qatar and Turkish activity in Yemen.

The action by social media company came more than four months after the company took down almost 6,000 accounts it deemed to be tied to a state-backed information operation in Saudi Arabia. On December 20 last year, Twitter had said the removed Saudi accounts were amplifying messages favourable to Saudi authorities, mainly through “aggressive liking, retweeting and replying”.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar and imposed a sea, land and air blockade on it, claiming it supported “terrorism” and was too close to Iran. Qatar vehemently rejected the claims and said there was “no legitimate justification” for the severance of relations.

‘Targeted attempt’

The company also removed 3,104 fake accounts created from a single IP range in Honduras by a staffer on the government’s behalf to retweet the president’s account.

An investigation that followed a report by investigative website Bellingcat on an Indonesian information operation targeting the West Papuan independence movement resulted in the removal of 795 fake accounts.

Meanwhile, a total of 8,558 accounts working to promote Serbia’s governing party and its leader was also removed.

Twitter said it took the actions because the accounts violated its policies and represented a targeted attempt to undermine the public conversation.