How Twitter Is Used to Surveil and Targeting Saudi Dissidents by The Saudi Arabian Government

Executive Summary

  • MBS and other wealthy Saudis have opposed Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.
  • This has exposed Saudi control over Twitter.


Something that has been little known is the degree to which Saudi Arabia controls Twitter.

Jimmy Dore on The Relationship Between Saudi Arabia and Twitter

At the four-minute mark, it is explained that Twitter censors information on its platform for the Saudi Arabian government. 

Saudi Billionaires and Government Not Interested in Twitter Being Sold to Elon Musk

The following tweet was written by Alwaleed Talal, a member of the Saudi Royal Family.

This is Elon Musk’s response. 

Before diving into the censorship by Twitter, it is important to understand the types of things that happen in Saudi Arabia.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Completely intolerant of dissent—with mockery holding a special place of scorn—MBS has had critics harassed, kidnapped, and killed all over the world. The gruesome murder of former Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi is perhaps the best known instance of MBS’s penchant for brutality, but he was merely one victim of a larger crackdown that has seen thousands of people, including some of MBS’s own family members, rounded up and sent to prisons and black sites, where torture is routine.

In Saudi Arabia, where independent media is nonexistent, social media at first appeared to be “a great equalizer,” said Ali Al Ahmed, a Saudi analyst living in Washington, D.C., who is suing Twitter for failing to protect his account from Saudi spies. “That did not last.”

After a brief honeymoon of unfettered speech, pro-regime trolls and surveillance emerged on the site. Now as popular with members of the Saudi ruling family as the public, Twitter is no longer a place where ordinary Saudis feel comfortable speaking freely. Much the same could be said of Saudi dissidents and exiles, who talk of constant harassment, death threats, and attempts to hack their accounts. In their view, Twitter bears some responsibility for how its service has been abused. “There was no real step taken by the company to take care of and protect these activists,” said Al Sadhan.

Saudi Twitter has since become a place for the government to propagandize, track dissident thought, and identify victims for MBS’s personal team of enforcers. Regime officials are even known to chat with their future targets. – The New Republic

Saudi Arabia and Censorship

According to Reporters Without Borders, Saudi Arabia ranks 170th out of 180 countries in freedom of speech, as is explained in the following quotation.

Saudi Arabia permits no independent media. The authorities keep Saudi journalists under close surveillance, even when they are abroad, as Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul in October 2018 illustrated. Despite his talk of reform, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) has intensified the repression since his appointment as crown prince in June 2017. The number of journalists and citizen-journalists in detention has tripled since the start of 2017. Most are being held arbitrarily and are likely subjected to torture, which is almost systematic for prisoners of conscience. Journalists who voice criticism or analyse political problems are liable to be fired or detained under criminal code provisions or under the terrorism or cyber-crime laws on charges of blasphemy, “insulting religion,” “inciting chaos,” “jeopardising national unity,” or “harming the image and reputation of the king and the state”. Everyone censors themselves, even on social networks. Journalists who dare to criticise the country’s role in the war in Yemen, call for rapprochement with Qatar or oppose normalising relations with Israel are regarded as traitors. Journalists automatically become suspect if they opt for neutrality rather than toe the official media line, which is to sing MBS’s praises. They are persecuted and harassed online by “electronic brigades” that are very active on social media, especially Twitter. The Saudi authorities also use very sophisticated spyware to monitor exiled journalists or influential people, as evidenced by the revelation that they managed to hack into Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos’s phone. – Reporters Without Borders

The US, Which Claims To Support Freedom of Speech, Allows Governments That Do Not to Aquire Partially or In Total US Media Companies

Several natural questions arise from this quote.

Question #1

Why are members of the ruling Saudi royal family allowed to own stock in US Big Tech firms? And why has this acquisition of stock gone virtually without any concerns being voiced?

Further in the article, we will see that the ownership stake in Twitter by Alawalleed Talal influences and continues to influence Twitter.

Naturally, Talal has a charity, which you can read about at this link. It contains all the similar propaganda about how he (like Saudi Arabia) is pursuing equal rights for women. 

Question #2

This problem is not limited to Saudi Arabia. China, which ranks just above North Korea in freedom of speech which you can see at this link, at 177 out of 180 countries, was allowed to purchase US media conglomerate IDG and Forbes, again without any commentary, which I covered in the article Can You Trust IDC and Their Now China Based Owners?

How Saudi Arabia Infiltrated Twitter and Used it to Target Opponents of the Government

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly and extensively used Twitter to surveil and gain intelligence on Saudis, as explained in the following quotation.

In December 2015, an FBI agent visited Twitter headquarters in San Francisco to tell them they had a Saudi espionage problem. While Abouammo was gone, Alzabarah was still siphoning data from thousands of accounts and passing it to his handlers. The FBI asked that Twitter refrain from taking immediate action but, reportedly suspicious about the intentions of government security agencies, which are known to pressure tech companies for private user information, Twitter decided to confront Alzabarah and suspend him.

More than five years have passed since the FBI told Twitter it had a Saudi spy problem. The company has since promised tightened procedures and access controls. But for many dissidents, it’s too late. Put another way, a murderous autocratic government abused its close relationship with Twitter to cultivate spies who provided information that then got innocent people thrown in jail. That government remains one of Twitter’s largest outside shareholders and continues to harass and monitor its citizens via the micro-blogging service. MBS has yet to suffer so much as a public warning, while people like Bader Al Asaker—who spoke multiple times with the Khashoggi hit squad on the day the journalist was murdered—use the site to propagandize to a huge audience. – The New Republic

And this quotation.

In 2014 and 2015, a team of Saudi agents allegedly stole proprietary and sensitive personal data from the American social media platform Twitter, in order to unmask anonymous dissidents of Saudi Arabia. Email addresses, phone numbers, internet IP addresses, dates of birth and a history of all the users’ activity of Saudi dissidents, opponents and others, were among the stolen materials. – Wikipedia

I am not sure what is “alleged” about this, and this was proven.

The quote continues.

The United States Department of Justice charged two former Twitter workers and a Saudi intermediary with “acting as illegal agents of Saudi Arabia”. Personal data of at least 6,000 Twitter accounts was acquired, according to the complaint.

Human rights groups ANHRI and Prisoners of Conscience have observed that some anonymous Saudi political activists on Twitter were identified and detained after the infiltration, and suspect that it is related. A Saudi scholar in exile in the United States sued Twitter, alleging that dozens of anonymous political activists he was in contact with have died, were tortured, or remain behind bars as a result of being found to have a connection to him.

Were these the names that were part of the 6,000 Twitter accounts acquired? The DOJ should publish a statement on this question, and it is an easy analysis to do.

The quote continues.

Ali Alzabarah joined Twitter as a site reliability engineer in August 2013. Being involved in keeping the site up, he was given broad access.[10]

In November 2013, Abouammo, who joined the firm as a member of Twitter’s global media team to head the Middle East partnerships, met Alzabarah there.

Months later, Abouammo met al-Asaker in 2014 in London, where he was given a $20,000 watch. A week after returning to Twitter’s headquarters, Abouammo accessed the system he used to verify users and obtained information about at least two Saudi dissidents, later passing the data to al-Asaker. That system, according to insiders who have used it, retains information such as email addresses, phone numbers and the latest log-in time – personal information usable to track a user in real life.

In May 2015, and within the first week of arriving in San Francisco from Washington, D.C. where he met with al-Asaker, Alzabarah “began to access without authorization private data of Twitter users en masse.” Over 6,000 users were compromised in six months, according to the FBI. 33 of those users, the Saudi government has already requested Twitter to provide their personal information through emergency disclosure demands.

Seems a bit like a smoking gun. Twitter did not hand over this information to the Saudi government, which Facebook does typically. Therefore, Saudi Arabia infiltrated Twitter.

The quote continues.

Later in 2015, Abouammo departed Twitter for a position at Amazon in Seattle. Over the next two years, well over $300,000 in bank transfers were made from al-Asaker to Abouammo’s various bank accounts.

On December 2, 2015, Alzabarah reportedly acknowledged to his superiors that he examined user data out of curiosity. His work-owned laptop was taken, and he was removed from the office. He returned to Saudi Arabia the next day after communicating that night with al-Asaker and then Dr. Faisal Al Sudairi, the Saudi consul general in Los Angeles. Alzabarah has not been seen since, according to authorities.

After arrival in Saudi Arabia, Alzabarah became the CEO of the Misk Initiatives Center, a branch of Mohammed bin Salman’s Misk Foundation, which he created in 2011 and whose secretary-general was al-Asaker.

The departure of Ali Alzabarah didn’t cause a stir in Twitter. “One day the general counsel came to me and said there was this crazy thing that happened. They’re out of the company,” a former Twitter executive remarked. “You can never talk about it,” “inside, it was a total non-thing. No one in the rank and file who had ever heard of it. It was a nonissue.”

This is called a coverup. Twitter did not communicate that it had been breached either internally or externally. Twitter will also not tell the impacted people that their data has been breached and who has that data. Twitter used the false excuse of a “bug” to cover up the real reason for the breach.

Twitter Puts Saudi Dissidents Live in Danger By Covering Up the Real Cause and Source of the Data Breach

The quote continues.

Although Twitter has not revealed the identity of those who may have been unmasked as a result of the claimed attack, human rights groups, such as ANHRI, linked three Saudis detained since 2015 with using Twitter handles @sama7ti, @coluche ar, and @mahwe13, all critical of the Saudi government. Another human rights organization, Prisoners of Conscience, reported an additional case of a Saudi male who posted critical comments on Twitter under the handle @albna5y and was imprisoned in September 2017.

Al-Jasser, a Saudi man suspected of running an anonymous Twitter account, was apprehended in early 2018. He was linked to @coluche_ar, one of the accounts obtained by the Twitter breach, according to ANHRI.

Though al-Jasser was reported to have died in jail after being tortured, Saudi officials notified a United Nations team monitoring enforced disappearances in February that he was being kept at Al Ha’ir Prison near Riyadh, according to MENA Rights Group.

Following a March 2018 arrest and charges that he used a popular parody account to criticize the Saudi government, Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, a 37-year-old Red Crescent relief worker, was convicted by Saudi Arabia’s specialized criminal court and sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by an additional 20-year travel restriction.

Omar Abdulaziz’s account was one of those breached. On February 17, 2016. A message from Twitter’s security staff notified him that his and a limited number of other users’ personal information had been compromised due to a “bug.” “The email address and phone number linked to your account was viewed by another account,” said the message. He later filed a lawsuit against the company for allegedly failing to disclose the event.[24] The accusations are false, according to Twitter. – Wikipedia

This was a lie by Twitter to users — and notice that they did not tell them they were in danger as they were being surveilled and potentially targeted by the Saudi Arabian government.

The DOJ Brings Charges

This quote is from the DOJ’s website.

“Acting in the United States under the direction and control of Saudi officials, the defendants are alleged to have obtained private, identifying information about users of Twitter who were critical of the Saudi government,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “Two of the defendants – Alzabarah and Abouammo – are former Twitter employees who violated their terms of employment to access this information in exchange for money and other benefits. Aside from being criminal, their conduct was contrary to the free speech principles on which this country was founded.”

Alzabarah, 35, of Saudi Arabia, and Abouammo, 41, of Seattle, Washington, were Twitter employees. According to the complaint, between November of 2014 and May of 2015, Almutairi, 30, of Saudi Arabia, and foreign officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia convinced Abouammo and Alzabarah to use their employee credentials to gain access without authorization to certain nonpublic information about the individuals behind certain Twitter accounts. – DOJ

This is truly bizarre. How were the Saudi involvement in Twitter and the use of Twitter not stopped as soon as it was discovered, and why was it not communicated to the public? Twitter hides the fact that governments use Twitter for surveillance and targeting dissidents. Twitter also did not tell the public that Saudi Arabia asked for information on the details of dissidents. If Big Tech firms like Twitter, Google, and Facebook told the public that governments were making these requests, it would reduce the frequency with which these requests were made. However, all of these companies keep these requests secret.

Furthermore, outside of corporate espionage, there is ample evidence that Twitter has been aware that Saudi Arabia and other governments have been manipulating Twitter to shut down dissent for years.

And this brings us to the story of Jamal Khashoggi.

How the Jamal Khashoggi Murder Opened The Public’s Eyes to Thing Saudi Arabia Had Been Doing for Years

60 Minutes Australia will cover stories on Saudi Arabia that the US 60 Minutes will not. This censorship of US media concerning Saudi Arabia illustrates the degree of control by Saudi Arabia on the US — this is on the US government, Big Tech, and the media. 

This is the type of coverage that Saudi Arabia received before the Khashoggi murder. It is fawning, and MBS continually discusses his reforms, and a lightweight (but good looking) journalist lapping it up, even though she was in Saudi Arabia for the interview and could easily tell what Saudi Arabia is like. 

Notice how this coverage of another person who fled under fear of death from Saudi Arabia by 60 Minutes US presents the story more restrictedly. 

Interviews with Saudi Officials are laughingly filled with lies. The proposal is that a group of people who worked for MBS left for Turkey on a Saudi Arabian government jet and killed Khashoggi as part of a rogue operation. To protect the Saudi government, they have put these men under the death penalty to maintain the pretense that the Saudi government had no idea about this operation. 

What is brought up in this video is that Saudi Arabia distributes large amounts of money to US PR firms to produce false information about the country, as is found in the following quotation.

An International Business Times review of filings with the Departments of Justice shows that D.C. communications consulting firm Targeted Victory was paid over $1 million to write 55 tweets and create advertising campaigns on behalf of Arabia Now’s associated Twitter account.

For that work, from April 2015 through March 2017, Targeted Victory was paid $1,045,500 by the Saudi embassy. They wrote 55 tweets, which were then turned into advertisements through Twitter’s promoted tweets system. – IBTimes

Saudi Arabia is so censored that they cannot present a convincing case as soon as they do not control the media.

This is the government that Twitter supports and takes instruction from.

Dubai has a much better reputation than Saudi Arabia, much of it crafted by expensive PR, but Dubai is very similar to Saudi Arabia in terms of how they have managed and the rights of citizens and non-citizens. The Gulf State regimes are essentially similar to one another, and all have highly dictatorial regimes that use extreme violence to suppress dissent. All of this behavior is justified by passages from the Islamic documents, and this is how Muslim societies work worldwide. Unlike what liberal and Muslim apologists would like people to believe, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the other Gulf States are not “aberrations” from Islam but are precisely what happens when countries follow the rules of Islam. 

Throughout the Gulf States, it is easy to kill citizens because they disappear, and there are no questions raised within these societies when they disappear.

Large numbers of members of the Saudi royal family are kidnapped, imprisoned, and murdered.

Jamal Khashoggi is Only One of Many Dissidents Tortured and Murdered by Saudi Arabia’s Government

Khashoggi is only one of many dissidents who have been murdered. Saudi Arabian operatives either transport dissidents back to Saudi Arabia to be murdered or murders them in other countries. Curiously, Khashoggi was part of the in-group for decades and was an apologist for the Saudi royal family. He only became a dissident when censored and restricted by MBS for a mild comment about Donald Trump after he was elected that was mildly negative.

People are constantly trying to leave Saudi Arabia. However, Saudi Arabia’s government often does not allow them to leave, as the video above shows. 

How The Khashoggi Murder Caused Twitter to Act on Information, it Had Known for Years About Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Arabian government had been illegally extraditing dissidents for punishment back to Saudi Arabia for years or simply killing them in other countries. However, something about the Khashoggi murder crystallized the world’s attention on what had been, up until that time, the standard operating procedure for the Saudi government. And this caused Twitter to act, as is explained in the following quotation.

Twitter on Friday said it had “removed or suspended thousands of accounts with ties to governments in the Middle East,” including a former close media adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who reportedly ran a pro-regime online troll army and was implicated as involved in the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

According to the New York Times, that adviser, Saud el-Qahtani, had 1.3 million followers on the site before he was banned, although his account had mostly gone quiet in the wake of Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. A Twitter blog post said that Qahtani was “permanently suspended” due to “violations of our platform manipulation policies” alongside six other accounts that posed as legitimate media outlets but were in fact “engaged in coordinated efforts to amplify messaging that was beneficial to the Saudi government.”

Qahtani, alongside former two-star general and architect of Saudi Arabia’s disastrous intervention in Yemen Ahmad al-Assiri, were officially dismissed from the crown prince’s entourage last year as part of a cover-up operation designed to portray Khashoggi’s brutal murder as resulting from the actions of rogue personnel rather than the crown prince’s ongoing, brutal crackdowns on dissent. Twitter did not comment further when reached by CNN, though Qahtani has also been accused of overseeing the torture of jailed women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul.

Prior reporting by the New York Times has hinted at the scale of Qahtani’s online efforts to root out opposition to the totalitarian Saudi monarchy. In addition to directing particular ire at Khashoggi before his death, the Times wrote, Saudi officials coordinated with “social media specialists” via encrypted chat services WhatsApp and Telegram to disseminate “lists of people to threaten, insult and intimidate; daily tweet quotas to fill; and pro-government messages to augment.” Additionally, Saudi intelligence services reportedly recruited a mole at Twitter that they directed to “peer into several user accounts.” – Gizmodo

The Los Angeles Times explains the purge as far more extensive.

Twitter Inc. removed almost 90,000 accounts linked to the Saudi Arabian government that researchers identified as part of a sweeping, state-backed propaganda campaign to spread their geopolitical interests.

The accounts were “amplifying messages favorable to Saudi authorities” by using their large volume to aggressively like, retweet and reply to tweets related to local and western politics, Twitter said Friday in a blog post. The messaging specifically targeted discussions around Iranian sanctions and the murder of Saudi national and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said Renee DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, which analyzed the tweets.

Researchers traced the source of the coordinated activity to Smaat, a Saudi-based social media and marketing company linked to the government which is controlled by the royal family. Smaat’s own accounts have been suspended, along with those of the company’s senior executives, according to the blog post.

Twitter’s decision to suspend the Saudi accounts came a month after two former Twitter employees and a Saudi national were charged by the U.S. with helping Riyadh spy on dissidents who used the social network. Among those charged was Ahmed Saad Almutairi, an executive with Smaat, who was working on behalf of the royal family, according to court filings.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal owned about 4.9% of Twitter, according to company filings on Dec. 31, 2016, which are the most recent records of his stake available. – Los Angeles Times

The Twitter Cover-Up of The Saudi Arabian Manipulation of Their Platform

A few questions arise from this quotation.

Question #1

Twitter had no idea this massive operation was occurring on their platform?

Question #2

Did Twitter look the other way because they have a special and corrupt relationship with the Saudi Arabian government?

Question #3

Did Twitter decide to act once the DOJ brought the case against the breach of Twitter by Saudi Arabian operatives and public opinion had become alerted to what Saudi Arabia was doing? Did Twitter decide to virtue signal by taking action?

How Little Twitter Cares About Being Manipulated by Saudi Arabia

The following comment, which is on the Gizmodo article, provides one view that was not explained in the Gizmodo article.

These networks, which consist of a mixture of bots and abusive nationalists, have become incredibly common. Qahtani made a habit of harassing Arabic-speaking activists and journalists online, as did the networks he helped build. But most of them will be back before long.

Twitter isn’t that interested in actually combating the problem or they would have done this years ago. This is a half-measure designed to look like they’re addressing the problem when it takes a total of 10 seconds to find ultra-nationalist/abusive troll networks, bots and people, on Twitter.

The degree to which the Twitter action was also influenced by the Khashoggi murder (not the murder itself, but the public understanding of the murder) is explained in the following quotation.

“There’s a direct trail of blood drops from this hack to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” said Mark Kleiman, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who is representing Abdulaziz.

It was a trail that led straight to the doorstep of MBS. The crown prince, who the CIA has concluded authorized the operation that killed Khashoggi, is identified as “Saudi Royal Family Member-1” — and his secretary as “Foreign Official-1” — in a pending Justice Department indictment alleging wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes associated with a plot to plant two Saudi spies inside Twitter.

As “Conspiracyland” reveals, MBS is even said to have boasted about his role in the criminal scheme. “It was us. We did that. We have our guy at Twitter,” he allegedly told an associate. (Spokesmen for the Saudi government have declined multiple requests for comment.)

To understand how consequential the Twitter plot was, it’s important to understand the unique role the social media company’s platform had become in the Middle East. As is well known, Twitter was the primary form of messaging among democratic activists during the Arab Spring protests that convulsed the region starting in 2011.

Yet even after those protests were crushed in the years that followed, Twitter still loomed large — and nowhere more so than in Saudi Arabia. In a closed society, with no established forum for democratic debate, Twitter was the one platform for political discourse and much other discussion, says Abdulaziz.

“In the United States, you have the Congress. In Saudi Arabia, we have Twitter,” he says. “It wasn’t only a platform for us to talk about what we do believe. It was a place where we would gather, where we would see people, you know, who share the similar ideas or beliefs or who would try to do anything peacefully to change the situation in our country.”

And often they did so anonymously. All the more reason that the lively exchange of ideas among Saudi Twitter users — and the biting attacks by some of them on the rulers of their country — alarmed the regime, especially the rising new power in the royal court, MBS. So starting in 2014, Bader al-Asaker, MBS’s personal secretary and the director of MiSK, the prince’s personal foundation, launched an audacious plot to identify — and shut down — regime critics on Twitter. – Yahoo News

How There Can Be No Freedom of Expression in Saudi Arabia

This is an essential point because no such platform for discussion could be hosted in Saudi Arabia as its owners and management would be immediately imprisoned or murdered. Beyond that, Saudis know not to create such a platform in the first place.

Therefore the platform must persist outside of Saudi Arabia.

The quote continues.

In June of that year, Asaker was on a tour of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, where he was greeted and shown around by Ahmad Abouammo, a young U.S.-Lebanese citizen, who at the time was chief of the company’s Middle East partnerships tasked with managing Saudi Twitter accounts.

In classic spycraft fashion, Asaker cultivated Abouammo. He arranged to meet him in London, where he gave him an expensive luxury watch worth $20,000. It was the start of up to $300,000 in jewelry and cash that the Saudi official showered on Abouammo, with a chunk of it routed through a Beirut bank account set up in the name of one of the Twitter employee’s Lebanese relatives, according to an FBI affidavit entered as evidence in the case. And in exchange, according to prosecutors, Abouammo turned over the details of a widely read anonymous Saudi account critical of the Saudi regime — information that Asaker had requested. (Abouammo has pleaded not guilty to the charges.)

At the same time, Asaker recruited yet another Twitter mole, an engineer named Ali Alzabarah, who turned over the personal details — the emails, phone numbers, direct messages and IP addresses — of 6,000 users.

All of this was music to MBS’s ears. Saad Aljabri, a former senior Saudi counterterrorism official who was ousted by MBS, has alleged in a lawsuit against the crown prince in the United States that the de facto Saudi ruler boasted about his role overseeing the plot, leading to his comment “We have our guy at Twitter,” according to an account provided to “Conspiracyland” by Aljabri’s son Khalid.

One of the remarkable aspects of the Twitter plot is that the FBI first informed Twitter executives of the scheme in late 2015. And yet seven months later, the company’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, met with MBS during his “charm offensive” tour of the United States recounted in Episode 5.

Why would the CEO of one of America’s biggest social media companies meet with a foreign official whose operatives had, according to the FBI, just stolen his company blind? There were other factors Dorsey and the company had to consider. In the preceding months, another Saudi royal, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal — the fabulously wealthy Saudi who 25 years earlier had paid Donald Trump $20 million for the superyacht once owned by Jamal Khashoggi’s arms-dealer cousin Adnan — had upped his stake in Twitter to $350 million. That made him and his company, Kingdom Holding Company, one of the five biggest shareholders in the U.S.-based social media giant.

All the more reason for Dorsey to stay on the Saudis’ good side, as was clearly visible when the Twitter founder met the Saudi crown prince in New York, says Kleiman, Abdulaziz’s lawyer.

“There’s this amazing photograph we’ve gotten our hands on” from the meeting, says Kleiman. Dorsey “had lowered himself, and his head was bowed and inflected toward MBS as he was shaking MBS’s hand. Here he is practically curtsying to the guy. It’s got to be galling to anybody who’s been put at risk for this.” – Yahoo News

How Dorsey Implicitly Endorsed The Murder of Saudi Dissidents

There is no way that Dorsey knew exactly what MBS did. Not only had Twitter been infiltrated by Saudi agents, but that Twitter information was used to target Saudi dissidents and torture, murder, and imprison them. So he knew precisely what MBS and Saudi Arabia’s government did to the dissidents they targeted through their espionage on Twitter.

And yet Dorsey not only met with but still bowed to and catered to MBS.

The quote continues.

A Twitter spokesman declined to comment on why Dorsey would have met with a foreign leader whose spies had allegedly just infiltrated his company. The spokesman in an email said only that Twitter had notified affected users about the theft of their information and cooperated closely with government investigations. “We remain committed to protecting the public conversation from abuse by state actors,” said the spokesman, who asked not to be identified by name.

Abdulaziz would later form a close alliance with Khashoggi, exchanging hundreds of messages about ways to counter MBS’s digital repression — oblivious to the fact that the Saudis had scooped up personal details that would help them penetrate his phone and read their exchanges in real time.

But there were clues about what the Saudis were up to hiding in plain sight.

In August 2017, Saud al-Qahtani — MBS’s right-hand man and enforcer, who had created a “blacklist” of regime critics — published his own ominous tweet. “Does a pseudonym protect you from the #blacklist,” he wrote. “No.”

The Saudis, he added, had technical ways of figuring out who the critics were and even their IP addresses. It was, Qahtani wrote, “a secret I’m not going to say.”

It is worth noting that, as Qahtani was writing his warning, Khashoggi himself had not fully broken with the Saudi regime he had faithfully supported for several decades.

Despite his fervent backing of the Arab Spring and his calls for greater democracy and freedom of expression, Khashoggi was still trying to find a way to avoid antagonizing the royal court. As first reported by Wall Street Journal reporters Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck in their book “Blood and Oil,” Khashoggi proposed to the Saudi Information Ministry that he create a new U.S.-based think tank that would counter negative news coverage of the kingdom (and that he be hired as a consultant to advise the group). – Yahoo News

That point has never been explained to the public. Khashoggi was not much of a dissident. Instead, he was pushed into being a dissident by extraordinary repression by MBS. Khashoggi had been a propagandist for the Saudi government for decades before the government turned on him for his light on-air comment against Trump and prevented him from writing. This caused Khashoggi to leave Saudi Arabia and begin working outside the Kingdom.

If MBS had accepted Khashoggi’s offer, Khashoggi would have happily been the head of a “Ministry of Truth” that contradicted accurate reporting on Saudi Arabia from the West.

Something else of note is that Khashoggi worked for the Washington Post at his death. This is not a very good endorsement of the Washington Post, and the Post hires journalists who could also work at Saudi Arabia’s “Ministry of Truth.”

The quote continues.

But that overture never got far. He would soon be offered a chance to write op-ed columns for the Global Opinions section of the Washington Post. In his debut piece he took off the gloves, lambasting MBS for his crackdowns and arrests of dissidents. “Saudi Arabia Wasn’t Always This Repressive,” read the headline. “Now It’s Unbearable.”

It was a column, along with similarly hard-hitting follow-ups, that won him plaudits from dissidents like Abdulaziz, leading to a collaboration that within a year would result in Khashoggi’s murder. – Yahoo News

That brings up the question: Did Khashoggi write that article as retaliation against MBS or as a general concern. After all, he had offered to lead a “Ministry of Truth for MBS but was rebuffed. Khashoggi’s later critical articles were not because Khashoggi was concerned about the general lack of freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, but only to retaliate against MBS for what MBS had done to him personally.

Big Tech Loves Saudi Arabia and Appears to Respect Their Values

And Big Tech firms like Twitter bend over backward to follow the directives of Saudi Arabia more than others. Still, in all the Gulf States. Twitter seems perfectly happy to have its system used to target Saudi dissidents, which even results in them being killed outside of Saudi Arabia by the Saudi Arabian government. And these are leaders at companies worth millions of dollars and, in some cases, billions of dollars – however, they are still entranced by Saudi Arabian money.

And all of this has been kept quite silent, and I expect that very few of Twitter’s users know that Twitter is being used in this way.

What Would Musk Do Concerning Saudi Arabian Twitter Censorship Policy?

It is easy to propose that Musk would allow complete freedom of speech on Twitter if he had control of the platform, but would he?

Opening up freedom of speech on Twitter would be a significant threat to the Saudi Arabian government. Would Saudi Arabia retaliate against Musk or Musk companies? Saudi Arabia has a long-established pattern of murdering people in their way. Would Saudi Arabia murder Elon Musk, or is Musk simply too high profile to be murdered?

Also, what would Musk do regarding the current policy of allowing Saudi Arabian operatives to use Twitter as government surveillance and targeting system?

In all of this, it should be remembered that the US and Saudi Arabia have a “special relationship.” How can the US continue to have this relationship with Saudi Arabia?


Repressive governments have infiltrated Big Tech. While it was well understood that the US had infiltrated Big Tech, it is far less well known that Saudi Arabia has done so also.

Saudi Arabia has been using Twitter as a tracking and targeting system, and Twitter allowed it when it could easily control such invasive use of the system. This means that Twitter is compliant with how the Saudi Arabian government uses Twitter.

This also may be the tip of the iceberg. It has become apparent that there is a great deal of censorship restricting the ability to critique Islam on many platforms. Twitter allows Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States to dictate what will appear on Twitter concerning Saudi Arabia and Islam. Liberal-leaning individuals agree with censoring accurate information on Islam, which means that liberals have now formed a common cause with Saudia Arabia and the other Gulf States to censor any critique of Islam. However, as Saudi Arabia demonstrates and countless other countries, what occurs in Muslim-controlled societies.