Twitter suspended the account of former Saudi royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani on Friday, nearly a year after he was sacked over his suspected role in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The social network also separately removed accounts linked to Saudi Arabia's "state-run media apparatus" and others in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt, all of them amplifying pro-Saudi messages, according to a company blogpost.
Qahtani, a close confidante of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ran the royal court's media center as well as an electronic army tasked with protecting the kingdom's image and attacking its perceived enemies online. Qahtani has not tweeted since Oct. 22, shortly after he was fired, but sources told Reuters in January that he continued to wield considerable influence behind the scenes. Although the Saudi public prosecutor has said Qahtani participated in a plan to repatriate Khashoggi, officials have refused to disclose whether he was arrested and sources have said he was not among those put on trial for the murder.
Twitter suspended six other accounts linked to the Saudi government which were presenting themselves as independent journalistic outlets "while tweeting narratives favorable to the Saudi government," it said. It also removed a network of 267 accounts in the UAE and Egypt which were engaged in a "multi-faceted information operation" targeting Qatar and Iran while amplifying messages supportive of the Saudi government. Twitter took down an even larger network of 4,258 accounts which it said operated exclusively from the UAE, employing fake names and tweeting mostly about Qatar and Yemen. It did not name an entity behind that operation.
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