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Mon 30 Dec 2019 11:57 AM

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Saudi firm Smaat denies Twitter allegations of platform manipulation

Twitter removed 5,929 accounts that are linked to Riyadh-based Smaat and which amplified messages 'favourable to Saudi authorities'

Saudi firm Smaat denies Twitter allegations of platform manipulation

Twitter said it has permanently suspended Smaat’s access to the service, as well as the Twitter accounts of Smaat’s senior executives.

Saudi Arabia-based digital marketing and communications agency Smaat has denied allegations by Twitter that it is involved in platform manipulation as part of a state-backed information operation.

On December 20, Twitter said Smaat had created, purchased and managed about around 5,929 accounts, which have since been removed by Twitter, that amplified messages “favourable to Saudi authorities, mainly through inauthentic engagement tactics such as aggressive liking, retweeting and replying,” and that a portion of the content was related to events “relevant to Western audiences, including amplification of discussion around sanctions in Iran and appearances by Saudi government officials in Western media”.

However Smaat Co. CEO Sami AL-Rasheed said on Monday that the company “will not tolerate Twitter’s false allegations whatsoever” and that it will “take all necessary legal actions against Twitter’s arbitrary decision, which had a direct effect on our brand, name, reputation, and business in the market”.

Al-Rasheed added: “To clarify the facts, Smaat Co. is a Marketing Agency based in Saudi Arabia and strictly known for its compliance with the laws, market practices, and business standards in the region.”

But Twitter has since permanently suspended Smaat’s access to the service, as well as the Twitter accounts of Smaat’s senior executives.

“We have also shared information about this activity with our peer companies to enable investigations of related activity on their services, and the relevant law enforcement entities. 

“We exist to serve the public conversation around the world. To this end, we’ll continue to take strong enforcement action against any state-backed information campaigns which undermine our company’s mission, principles, and policies,” it said in a statement.

Smaat, which has offices in Riyadh, Dubai and Cario, has managed a range of Twitter accounts for high-profile individuals and government departments in Saudi Arabia.

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