Also of interest in this story is the coincidence of Saudi investment in the company and the potential curtailment of Twitter as a platform for political dissent. It was, for example, instrumental in the Iranian “Green Revolution” a few years back. “Saudi grand mufti: Twitter is full of lies,” from the Jerusalem Post, January 29:
The Saudi grand mufti on Friday called social-networking website Twitter full of lies, a day after the site announced that it would begin restricting Tweets in specific countries.
The news from the social media platform is renewing questions over how it will handle issues of free speech as it rapidly expands its global user base.
Until now, Twitter had to remove a tweet from its global network if it received a takedown request from a government.
But the company said in a blog post published on Thursday that it now has the ability to selectively block a Tweet from appearing to users in one country.
“Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country while keeping it available in the rest of the world,” the Twitter blog said.
Twitter gave as examples of restrictions it might cooperate with, such as pro-Nazi content in France and Germany, where it is banned. It said that even with the possibility of such restrictions, Twitter would not be able to operate with some countries.
“Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there,” it said.
“As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression.”
In the interest of transparency, Twitter said, it has built a mechanism to inform users in the event that a tweet is being blocked. A Twitter spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the blog post.
Saudi Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh said in his Friday sermon in Riyadh that Muslims should avoid being a “source or feeding” Twitter, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported.
Twitter was a place “in which people are invited to throw charges between them, and to lie in a manner that brings fame to some,” he said.
The 71-year-old cleric called on those present to warn people about such sites, adding that positive sites do exist on the Internet concerning science, business and God.
Despite the grand mufti’s caution over the website, Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company announced in December that it would invest $300 million in the social-media site.
“Our investment in Twitter reaffirms our ability in identifying suitable opportunities to invest in promising, high-growth businesses with a global impact,” Alwaleed said, according to BBC.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, critics question whether the site has succumbed to pressure from certain governments or even its new Saudi investors, with some activists tweeting for a one-day Twitter boycott against the company.
Twitter’s acknowledgment that it will censor content represents a significant departure from its tone just one year ago, when anti-government protesters in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab countries coordinated mass demonstrations on the social network and, in the process, thrust Twitter’s disruptive potential into the global spotlight….