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Twitter Takes Down 20,000 Accounts Allegedly Linked to Saudi, Egyptian, Serbian Governments

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The US-based micro-blogging and social networking service regularly responds to requests to delete content and accounts, including information posted by the officials or media services of countries with whom Washington has strained relations.

Twitter has announced that it has deleted thousands of accounts said to be linked to the Egyptian, Honduran, Indonesian, Saudi Arabian and Serbian governments and officials.

The deleted accounts include 2,541 accounts allegedly associated with Egypt-based network El Fagr, with Twitter accusing the media group of creating “inauthentic accounts to amplify messaging critical of Iran, Qatar and Turkey”. According to the company, “information we gained externally indicates [El Fagr] was taking direction from the Egyptian government”. Twitter did not reveal its information sources.

Twitter also pointed to “many inauthentic accounts” accessing the site from a single IP range in Honduras, engaged in the heavy retweeting of President Juan Jose Orlando Hernandez’s account, with 3,104 such accounts removed.

The company said a Bellingcat report served as the impetus for action to delete an Indonesian information campaign targeting the West Papuan independence movement, with 795 accounts said to be removed for “pushing content from suspicious ‘news’ websites and promoting pro-government content”.

In addition, “a network of accounts associated with Saudi Arabia and operating out of multiple countries including KSA, Egypt and UAE” were said to have been found, engaging in “amplifying content praising Saudi leadership", and criticising Qatari and Turkish activity in Yemen. 5,350 such accounts were deleted.

Finally, Twitter said it had found “clusters of accounts engaged in inauthentic coordinated activity…working to promote Serbia’s ruling party and its leader”, President Aleksandar Vucic, with 8,558 such accounts deleted.

Governments, officials and the owners of the accounts from the targeted nations have yet to comment on Twitter’s decision.

The company regularly targets accounts for censorship, suspension or removal, accusing accounts of violating its terms of use. However, the social media giant has received criticism for alleged bias, including cracking down on accounts (including accounts linked to government officials and media in Venezuela, Iran, Syria, Russia and China) on allegations of pushing ‘disinformation’, while ignoring accounts linked to US and Israeli governments or media accused of similar behaviour.

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