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Saudis & # 39; Image Makers: A troll army and a Twitter insider



However, the government's manipulation of social media has also raided other authoritarian states in recent years, said Alexei Abrahams, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.

Even talking to millions of tweets, a few hundred or a few thousand influential reports fuel the discussion, he said, citing new research. The Saudi government apparently recognized this and tried to take control of the conversation, he added.

"From the regime's point of view," he said, "if there are only a few thousand accounts that drive the discourse, you can only buy or threaten the activists, and that shapes the conversation considerably."

As The Saudi government tried to restore its image, following it with care as to how some of its more controversial decisions were taken and how the country's most influential citizens made these perceptions online.

After announcing austerity measures in 2015 to offset low oil prices and control a growing budget deficit, McKinsey & Company, the consultancy, measured public acceptance of this policy.

McKinsey found that the measures received twice as much coverage on Twitter as in the country's traditional news media or blogs, and that the mood outweighed the positive responses in social media by far.

Three people led the conversation on Twitter, the company found out: the writer Khalid al-Alkami; Mr. Abdulaziz, the young dissident who lives in Canada; and an anonymous user who went to Ahmad

After the report was published, Mr. Alkami was arrested, said the human rights group ALQST. Mr. Abdulaziz said Saudi government officials detained two of his brothers and hacked his cell phone, a report supported by a Citizen Lab researcher. Ahmad, the anonymous account, was closed.


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