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22 Oct 2018

Saudi govt. deployed "Twitter troll army" to silence critics and allegedly used McKinsey analysis to target dissidents

In October 2018, The New York Times reported on online attackers hired by the Saudi government to silence critics via social media. Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who was murdered by Saudi agents, was himself targeted by Saudi Arabia's "army of Twitter trolls." A former Twitter employee, Ali Alzabarah, was also allegedly plotting to spy on the accounts of dissidents, on behalf of the Saudi government. Alzabarah was dismissed in December 2015.

According to The Times, Consulting firm McKinsey & Company helped the Saudi government identify dissidents who criticised the 2015 austerity measures that followed the dip in oil prices. McKinsey claims the austerity report was an internal document based on publicly available information and not prepared for any government entity. “We are horrified by the possibility, however remote, that it could have been misused,” a McKinsey spokesman said in a statement. “We have seen no evidence to suggest that it was misused, but we are urgently investigating how and with whom the document was shared.”