Is Saudi in love with or scared @*#$less by Twitter?

Does this make sense? To anyone? (credit: Arab News)

Someone tell me, what is going on in the Magic Kingdom. Today we have a wonderful piece of editorial quality in Saudi Arabia’s English-language newspaper Arab News. The piece, titled Twitter may be linked to IDs, suggests that the country’s government is studying how to link Twitter accounts to identification cards, presumably to better monitor what all those naughty people are doing on the social media site. Here’s a link to the article and a quote from the piece below (as a journalist in Saudi I’ve never heard of the IT expert, but I’d probably disagree with his comments).

Twitter users beware. The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) is currently studying the possibility of linking the access to microblogging site with the personal identification of social media users, according to sources.

The move is likely to create ripples in the social media circles.

A source at the CITC described the move as a natural result of the successful implementation of CITC’s decision to add a user’s identification numbers while topping up mobile phone credit.

Twitter has changed Saudi, period. And it’s not just me saying that either. There was a wonderful piece on Twitter and Saudi Arabia by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about how the social media site has transformed how Saudis communicate.

Even the Saudi government has got in on the Twitter act. Public figures including culture and information minister Dr. Abdul Aziz Khoja, labor minister Adel Al-Faqih, and commerce minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah all use Twitter, as do religious figures. A number of Saudi royals are also on Twitter and merrily tweeting away. And then there’s Al-Waleed. At the end of 2011 the Rainbow Prince and number XX on Forbes’ billionaire list Prince Alwaleed bin Talal announced a $300 million investment in the website. He said at the time that: “the move demonstrates our ability to identify promising investment opportunities with high potential for global impact.”

The above article follows on from a piece earlier this year in Arab News, which I’m going to quote in its entirety and which you can read yourself here.

It is very difficult to monitor Twitter, one of the most popular social networking sites in Saudi Arabia which at the moment has more than 3 million active users, according to Abdulaziz Khoja, Saudi Minister of culture and information.

“The ministry cannot monitor everything published on Twitter,” Khoja said in a statement.

He stressed the difficulty of monitoring what everybody writes, relying on the need to raise awareness among society members regarding what they write and publish on Twitter, a local paper reported.

Nonetheless Khoja declared that the ministry is following up what is happening on Twitter with a number of government agencies.
The minister highlighted the need to raise the consciousness of the active users of social networking sites and to assist the Ministry of Culture and Information in the monitoring process.

However, Khoja refused to compare the situation of social sites with online newspapers, which have been streamlined following a recent regulation.

Khoja stressed that the control on Twitter should originate from individual values and community culture. “With time, individuals will learn to express their opinions and to deal with the events in a more understanding, knowledgeable and accommodating approach,” Khoja said.

So what’s next? Monitoring what people say/think? Good people in positions of authority, Twitter is a channel and not the source. Someone tell me, what is going on. All I hear is tweet, tweet, flip, flop, flip, flop.

2 thoughts on “Is Saudi in love with or scared @*#$less by Twitter?

  1. Well alex whoever you might be, the magic kingdom is a country with sovereignty, at least when it comed to its citizens. I may remember the honourable pm of the great united kingdom has also imposed some restrictions on journalism. Does that make the old country magical according to your immaculate teachings?

    • Thanks for the comment Grami. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love the Kingdom and its people. The post was written to reflect what seems to me a short-sighted means to try and control expression through social media channels such as Twitter. And magical isn’t an insult, far from it. Magical can mean something which is wonderful. And I also don’t agree with many things in the UK either, but I voice my concerns when possible as I hope we all could do. Would love to hear more from you.

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