Social networks and microblogs, particularly Twitter, cannot be guidelines in people’s lives, the head of the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has said.
“Those who resort to social networks and microblogs, especially Twitter, as their guides have lost their lives and their afterlife,” Shaikh Abdul Lateef Al Shaikh said.
“Twitter has become a platform for whoever does not have a platform,” he said in the Saudi capital Riyadh, quoted by local Arabic daily Al Watan. Saudi Arabia has been pushing an integrated legal, media and social drive to confront the “deviant mindset” of extremists and arch-conservatives influenced by calls, often made online, to jihad and holy wars.
“We also need to fight ideas promoted by ignorant people who want to change the teachings of our religion. Islam is fully against any form of extremism and it has warned against the consequences of fanaticism. There are those who attempt to undermine the status of our religious scholars while our enemies have been using all means of destruction to create doubts, intellectual defects and ultimately divisions within our society,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of social media users in the Arab world amid reports that they were favoured by young girls and women for chatting and learning about the latest social developments, arts and fashion trends. However, the online media networks have also been used by religious groups to propagate their ideologies and to enlist support from various countries.
The official said there were “segments” who were misusing the social media to “demoralise young people and influence naive minds.”
“There are attacks on the country aiming to bring into Saudi Arabia disturbances that have caused deaths, violations, destructions and separations of families,” he said.
“Security and stability can be achieved only through the solidarity of all Saudis and their common deterrence of attempts to mislead naive and simple people,” Shaikh Abdul Lateef said. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s No. 2 telecom operator Mobily denied claims by a software engineer that the company had asked him to build surveillance tools to intercept customers’ messages on Twitter and other services.
Matthew Rosenfield, who uses the pseudonym Moxie Marlinspike, published emails on his blog purporting to be from Mobily which included a request for help in intercepting traffic over applications such as Twitter, Whatsapp, Viber and Line.
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