The Strange Case of Twitter's Verified Saudi Arabian 'Ghost Accounts'

Published February 10th, 2019 - 02:36 GMT
(Twitter/@marcowenjones)
(Twitter/@marcowenjones)

There appear to be accounts on Twitter that are verified even though they do not belong to a known individual. In addition, handle names and usernames often do not match.

Marc Owen Jones, a professor at Doha-based Hamad bin Khalifa University has tweeted a thread revealing a few observations he noted while digging into a couple of verified accounts on Twitter.

What sounds interesting about the accounts is that some of them originally belong to public figures. Others belonged to dead people, raising doubts that these accounts were hacked or taken over by pro-Saudi users.

One of the accounts belongs to late meteorologist David Schwartz. The account that has around 200 followers, has only one tweet by the Saudi poet, Ziyad bin Nahit, who was previously imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for criticising Saudi Arabia and was then released shortly after.

Another finding was an account that belongs to the American financial analyst, Sheyna Steiner. However, the account’s current handle name is Abd Al Aziz al Harthi who appeared to be an active pro-Saudi user.

Meanwhile, Marc Owen Jones has shared an earlier tweet by Twitter’s Verified account in which Twitter confirms if a verified account’s handle name is changed, then the account will lose its verification badge.

Marc Owen Jones is not the first to highlight this problem.

An earlier tweet dated back to March 2018 by one Twitter user also underlined the same issue, but it did not receive any coverage.

This finding comes in a time when some Arab governments; including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE are being accused of controlling the Arabic-speaking Twitter platform.

During 2018 and in the wake of latest events taking place in Saudi Arabia, Arab Twitter users have been seeing a rise in the number of automated accounts, or as widely known, Twitter Bots, flooding social media with hateful comments and threats against specific users who express opposition to governmental or royal figures.

On the other hand, Twitter is facing an uproar for allowing the Arab wealthy government’s money to infiltrate it and control it at the expense of individual freedoms.


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