Twitter kills pro-Saudi “botnet” spreading Khashoggi disinformation tweets


Originally published at:


If only computers had some kind of intelligence that could be trained to recognize botnet posts.


“Have you ever heard of anyone named “Khashoggi?” Totally FAKE NEWS!”

-Abraham Lincoln


Twitter shut down DT Junior’s account?


Meanwhile, the cleanup has begun. Apologies for linking to the NY Post, but:


‘Pro-Saudi “botnet”’? he has a name. it’s donald trump jr. and I wish twitter actually killed him.


It’s almost literally the least they could do.


If you torture a man, and then kill him, he learns nothing. But the torturers learn horrors that can never be unlearned, and so do their masters.


There are good sheiks on both sides.
Some are even humans.


The tweet pictured has nothing to do with Khashoggi, and the linked account so far has only retweeted conspiratorial # خاشقجي tweets. (Incidentally, there’s a slight bifurcation between that tag and the # جمال_خاشقجي tag. The former seems more prone to being connected to tweets alleging conspiracy on the part of western media outlets.) I don’t get on Twitter much, but it was interesting to look at the difference between Arabic language tweets and English language ones. My favorite tweet so far has been this bit of dark humor:

Top Caption: [“Places from which you cannot escape after entry”]
Bottom right: [The Saudi Embassy]

Actually it’s interesting to me to see western media outlets report on this as the murder of a valiant journo… but Khashoggi has a different reputation among people who are familiar with his tenure in Al-Watan (The Nation). The context for understanding the role of a paper like Al-Watan is that you don’t get to be an editor for such a publication in a country like the KSA without carrying some water for some people. The space for being a “dissident” in this context is a lot narrower than people seem to envision.

Khashoggi’s big sin (in the eyes of the KSA) was not his comparatively light criticism of things like Salafism. Bandar Assaud (bin Faisal, not bin Sultan) has written similarly, and so have others in the KSA with no or mild consequences. It was that he backed the wrong horse. The KSA’s royal family is undergoing a restructuring under MbS, and Khashoggi’s criticisms are best understood as a defection rather than dissidence. The imprisoning of Saudi royals in a hotel is also best understood as a power consolidation move. After years of the office of the King slowly losing power to the oligarchy, MbS is trying to revive the institution–for better or (more likely worse.)

I’ve often recommended Asa’ad Abu Khalil as an analyst and while his acerbic style might be offputting to some (okay, let’s face it–many) he’s no fan of what he often call the “crummy” Saudi regime and I think he really hits the nail on the head here. If you prefer video, he says basically the same things in this interview:


Nah, I wouldn’t expect anything more than staggering incompetence from Twitter, and again they delivered.


I’m rather surprised the Saudis didn’t just buy Twitter - Together at last, all the worst people in the world.


According to the Times, Khashoggi was regular quarry for internet trolls in the employ of the monarchy, and the effort grew so intense that Twitter became aware of an alleged attempt by Saudi intelligence officials to cultivate a mole in their offices:

There must be so many groups who want to cultivate moles, Twitter is like the embassy of the mole people.


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