Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of Twitter penetration in the world. Despite high levels of repression, the platform is frequently used to discuss political topics. Recent disclosures from Twitter have revealed state-backed attempts at distorting the online information environment through influence operations (IOs). A growing body of research has investigated online disinformation and foreign-sponsored IOs in the English-speaking world; but comparatively little is known about online disinformation in other contexts or about the domestic use of IOs. Using public releases of IO tweets, we investigate the extent of such activity in Saudi Arabia. Benchmarking these tweets to four samples of Saudi Twitter users, we find that engagement with IO accounts was lower than engagement with the average user, but equal to engagement with news accounts. Network analysis reveals that engagement with IO accounts was largely driven by a small number of influential accounts.
- influence operations
- Saudi Arabia