Sheikh Abdul Latif Aziz al-Sheikh said that anyone who uses any social media, but particularly Twitter, “has lost this world and his afterlife.” Twitter is “a platform for those who did not have any platform,” the BBC translated.
Al-Sheikh’s message reflects the old Saudi Arabian line that all modern technology is inherently evil and must be either banned or highly regulated by the government (see: the Saudi government’s effort in March to ban Skype, Viber and WhatsApp). Many Saudis use these services to communicate with family members in far-flung places in the world. Even Saudi billionaire and royal family member Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal has said that the government’s attempts to restrict social media are “a losing battle.” Alwaleed is a big investor in Twitter, into which he put $300 million in late 2011.
That hasn’t stopped them from trying. “The kingdom is particularly concerned with how Twitter has been used to keep people informed of human rights activists who have been tried for the crime of free speech,” George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley wrote on his blog on Thursday. Many Saudi Twitter users use the site to discuss politics and other highly restricted topics.
Days after demanding that Skype negotiate with them to let the government monitor users, Reuters reported that the Saudis may try to “end anonymity” for Saudi Twitter accounts by requiring people to register for the site using government-issued ID numbers.
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"There are people who misuse the social networking and try to send false information and false evaluation of the situation in the kingdom and the way the policemen in the kingdom are dealing with these situations," said Major General Mansour Turki, a security spokesman, at a news conference on March 8, Reuters reported at the time.
The Grand Mufti has criticized Twitter users on multiple occasions, calling them “fools and clowns,” and in April the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca gave a sermon about the evils of Twitter and free speech and how both are a threat to national unity, the Riyadh Bureau reported at the time.