Editors at Al Estiklal say they were given no reason for the suspension and have vowed to take legal action.

Twitter says it will not comment on individual cases [File:AP Photo]
Twitter says it will not comment on individual cases [File:AP Photo] (AP)

Twitter has suspended an account belonging to an Arab dissident newspaper without providing an explanation.

In a statement, editors at Al Estiklal  (The Independence) said they found out they did not have access to the social media network on World Press Freedom Day, which fell on May 3rd.

Founded in February, the newspaper provides a platform for opposition voices in the Arab world. The move, it said, was “surprising” but its staff would continue with its work regardless of the suspension.

Saudi Arabia blocked the website within two weeks of its launch, followed soon after by the UAE.

Twitter’s decision “confirms beyond a shadow of a doubt” that Al Estiklal was succeeding in a “revolutionary situation”, the newspaper’s editorial board said.

Reacting to the suspension, Istanbul University academic, Dr Abdallah Marouf, said it was a “shame” to suspend the newspaper.

“Twitter must not be a tool with some Arab dictatorships!” He wrote on Twitter.

The sentiment was widespread among Arab academics and dissidents.

University of Georgetown researcher, Dr Abdullah Al Odah, told TRT World that while Twitter was not providing a reason for the suspension, it sent the message that they were giving in to Arab dictators.

“By suspending the account, it just makes Twitter a tool in the hands of authoritarian governments. (For them to) get rid of their dissidents electronically, like they get rid of them physically,” Odah said.

TRT World approached Twitter for comment but the social media network would not give a reason for the suspension.

“We don't comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons,” a spokesperson said.

Without an explanation from the company, Arab dissidents on Twitter have speculated on the reasons for the suspension.

Some suggested the companies system for reporting abusive accounts may have been abused by Saudi bots and trolls. In such cases, Twitter’s algorithms, rather than the company itself, may have automatically suspended the account.

Others, however raised fears that the governments were asserting pressure on the company, which has a base in the UAE.

In 2015, Twitter reportedly fired a Saudi employee who had been groomed by Riyadh’s intelligence services to spy on dissidents using his access to the company’s servers.

With its reputation for allowing free expression and access to huge audiences, Twitter has become a weapon of choice for Arab dissidents to voice their opposition to Arab autocrats.

In several cases, human rights activists, such as Ahmed Mansoor in the UAE, have been imprisoned for voicing criticism of governments on Twitter. 

Source: TRT World