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Twitter deletes Egypt, Saudi accounts over 'pro-govt direction'

SAN FRANCISCO, USA – Twitter said on Thursday, April 2, it has removed thousands of accounts in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Indonesia, and Serbia that allegedly took direction from governments or pushed pro-government content.

"We removed 2,541 accounts in an Egypt-based network, known as the El Fagr network," the San Francisco-based tech firm posted in a series of tweets.

"The media group created inauthentic accounts to amplify messaging critical of Iran, Qatar and Turkey. Information we gained externally indicates it was taking direction from the Egyptian government."

El Fagr's online managing editor Mina Salah vehemently pushed back.

"Yes we are loyal to the state but we don't receive instructions from anyone. We're merely defending our country and its position is clear vis-a-vis Iran, Qatar and Turkey," he told AFP.

He said Twitter was effectively censoring the newspaper's content and that journalists were banned from even creating new personal accounts.

The platform also deleted 5,350 accounts from regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia for "amplifying content praising Saudi leadership, and critical of Qatar and Turkish activity in Yemen".

Rights groups have accused the conservative kingdom of spying on dissidents and critical online users on Twitter.

The Saudi-linked accounts were run out of the kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, where Twitter's Middle East headquarters is based, as well as Egypt.

After an internal investigation, Twitter also removed clusters of accounts in Honduras allegedly propagating pro-government content, in Serbia promoting the "ruling party and its leader" and Indonesian accounts pushing information targeting the West Papuan independence movement.

Earlier this week, it removed two of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's tweets questioning quarantine measures aimed at containing the novel coronavirus on the grounds that they violated the social network's rules. – Rappler.com