Activists have condemned the Saudi-led military crackdown on social media outlets and websites that criticise the ruling family.
Saudi Arabia’s Justice and Development Ministry said on Friday that it had revoked the licences of dozens of social media websites that it said were “propaganda” or “propagandist” sites, which were considered “incompatible with the state” and “imposing a negative image on the kingdom”.
The move was a significant escalation in the kingdom’s crackdown on dissent, activists say, with the move in particular targeting online forums that have sprung up across the kingdom in recent years to discuss social issues.
“Saudi Arabia has a long history of cracking down on free speech and social media, and this latest move will be the latest attempt to stifle the voices of Saudi women,” said Anna Al-Arian, a member of Saudi Women’s Network, a women’s rights group in the Gulf.
The Justice and Economy Ministry said it had also suspended three Twitter accounts belonging to prominent social media figures, including @gazimuthaq, @bakat_louis and @amalhassan, who it said had been active on the Saudi social media network since at least 2014.
The government also said it would revoke the licences for a Twitter account belonging to Saudi journalist Fahad Al-Bakr, whose work has been criticised by Saudi authorities and critics for allegedly promoting the overthrow of the monarchy.
Al-Bashir, who is also the defence minister, was accused by the United States of trying to undermine the monarchy during his time in power in 2012.