Saudi Arabia's War On Democracy
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The bee movement is an online movement founded by Jamal Khashoggi. They focus on fighting misinformation, informing about human rights abuses, and confronting pro-regime social media trolls.
The project aimed to undermine a group of pro-Saudi government trolls by building an online human rights network using foreign SIM cards. Twitter requires a phone number to verify accounts, so having a foreign number can help activists avoid being traced, arrested, and killed by the Saudi government.
Saudi Arabia's regime developed an advanced army of trolls, not unlike the Russian bot farms that spread misinformation in the 2016 US presidential elections or the CCP bot farms that deny Uighur genocide and harass dissidents. The Saudi troll bot farm is overseen by Saud Al-Qahtani a close collaborator of Mohammed bin Salman (M.B.S). The Saudi troll farms would swarm the Twitter accounts of journalists, activists, and others critical of the regime and engulf them with abuse, pro-regime propaganda, manipulating Saudi Twitter towards the government’s favoured narrative.
Khashoggi and Abdulaziz nicknamed the Saudi government troll network, “the Flies” and began to counter it with their own network of anti trolls called “the Bees”, which would amplify independent voices critical M.B.S and Saudi Arabia. In 2018 when the Bees began to pick up steam Jamal Khashoggi was asked to visit the Istanbul consulate where he was murdered by M.B.S's henchmen.
In 2021, Saudi Arabia has arrested several activists and Twitter users for allegedly being members of the “Bee” movement and for criticizing the government. The young activists were arrested for tweeting about basic human rights and for criticizing the MBS government. According to advocates of the "Bee" movement, the detained activists could face up to 20 years in prison or more.
A few of the activists arrested by the regime have been named but many of the victims remain unknown due to the anonymous nature of the movement and the lack of transparency by the Saudi Government. MENA Rights Group filed at least one case with the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, urging it to call on the Saudi authorities to clarify the fate and whereabouts of those detained. Listed below are some of the victims and their stories.
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