Saudis ‘Infiltrated’ Wikipedia to Control Content, Jailed Two Administrators: Report

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Last Updated: January 06, 2023, 14:11 IST

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Wikimedia's investigation revealed that the Saudi government had infiltrated the highest ranks in Wikipedia's team in the region. (Shutterstock)

Wikimedia’s investigation revealed that the Saudi authorities had infiltrated the best ranks in Wikipedia’s workforce within the area. (Shutterstock)

One administrator was jailed for 32 years, and one other was sentenced to eight years, the activists stated

Saudi Arabia has infiltrated Wikipedia and jailed two directors in a bid to management content material on the web site, activists stated Thursday, weeks after a former Twitter employee was jailed for “spying” for the Saudis.

One administrator was jailed for 32 years, and another was sentenced to eight years, the activists said.

An investigation by parent body Wikimedia found the Saudi government had penetrated Wikipedia’s senior ranks in the region, with Saudi citizens acting or forced to act as agents, two rights groups said.

“Wikimedia’s investigation revealed that the Saudi government had infiltrated the highest ranks in Wikipedia’s team in the region,” Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) and Beirut-based SMEX stated in a joint assertion.

Washington-headquartered DAWN, based by slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and SMEX, which promotes digital rights within the Arab world, cited “whistleblowers and trusted sources” for the information.

There was no immediate comment from the Saudi government or from Wikimedia, which puts free educational content online through initiatives like Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, and Wiktionary.

DAWN and SMEX’s statement comes after Wikimedia last month announced global bans for 16 users “who were engaging in conflict of interest editing on Wikipedia projects in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region”.

In an investigation that began final January, Wikimedia stated they “have been in a position to affirm that a lot of customers with shut connections with exterior events have been enhancing the platform in a coordinated trend to advance the goal of these events”.

Wikimedia was referring to Saudis acting under the influence of the Saudi government, DAWN and SMEX said, citing their sources.

‘Control the narrative’

Two high-ranking “admins” — volunteer directors with privileged entry to Wikipedia, together with the flexibility to edit absolutely protected pages — have been imprisoned since they have been arrested on the identical day in September 2020, the 2 our bodies added.

The arrests appeared to be a part of a “crackdown on Wikipedia admins within the nation”, DAWN and SMEX said, naming the two people imprisoned as Osama Khalid and Ziyad al-Sofiani.

Abdullah Alaoudh, DAWN’s director of research for the Gulf, said Khalid was jailed for 32 years and Sofiani received an eight-year sentence.

“The arrests of Osama Khalid and Ziyad al-Sofiani on one hand, and the infiltration of Wikipedia on the other hand, show a horrifying aspect of how the Saudi government wants to control the narrative and Wikipedia,” Alaoudh advised AFP.

Last month, former Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail by a San Francisco court docket for crimes together with being an unlawful agent of a international authorities.

Prosecutors accused Abouammo and fellow Twitter worker Ali Alzabarah, who is needed by the FBI, of being enlisted by Saudi officers between late 2014 and early the next 12 months to get personal data on accounts that have been vital of the Saudi regime.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 workers and is revealed from a syndicated information company feed)

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