Saudi police close 10,000 Twitter accounts for 'religious violations'

ReutersSaudi Arabia's religious police shut down 10,117 Twitter accounts in 2014.

Saudi Arabia's religious police have shut down 10,117 Twitter accounts in the last year on the grounds of "religious and ethical violations".

The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, also known as the Haia, employs the religious police, or Mutaween, responsible for implementing Sharia law within the kingdom.

According to Arab News, Haia spokesman Turki Al-Shulail told the media: "Their users were committing religious and ethical violations. Haia blocked and arrested some of their owners. However, it was hard to follow all the accounts due to the advanced security used in this kind of social media."

"The IT crime department at Haia played a major role to close these accounts," Al-Shilail said. "Our unit is divided into two sections: The first receives reports and complaints from citizens and residents and the second one monitors and does follow-up operations through websites and software applications."

Ahmed Al-Ahamri, a lawyer who specialises in computer crime told Arab News that IT-related crimes in Saudi Arabia can be punished with prison sentences of more than five years, alongside fines of up to SR3 million (£509,374).

"The crimes include religious or moral violations via the Internet. The number of these accounts has increased during the last five years and there is a need to put an end to them and arrest the users who publish material against our religion and society," he said.

Twitter is the most popular social media site in Saudi Arabia, with 41 per cent of internet users signed up to the site, according to a 2013 BI Intelligence survey. The same survey showed that Saudi Arabia has the highest ratio of Twitter followers to Internet users in the world.

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