Saudi Arabia Threatens Snapchat Users of Any Govt Criticism

As part of its repression policy, the Saudi regime issued an explicit warning that it is a criminal offense to “insult” authorities using social media apps such as Snapchat.

“Any insult to the regime is considered a criminal offense,” the Saudi authorities warned in a press release, without giving further details.

The press release came shortly after the California-based messaging app forged a new “cooperation” deal with the kingdom’s culture ministry.

Snapchat’s ties to the kingdom date back to 2018, when Saudi financier Prince Alwaleed bin Talal invested $250 million in the company, a 2.3% stake.

 Saudi dissidents have expressed concerns over the press release, considering it a clear warning to viewers to refrain from posting any criticism or comment that could be construed as an insult, and saying that the stark warning for Saudi social media users came in April via state-run media. It was later deleted for unknown reasons.

Dozens of Saudi citizens were arrested solely for using social media platforms to express their opinions and demand more freedoms, whether by tweeting or retweeting.

Calling for political prisoners’ release, improving their detention conditions, ensuring a fair trial, criticising unemployment rates, calling for a constitutional monarchy, and defending women’s rights are all considered taboo topics by Saudi authorities.

At least one Saudi Snapchat user, Manahel al-Otaibi, was arrested late last year after posting a picture privately on Snapchat that showed her not wearing an abaya, leading to charges that she was dressed indecently. It is not clear how Saudi authorities accessed the picture.

In another case, Saudi Snapchat influencer Mansour Al-Raqiba, who has more than 2 million followers, was arrested in May 2022 in connection to his social media posts in which he suggested he had previously criticised Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 economic plan for the kingdom. A person familiar with the case said Raqiba had been sentenced to 27 years in jail.

Many other political prisoners were tried and imprisoned for tweeting. In an interview aired on a state-run TV channel, a detainee confirmed that he was imprisoned over a tweet, providing clear evidence that the Saudi authorities are repressing social media users.

In the interview, the detainee said that the prison sentences issued against detainees for “offensive tweets” range between 15 and 20 years.

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