Twitter an Outlet for Gulf State Citizens, Also a Source of Arrests

But there's some safety in (growing) numbers


An article in this week's Economist describes a scenario in which—following the destruction of a mall's kiddie dinosaur display by the country's morality police—Saudi Arabia's Twitter users quick make a hashtag go viral, building off one another's jokes and mocking some of the country's most archaic laws.  As the article notes, many of the jokes mocked the morality police themselves, such as one in which a Twitter user quipped: "They worried that people would find the dinosaurs more highly evolved than themselves."

This is Saudi Arabia in the age of new media.  With so many Twitter users (according to the Dubai School of Government's Arab Social Media Report, Saudi Arabia comes in second in the region to Turkey at nearly 350k users), Saudis wishing to mock their government officials on the site benefit from strength in numbers. Not so in neighboring Oman, for example, which has an estimated 6,500 users, or Bahrain, where Twitter users number around 58,000.

This matters because, in the countries that comprise the "Gulf States," citizens are increasingly taking to social media to air their grievances against government officials, and are also increasingly being arrested, detained, or harassed for it, as we've noted in the past.