Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’re aware that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone was allegedly hacked by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (often referred to as MBS).

Shortly after The Guardian broke the story last week, Marc Owen Jones, assistant professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Qatar’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University, highlighted Twitter’s platform being weaponized by nefarious actors:

Jones’ tweets (first, second, third)

Ben Nimmo, who leads investigations at Graphika, piggybacked onto Jones’ initial tweet, sharing his own observations via this thread:

Both Jones and Nimmo call attention to @MBS_MBSKSA, an account that was subsequently suspended by Twitter (and within a couple hours after Jones’ initial tweet):

Jones’ tweet

Less than 24 hours later, however, Twitter mysteriously reinstated @MBS_MBSKSA — an account that continues to violate Twitter Rules.

The account operator wanted to ensure Jones and Nimmo were aware the account was (once again) active, opting to taunt the researchers upon its return:

Artificial Amplification

In order to better understand the types of accounts engaging with @MBS_MBSKSA, Social Forensics collected (and reviewed) hundreds of accounts that retweeted the (taunting) tweet highlighted above.

Here are the first (6) accounts which amplified said tweet (note how the first 3 include “MBS” in their display names):

First account to retweet (@tower291) no longer exists

Of the first 60 retweeting accounts, 19 include “MBS” in their display names (usernames available here):

Among the first 200 retweeting accounts (available here), there isn’t a single authentic account (i.e. each account is in violation of Twitter Rules).

Take @Saudi_933 (200th account to retweet), for example, an account created in October 2018, that as of last Thursday (January 23rd, 2020) was yet to tweet:

Since then, the account has tweeted more than two thousand times — and, on several occasions, has managed to tweet between 266 and 306 times over hour long intervals (306 tweets per hour is equivalent to tweeting every 11.8 seconds.. for an hour!):

Source: Allegedly

The vast majority (98%) of tweets from @Saudi_933 have been retweets (and the account has retweeted @MBS_MBSKSA 165 times).

Of the account’s non-retweet tweets (50), 47 of them are replies that include #SaudisboycotAmazon (and where said tweets all took place across just 6 minutes):

Hashtags most commonly appearing in the tweets (2,118) retweeted by @Saudi_933 include: #SaudisboycotAmazon (274 times), #JeffBezosisimmoral (146), #ISISchannelAlJazeeraQatar (106)

Back To @MBS_MBSKSA

Social Forensics reviewed the most recent 50 thousand accounts to follow @MBS_MBSKSA.

The vast majority are comprised of inauthentic accounts, functioning to create the illusion that @MBS_MBSKSA is more popular than reflects reality.

Included are a handful of verified accounts, following less than a thousand accounts each, and which were following @MBS_MBSKSA prior to tweets from Jones and Nimmo last week.

One of those accounts is @IdreesAldrees (note the account’s background image):

Below graphic cycles through 5 more:

Accounts include: @Albuainain_f, @kalafaldossry, @Malkawaleny, @ziadamoh, @Yazeed_AlRajhi

There are more than a thousand accounts that include “MBS” in their display names among @MBS_MBSKSA’s most recent 50K Followers (60 of which are cycled through below):

At a certain point it starts to feel as though Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, is knowingly allowing Saudi Arabia’s crown prince to utilize Twitter as his personal billboard.. (and while refusing to enforce Twitter Rules in the process):

Geoff Golberg is an NYC-based researcher (and entrepreneur) who is fascinated by graph visualization/network analysis — more specifically, when applied to social networks and blockchain activity. His experience spans structured finance, ad tech, and digital marketing/customer acquisition, both at startups and public companies.

Geoff is the Founder/CEO/Janitor of Social Forensics, where he spends (far too much of) his time developing techniques and building tools to identify social media manipulation (of various flavors!).

Read about Geoff’s war with Twitter here!

CEO & Founder, Social Forensics | Previously: Co-Founder, Elementus | Featured in BBC, CNN, BuzzFeed, and Quartz, among others | SocialForensics.com