Snapchat blocks Al Jazeera from Saudi users
Responding to a request from the Saudi government, Snapchat has blocked access for users in Saudi Arabia to the Qatari-based news outlet Al Jazeera. The move reflects the continuing tensions between the Gulf States and Qatar after diplomatic relations were broken in June because of Qatari support for Islamist terror groups and the nation's growing closeness with Iran.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt also closed their borders with Qatar and have been looking to isolate the tiny kingdom both commercially and diplomatically.
The Saudi government said Al Jazeera's Snapchat channel was breaking local laws related to published material and cyber crime, according to Snap. Officials requested the removal of the channel from the app's Discover section, a Snap spokeswoman told CNNMoney on Monday.
"We make an effort to comply with local laws in the countries where we operate," the spokeswoman said.
Al Jazeera, which as a user of Snapchat is still permitted to post content that Saudis can view, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The TV network's content is also still available in Saudi Arabia on Twitter, Facebook and Google's YouTube.
A spokesman for the Saudi information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Qatar-owned news outlet has been in the crosshairs of several governments in the region during a prolonged diplomatic dispute in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain broke off relations with Qatar in June over its alleged support for terrorism – a charge it denies.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE suspended the news channel and blocked Al Jazeera's website following the fallout.
Shuttering Doha-based Al Jazeera and its affiliates was one of more than a dozen demands made by the coalition of countries – led by Saudi Arabia – for restoring diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar. The network has said demands for its closure are an attempt to restrict freedom of expression in the region.
Today, war, the "continuation of politics by other means," as Clausewitz said, is also now fought using social media as a weapon. Al Jazeera is a powerful presence in the Middle East, beaming its slanted and propagandistic coverage of the news into millions of homes. Some of the coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood government that briefly held power in Egypt was almost worshipful. Al Jazeera's anti-Semitic and anti-American bias is ridiculously obvious. But millions of Arabs are subject to this propaganda on a daily basis.
Banning Al Jazeera from Saudi Arabian Snapchat users won't affect the network's bottom line. After all, it's subsidized by the Qatari government. But just as importantly, it will lessen Al Jazeera's influence in the kingdom.
Score one for the Saudis.