It is still unclear why Arab News pulled their front page story quoting unnamed sources at the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) about plans to link accounts of Saudi Twitter users to their national IDs. By the time they pulled the story, it was already too late as the story was already picked up by global news agency Reuters. Carrington Malin of Dubai-based Spot On PR speculated over what happened:
Removing the story in the wake of global media coverage, was clearly shutting the door after the horse had bolted and so one can only assume that the newspaper succumbed to pressure. Did the Arab News jump the gun on breaking news of CITC plans or was Saturday’s story a brave exposé? Either way, all eyes will be on the CITC as it considers regulation for social media and online communication services.
It is worth noting that this actually was not the first time the topic of linking Twitter accounts to national IDs as a way to monitor users has been mentioned in local media. Saud al-Fozan wrote an article for al-Sharq newspaper last month urging the government to do just that. “If we linked the numbers of national IDs for Saudis and Iqama numbers for expats as a condition to open a Twitter account, I’m sure that 60 percent of accounts would disappear, let alone the offensive tweets,” he wrote.