Saudi Arabia has infiltrated Wikipedia and jailed two administrators in a bid to control content on the website, weeks after a former Twitter worker was jailed in the US for spying for the Saudis.
One administrator was jailed for 32 years, and another was sentenced to eight years, the activists said.
An investigation by parent body Wikimedia found the Saudi government had penetrated Wikipedia’s senior ranks in the region, with Saudi citizens acting or forced to act as agents, two rights groups said.
“Wikimedia’s investigation revealed that the Saudi government had infiltrated the highest ranks in Wikipedia’s team in the region,” Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn) and Beirut-based Smex said in a joint statement.
Dawn, which is based in Washington DC and was founded by slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and Smex, which promotes digital rights in the Arab world, cited “whistleblowers and trusted sources” for the information.
There was no immediate comment from the Saudi government or from Wikimedia, which puts free educational content online through initiatives like Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, and Wiktionary.
Dawn and Smex’s statement comes after Wikimedia last month announced global bans for 16 users “who were engaging in conflict of interest editing on Wikipedia projects in the Mena [Middle East and North Africa] region”.
In an investigation that started last January, Wikimedia said it “was able to confirm that a number of users with close connections with external parties were editing the platform in a coordinated fashion