Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti (religious chief) has launched a virulent attack on the social networking site Twitter, saying it has become a platform for promoting lies, newspapers in the Gulf Kingdom reported on Sunday.
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh, in a Friday prayers sermon, was referring to what he described as countless Fatwas (Islamic edicts) by Muslim scholars from Saudi Arabia and other countries.
He said those scholars are promoting false allegations, issuing erroneous fatwas and attacking venerated religious and social personalities.
“This website has become a platform for trading accusations and for promoting lies used by some just for the sake of fame…this is a very dangerous practice which must be avoided by real Muslims,” he said.
“There are well know means for constructive criticism but Twitter and other websites which publish lies and distortions are dubious means which should be avoided by good Muslims…we should not listen to this website or make it our main source of information and knowledge…”
Sheikh Abdul Aziz urged Saudi Arabia’s feared religious police-- the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice-- to crackdown on users of Twitter website, adding that there are several other “good and useful” websites which can be seen by Muslims.
Twitter has been at the centre on controversy after it announced last week that it would begin restricting Tweets in certain countries, marking a policy shift for the social media platform that helped propel the popular uprisings recently sweeping across the Middle East.
Twitter's decision to begin censoring content represents a significant departure from its policy just one year ago, when anti-government protesters in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab countries coordinated mass demonstrations through on the social network and, in the process, thrust Twitter's disruptive potential into the global spotlight.
As the revolutions brewed last January, Twitter signaled that it would take a hands-off approach to censoring content in a blog post entitled "The Tweets Must Flow."
"As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression," Twitter wrote in a blog post.
"We do not remove Tweets on the basis of their content," the blog post read. "Our position on freedom of expression carries with it a mandate to protect our users' right to speak freely and preserve their ability to contest having their private information revealed."
It said even with the possibility of such restrictions, Twitter would not be able to coexist with some countries. "Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there," it said.
Twitter gave as examples of restrictions it might cooperate with "certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content."
Twitter's move comes at a time when Internet companies such as Google and Facebook have wrestled with foreign governments over freedom of speech and privacy issues as they expand rapidly overseas.