RIYADH — Saudi Arabia has begun blocking the Twitter pages of activists in a move one man targetted says may be a result of Twitter's role in publicising Iran's recent pro-democracy uprising.
Human rights lawyer Waleed Abulkhair and businessman Khaled al Nasser said their Twitter pages have been blocked since about Monday by the official government Internet censor, the Communications and Information Technology Commission.
Some pages of offshore dissidents have been blocked for a few weeks, but this is apparently the first move against known Twitter users inside the kingdom, said Ahmed al-Omran, who first reported the censorship on his blog "Saudi Jeans".
"My account has been blocked for four days," Nasser told AFP. Accessing his page http://twitter.com/Mashi97 from inside Saudi Arabia brings up the official censor's notice "Sorry, the requested page is unavailable."
Nasser, who began using Twitter in 2007, said his "tweets" -- Twitter's characteristic 140-character-maximum text messages -- include commentary on rights and governance issues in the country. Some of his tweets provided links to other websites like a Human Rights Watch report on Saudi Arabia which may have bothered censors, he said.
"But those pages are not blocked, just my page," he said.
Abulkhair had sent tweets about several human rights cases that he and other lawyers are pursuing, most recently that of rights lawyer Sulaiman al-Rashudi, detained by police for two years without being charged or tried.
Nasser said the action on Twitter accounts could reflect CITC taking note of the use of Twitter by Iranian democracy activists to provide people inside and outside the country information on their protests in June and July.
"I think the government didn't know about Twitter until Iran," he said.
On the other hand, he says, the block on his account was set just after he tweeted about breakfasting on fried eggs.
"Maybe they don't like eggs," he joked of CITC.
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