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Billboards with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Before Washington Post Columnist Jamal Khashoggi died after a fight broke out between him and people who met him at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was targeted by the Saudi government through social media, reports the New York Times.

Why it matters: Khashoggi was attacked daily by Twitter trolls because of his dissenting views of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's regime and the way he ran the country. However, interviews and evidence from the Times' expansive report show Khashoggi was one of many targets of the prince as part of a broad effort to silence the country's critics.

The details: Saudi operatives began harassing critics on Twitter after the platform became popular in 2010 during the Arab Spring uprisings.

  • The effort was organized by Saud al-Qahtani, the Times reports, who was one of Salman's top advisors before being fired on Saturday after the country confirmed Khashoggi's death.

Officials developed a "troll farm" in homes and offices around Riyadh, where hundreds of young men discussed and searched for dissenting voices to silence on Twitter. They compiled names into lists of people to "threaten, insult and intimate," the Times reports.

  • Employees were sent memes they could use to mock dissenters "akin to the cartoons of Pepe the Frog that supporters of President Trump used to undermine opponents," the Times writes.
  • They at times reported posts from dissenting users as "sensitive material" to Twitter in an effort to silence critics.

Khashoggi had come up with a strategy to combat trolls before he was killed. He formed a volunteer army of Twitter users, called "Electronic Bees," to push back against trolls.

One key quote: "The mornings were the worst for him because he would wake up to the equivalent of sustained gunfire online," Maggie Mitchell Salem, a friend of Khashoggi's for more than 15 years, told the Times.

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Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

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Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.

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