Amid a diplomatic spat between Saudi Arabia and Canada, a pro-government Saudi Twitter account shared — and then deleted — a digitally altered image that appeared to show a plane flying toward the skyline of Toronto, Canada’s largest city.
The image, shared by the account @infographic_ksa, was accompanied by a message in English that contained the saying “He who interferes with what doesn’t concern him finds what doesn’t please him.” The text “sticking one’s nose where it doesn’t belong!” was also superimposed over the image.
The tweet reminded many social media users of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, in which planes were deliberately flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York and the Pentagon. A total of 2,977 people were killed. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and Saudi royals have long been accused of complicity in the attack.
Though the image was deleted and then re-shared with the plane removed, screenshots of the tweet — and outrage over it — quickly spread.
The @infographic_ksa account posted later on Monday that the image had not been intended to refer to 9/11 and instead showed a plane carrying the Canadian ambassador home. But the damage was already done: The Twitter account itself was deleted on Monday afternooon, apparently on the orders of the Saudi government.
Representatives of the Saudi embassy in Washington said they had been shocked by the tweet and that the Ministry of Culture would be investigating.
The Saudi Ministry of Media later ordered the account to shut down “until investigations are completed.”
The @infographic_ksa account had more than 350,000 followers on Twitter and an additional 88,000 on Instagram. A website affiliated with the social media accounts describes it as a “voluntary non-profit project” that is “managed by a group of Saudi youth.”
The accounts, which were followed by a number of Saudi diplomatic figures, were verified and largely shared government announcements and pro-Riyadh messages. The Twitter account had been described as “an official government” account in Saudi-owned state media, although the relationship to the Saudi state was not clear.
Saudi Arabia had ordered the expulsion of the Canadian envoy, as well as the halt to all new trade and investment deals between the two nations, after Canada said it was “gravely concerned” about recent arrests of activists in Saudi Arabia.