Saudi Arabia deployed an online army to harass dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and other critics of the kingdom on Twitter, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
The efforts to attack Khashoggi and other influential Saudis, and sway public opinion against them on the social media service, included a so-called troll farm based in Riyadh and a suspected spy within Twitter that the kingdom utilized to monitor user accounts, the New York Times reported.
According to a Reuters report, Twitter declined to comment on the story. A representative from the Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment, a Reuters report added.
Saudi officials said on Saturday that Washington Post columnist Khashoggi died following a ''fistfight'' in its Istanbul consulate.
Turkish officials say Khashoggi was assassinated and dismembered by Saudi security forces.
The Times reported Saudi operatives began a social media campaign to harass critics in 2010. Saud al-Qahtani, an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, created the strategy behind the effort, the newspaper said, citing US and Saudi officials.
Qahtani was one of five officials Saudi King Salman has fired, according to Saudi state media, following the global controversy over Khashoggi's disappearance.
The Times also cited a report by the consultancy firm McKinsey & Co that discussed public perception of economic austerity measures announced by Saudi Arabia in 2015.