Snapchat blocks Al Jazeera in Saudi Arabia

 18 Sep 2017 - 15:54

Snapchat blocks Al Jazeera in Saudi Arabia
FILE PHOTO: The Snapchat messaging application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo

Al Jazeera and news agencies

Snapchat has blocked access to Al Jazeera news articles and videos in Saudi Arabia following a request from the government, a spokesperson for Snap Inc has said.

Saudi Arabia's government told the social media company that the Al Jazeera Discover Publisher Channel violated local laws.

"We make an effort to comply with local laws in the countries where we operate," a Snapchat spokesperson said in a statement on Sunday.

Morad Rayyan, head of Incubation and Innovation Research at Al Jazeera, said the move was "unprecedented".

"Snapchat is a US-based company, publicly traded, and it stands for freedom of expression. We are working on contingency plans to ensure our content is available on other platforms," Rayyan said.

"We are urging them (Snapchat) to review the decision that was made. They were that ones who invited us to be one of their news partners for the region."

There are about eight million Snapchat users in Saudi Arabia, one of the largest audiences in the world for this social platform.

The decision to remove Al Jazeera was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

The conflict is the latest example of a technology company being pinned in the crosshairs of geopolitics as it navigates censorship of content on its platforms, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In March, 2015, Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holding Company (KHC), received Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel in Saudi Arabia, to discuss "future potential business cooperation with Snap".

However, it remains unclear whether KHC ever invested in the company.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed sanctions on the country on June 5. They also blocked their residents' access to Al Jazeera websites.