The Khashoggi Fallout

Digital scrutiny of Saudi economy and reform agenda remains high after killing of dissident journalist.

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For nearly three weeks, the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi has dominated the news cycle and produced a powerful and persistent international backlash. Predata’s signals reveal how the case has resonated in the digital realm and point to the lasting implications for the Saudi economy. 

A signal capturing digital interest in Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s economic reform agenda, packaged as Saudi Vision 2030, spiked on October 16, as CEOs and finance ministers began cancelling their plans to attend the Future Investment Initiative summit, the so-called “Davos in the desert,” taking place this week in Riyadh.

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Online activity rose not only on English-language web pages specific to the modernization plan, but also on pages related to the Saudi economy and key institutions, such as the Supreme Economic Council of Saudi Arabia. Digital scrutiny of these subjects remains high, suggesting that online audiences are continuing to reevaluate the viability of the Kingdom’s reform agenda in the face of the killing. 

Moreover, the Khashoggi case appears to have reverberated across Predata signals related to OPEC and Saudi oil production. A signal for global digital interest in OPEC hit its highest level of the year, driven upward by activity on web pages related to Saudi production. The heightened activity may have reflected concerns that the Kingdom would stop production or cut off oil exports were it sanctioned for killing the dissident journalist.

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Yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s top energy official told Russian media that the Kingdom would not use oil to retaliate against potential sanctions.