The management consulting firm McKinsey & Company faced scrutiny after it was revealed that the Saudi Arabian government used a report by the consulting firm for purposes not intended by McKinsey & Co.
On the tail of an admission that journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in Saudi Arabia’s Turkish consulate, the Saudi government used data from McKinsey & Co. report to silence critics vocal on social media. The McKinsey report measured public reaction to Saudi Arabia's economic austerity policies in 2015 to compensate low oil prices and adjust a widening budget gap.
Members of the Saudi Arabian government, including Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman himself, reportedly used Twitter as a means of attacking and dissuading critics of their regime. Bin Salman harassed dissenters, such as Khashoggi, on Twitter through several different accounts, according to The New York Times. The Times reports that Bin Salman and the Saudi government used the McKinsey report to identify potential dissenters.
Following this discovery, McKinsey tweeted that the firm did not intend for the Saudi government to use the data in that way and that it was “horrified” that its report “could have been misused in any way.” The firm’s report described that traditional media underrepresented issues that were shared on social media, Bloomberg reported.
The consulting firm has a history of controversial work when consulting for other governments and recently apologized to Eskom Holdings, a South African government owned utility, for unfair pricing practices, according to Bloomberg.
Criticism of the Saudi government and Bin Salman in particular has escalated after it was confirmed that Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. Despite previously claiming that Khashoggi was unharmed, the Saudi government not only admitted Khashoggi indeed died at the consulate, but was murdered.
Bin Salman, however, has not admitted any involvement in Khashoggi’s death. Several other high-ranking officials, several of whom worked closely with Bin Salman, were recently terminated in response the the news of Khashoggi’s murder, according to CNN.
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