Manama: Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti and Pope Benedict XVI have urged people to "exercise proper discernment in the face of the surfeit of stimuli and data" that they receive on the internet.

In Riyadh, Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh said people cannot take the social-networking website Twitter as the source of their knowledge if they do not really know who is behind the posted comments.

"Twitter is used to issue fatwas [religious edicts] without evidence or substantiation," the mufti said. "It is used as a platform to spread lies by some people who seek fame by insulting and denigrating other people," he said in his Friday sermon in Riyadh.

"People should be well aware of such dangers. The site should not be used to exchange accusations or to misquote people. Muslims should be careful not to be drawn into wrong acts and must instead engage in constructive criticism," he said.

Caution against hazards

In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI had on Tuesday praised the significance of digital communications, but cautioned against potential hazards. In his message for the 46th World Day of Social Communications, he said: "In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives.

"If we are to recognise and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data we receive."