US Charges 2 Ex-Twitter Employees With Spying for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia reportedly recruited Twitter employees to steal personal data of activists		
		
	Devin Coldewey

			@techcrunch	 
		9 hours

Saudi Arabia reportedly recruited Twitter employees to steal personal data of activists Devin Coldewey @techcrunch 9 hours

The case shed light on the wider issue of surveillance and intolerance by the Kingdom towards its dissenters and came under worldwide spotlight after the murder of Saudi critic and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He reportedly travelled to the U.S.in August 2014 to study English and left the country in May 2015.

Saud al-Qahtani, the royal court's media czar and a close confidant of Prince Mohammed, has long elicited fear in the kingdom, earning nicknames such as "troll master", "Mr Hashtag" and "lord of the flies" for managing an electronic army to intimidate critics of the kingdom.

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The Washington Post columnist who wrote critically about the Saudi crown prince, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

However, the micro-blogging website Twitter from their side that they are committed to protecting those who use its service and applauded the Justice Department's actions.

The US government is accusing Alzabarah of accessing users' private information "en masse" in violation of Twitter's rules. It has even arrested and imprisoned Twitter users.

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Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports.

In September, Twitter said it shut down thousands of accounts worldwide for spreading misinformation, including some artificially amplifying pro-Saudi messaging as part of a regional propaganda war.

Twitter, in a statement, said it is aware that "bad actors" will try to undermine its service and that the company "limits access to sensitive account information to a limited group of trained and vetted employees". We have tools to protect their privacy and their ability to do vital work.

According to the affidavit from the FBI, Saudi officials paid up to $300,000 to Abouammo for his work, which he tried to cover up with faked invoices to his personal needs, and also gifted him a luxury Hublot watch worth $20,000.

The trio were charged with acting as unregistered foreign agents on American soil, and Abouammo was additionally charged with falsifying evidence in a federal investigation.

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His lawyer, Christopher Black, declined to comment, as did Abouammo's wife, who did not give her name.

San Francisco - Saudi Arabia's government recruited two Twitter employees to get personal account information on some of their critics, prosecutors with the U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday.

The charges, announced Wednesday in San Francisco, cast a fresh glare on the relations between technology companies and world governments as the former seek to operate with minimal regulation and the latter seek to cull information on private individuals. "We will not allow United States companies or USA technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of U.S. law", he added.

This didn't go unnoticed and Alzabarah, when questioned by his supervisors, reportedly mentioned he had exclusively carried out it out of curiosity.

Soon after remaining put on leave by Twitter, Alzabarah despatched a letter of resignation when aboard a flight again to Saudi Arabia. Federal warrants have been issued for their arrest.

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