A pair of former Twitter employees – one an engineer and the other a media partnership manager – were busted for accessing users’ account and personal data on behalf of Saudi Arabia to ferret out opponents of the kingdom.
Engineer Ali Alzabarah and manager Ahmad Abouammo were charged with operating within the U.S. as agents of a foreign power, the Justice Department said Wednesday. In charges filed in a San Francisco court, the FBI noted the two defied Twitter policies and used their “access to proprietary and confidential Twitter information,” including the email addresses, phone numbers, birthdates and IP addresses of Twitter users, on behalf of the Saudi government. Abouammo is linked to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), who U.S. intelligence officials say ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“The criminal complaint unsealed today alleges that Saudi agents mined Twitter’s internal systems for personal information about known Saudi critics and thousands of other Twitter users,” U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson said in a statement. “U.S. law protects U.S. companies from such an unlawful foreign intrusion. We will not allow U.S. companies or U.S. technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of U.S. law.”
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