A pedestrian outside Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco on October 6, 2022.
David Paul | Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
former twitter employee convicted of spying A user has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison on behalf of the Saudi royal family.
Ahmad Abouammo, a dual U.S.-Lebanese citizen who helped oversee Twitter’s media partnerships in the Middle East and North Africa, said he would share users’ personal information, such as phone numbers and dates of birth, with agents of the Saudi government. It was part of the plan to acquire. He was sentenced Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
The Justice Department said another former Twitter employee accused of accessing user accounts and a man accused of aiding the Saudi government in the scheme fled to saudi arabia to escape American authorities.
The Saudi government severely punishes anti-government expressions on social media sites such as Twitter. in April, Court Convicted Salma Al-ShehabA 34-year-old Saudi Arabian citizen mother of two has been sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweeting protests against the government.
according to testimony From an FBI agent stationed in the Northern District of California, Saudi government agents began courting Abouammo in 2014 by buying him gifts and depositing money into his cousin’s bank account. Abouammo then secretly accessed accounts of users critical of the Saudi government and began sharing her email address and phone number with government agencies.
The Saudi consulate did not respond to a request for comment.
Even after Abouammo left Twitter in May 2015, he reached out to former colleagues to verify certain Saudi accounts or highlight that Saudi agents had violated the site’s terms of service. FBI agents said they continue to help the Saudi government by encouraging them to remove the posts. their testimony. He received hundreds of thousands of dollars, some of which he used to pay a down payment on a house in Seattle, Washington.
The indictment highlights the threat Twitter faces from foreign spies who value the information Twitter stores and direct communication with its users.
All major technology companies are potential targets for intelligence gathering, and Twitter has long been a particular target as it serves as a key platform for both protesters and dissidents around the world.
Abouammo is the first person to be convicted and convicted of spying on Twitter on behalf of a foreign government, but the company’s former cybersecurity chief has been accused of spying in at least two other countries. testified that they had broken into the company.
Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, Twitter’s former security chief, said: long whistleblower complaint About the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission in July. In it, he believes governments in India, Nigeria and Russia tried to get Twitter to hire handpicked people as full-time employees who could spy on its users.
later when testify Zatko told the Senate in September that the FBI had warned staff that Chinese intelligence services were likely also infiltrating Twitter before she joined the company.