Ex-Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi Arabia by accessing user accounts

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Angela Lang/CNET

The US Justice Department has charged two former Twitter employees with allegedly spying for Saudi Arabia.

The Washington Post, which published a criminal complaint that outlines the charges, reported Wednesday that one ex-employee, Ahmad Abouammo, faces allegations that he dug into the account of three users on behalf of the Saudi government. Abouammo, a US citizen who was arrested on Tuesday, managed media partnerships for the Middle East and North Africa regions, according to the complaint. One of the Twitter users he looked into posted content about Saudi leadership, according to the Post. 

Another employee, Ali Alzabarah, was accused of gaining accessing to the personal information of more than 6,000 Twitter accounts in 2015. Alzabarah is a Saudi citizen and worked as a Twitter site reliability engineer. 

The criminal complaint, unsealed on Wednesday, raises concerns about whether Twitter is doing enough to safeguard the information of users critical of authoritarian regimes. 

“We recognize the lengths bad actors will go to try and undermine our service,” a Twitter spokesman said in a statement. “Our company limits access to sensitive account information to a limited group of trained and vetted employees.”   

The spokesman declined to share any more information, but noted that the company has tools to protect the privacy of Twitter users who face risks when they share their views.

Both ex-employees could not be immediately reached for comment. 

This story is developing…


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