Ex-Twitter employee convicted of spying for Saudi Arabia
Former Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo was found guilty of spying for the government of Saudi Arabia, according to a report from Bloomberg. The jury handed down its judgment in a San Francisco federal court on Tuesday, where Abouammo was also convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, and falsifying records.
Abouammo previously worked at Twitter as a media partnerships manager and helped prominent figures in the Middle East and North Africa promote their accounts. However, he leveraged his position to access the email addresses, phone numbers, and birth dates of users who were critical of the Saudi government. Abouammo then transmitted that information to Saudi officials between November 2014 and May 2015 and received gifts in return.
In 2019, the Department of Justice charged Abouammo and another former Twitter employee, Ali Alzabarah, with espionage. The agency later expanded those charges in 2020 to include a third individual, Ahmed Almutairi, who allegedly coordinated the scheme. Both Almutairi and Alzabarah remain wanted by the US government. Last year, human rights activist Ali Al-Ahmed sued Twitter, claiming that the platform could’ve done more to protect his information.
According to Bloomberg, prosecutors accused Abouammo of working with an aide to Mohammed bin Salman, who now serves as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, to suppress dissidents. Abouammo reportedly argued that he was just doing his job and blames Twitter for not securing users’ data.
Abouammo faces 10 to 20 years in prison when sentenced. Twitter declined to comment.