Two former Twitter employees have been charged by the Department of Justice with spying for Saudi Arabia by digging into the personal account information of users critical of the country, prosecutors said Wednesday.
A complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco showed a coordinated effort by Saudi officials to recruit employees at the social media giant to look up the private data of thousands of Twitter accounts critical of the government, according to the Associated Press. (RELATED: Saudi National Used A Middleman To Send Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars To The US For Obama Inauguration)
Ahmad Abouammo, an American citizen, and Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi citizen, were charged in the complaint.
WHOA: Two former Twitter employees have been charged by the DOJ with spying for Saudi Arabia by digging into critics of the royal family.
One is accused of accessing personal info of more than 6,000 Twitter accounts in 2015 on behalf of Saudi Arabia. https://t.co/SzysiqNlLu
— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) November 6, 2019
The effort included spying on the data of over 6,000 Twitter users by the two men whose jobs did not require access to Twitter users’ private information.
One of those accounts allegedly belonged to Omar Abdulaziz, a prominent Saudi dissident who later became close to Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist killed by Saudi government agents last year.
It is also alleged that Abouammo and Alzabarah were rewarded with a designer watch and tens of thousands of dollars funneled into secret bank accounts.
“We recognize the lengths bad actors will go to try and undermine our service. Our company limits access to sensitive account information to a limited group of trained and vetted employees,” a Twitter spokesman said in a statement.