Two former Twitter employees from Saudi Arabia have been charged with spying for funneling inside information about users of the social media site to an agent of the Middle Eastern kingdom, federal officials said Wednesday.
Ali Alzabarah and Ahmed Almutairi allegedly used their position to gather private Twitter data about Saudi critics, giving it to a Saudi official who leads a charity owned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the Washington Post.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson.
“We will not allow U.S. companies or U.S. technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of U.S. law.”
The man who ran the charity, Bader Al Asaker, was “working for and at the direction of Mohammed,” the feds charged in their complaint.
Ali Alzabarah is accused of hacking into at least 6,000 Twitter accounts, while Almutairi acted as the middleman between Twitter employees and Saudi officials.
Both men are believed to be in Saudi Arabia, the report said.
Wednesday’s announcement comes a day after another former Twitter employee, Ahmad Abouammo, a U.S. citizen, was arrested for spying on users to obtain Saudi secrets for the government of the country’s capital, Riyadh, The Washington Post reported.
A Twitter spokesman told the paper that social media company limits access to personal account information “to a limited group of trained and vetted employees to protect the safety of Twitter personnel.”
“We understand the incredible risks faced by many who use Twitter to share their perspectives with the world and to hold those in power accountable. We have tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work.”
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