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World Two Ex-Twitter Employees Charged With Spying on Users for Saudis

11:40  07 november  2019
11:40  07 november  2019 Source:   bloomberg.com

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Two former Twitter Inc. employees and a Saudi national were charged by the U.S. with helping the government in Riyadh spy on dissidents who used Abouammo is also charged with creating a false 0,000 invoice for consulting services to the Saudi government to cover up his activities when he

Two former employees of Twitter have been charged in the US with spying for Saudi Arabia. The charges , unsealed on Wednesday in San Francisco, allege that Saudi agents sought personal information about Twitter users including known critics of the Saudi government.

(Bloomberg) -- Two former Twitter Inc. employees and a Saudi national were charged by the U.S. with helping the government in Riyadh spy on dissidents who used the social network.

a close up of a door: The Twitter Inc. logo is displayed outside the company's headquarters in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Twitter Inc. soared the most since its market debut in 2013 after it posted the first revenue growth in four quarters, driven by improvements to its app and added video content that are persuading advertisers to boost spending on the social network.© Bloomberg The Twitter Inc. logo is displayed outside the company's headquarters in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Twitter Inc. soared the most since its market debut in 2013 after it posted the first revenue growth in four quarters, driven by improvements to its app and added video content that are persuading advertisers to boost spending on the social network.

The employees, one from Twitter’s hometown of San Francisco and one in Saudi Arabia, were allegedly recruited to use their company credentials to gain access to the accounts of “users of interest” to the Saudi royal family, according to a criminal complaint unsealed on Wednesday.

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Two former employees were charged Wednesday with exploiting their access to the company’s The two men, Mr. Alzabarah and Mr. Abouammo, were charged with acting as agents of a foreign One of the users was a prominent critic of the Saudi royal family and had more than one million followers

Federal prosecutors allege a Saudi official bribed two former Twitter employees to spy on some users who were suspected critics of the Saudi government.

“Saudi agents mined Twitter’s internal systems for personal information about known Saudi critics and thousands of other Twitter users,” U.S. Attorney David Anderson in San Francisco said in a statement.

The charges show a dark side of Twitter’s mission to be a free and open forum where everyone has a voice and anyone can speak truth to power. Even as the platform has served as an outlet for criticism of repressive regimes, it’s also proven useful to those regimes for tracking down and punishing critics. Human rights organizations have tallied dozens of Twitter-related prosecutions in Saudi Arabia.

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Indictment accuses two of passing data about people critical of Saudi royals, government.

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged two former Twitter employees with helping Saudi Arabia spy on thousands of the kingdom’s critics. The report says there is a “darker reality” behind Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s widely touted initiatives for Saudi women and youth, including mass

Twitter said it’s committed to protecting those who use its service and applauded the Justice Department’s actions. At the same time, the company is being sued by a prominent Saudi dissident who alleges the company put his family in danger by failing to tell him about a hack into his account that he attributes to one of the men charged in the U.S. complaint, Ali Alzabarah.

Read More: How Despots Use Twitter to Hunt Dissidents

Prosecutors say that Alzabarah, 35, of Saudi Arabia, and Ahmad Abouammo, 41, most recently of Seattle, were recruited by a third Saudi, Ahmed Almutairi, 30, who was working on behalf of the royal family. All three are charged with acting as illegal agents of a foreign government. Abouammo is also charged with creating a false $100,000 invoice for consulting services to the Saudi government to cover up his activities when he was questioned by the FBI. Only Abouammo was arrested and the other two are not in the U.S., officials said.

Former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi Arabia

  Former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi Arabia Federal law enforcement is taking action against former Twitter workers who allegedly spied for Saudi Arabia. The Justice Department has charged Ali Alzabarah (the one whose activities first surfaced) and Ahmad Abouammo with using their combined access to monitor Twitter accounts on behalf of the Saudi government. Abouammmo, an American citizen, reportedly snooped on three accounts that included one revealing inner details of Saudi leadership. Alzabarah, a Saudi citizen, is alleged to have obtained personal info for more than 6,000 accounts, including that of high-profile dissident (and Jamal Khashoggi ally) Omar Abdulaziz.

--- US charges 2 ex - Twitter employees with spying on users for Saudi --- The US Justice Department on Wednesday charged two former Twitter employees among

The Department of Justice on Wednesday charged two former Twitter employees with spying for Saudi Arabia, accusing the men of accessing information on Saudi dissidents who use the social networking site. The DOJ alleges that in 2015, Ahmad Abouammo, a U.S. citizen

The criminal complaint traces Abouammo’s involvement with the Saudi government back to 2014, when he worked in one of Twitter’s San Francisco offices as a media partnership manager for the Middle East and Africa. That’s when he allegedly agreed to meet in London with an unidentified member of the inner circle of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

After the Saudi official gave him an expensive wrist watch, Abouammo started collecting information on Twitter users and maintained regular contact with the official, who wired him hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments, according to prosecutors.

Even after Abouammo left Twitter in 2015 and took a new job in Seattle, he continued to do the bidding of the Saudi official by enlisting the help of former Twitter colleagues, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors allege that Alzabarah was similarly recruited by Saudi intelligence operatives, though he traveled to Washington in 2015 to meet with a person identified in the complaint as "Royal Family Member-1." The Washington Post, which reported on the complaint earlier, said "Royal Family Member-1” is Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudis recruited Twitter workers to spy on critics, US says

  Saudis recruited Twitter workers to spy on critics, US says  Saudi Arabia, frustrated by growing criticism of its leaders and policies on social media, recruited two Twitter employees to spy on thousands of accounts that included prominent opponents, A complaint unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco detailed a coordinated effort by Saudi government officials to recruit employees at the social media giant to look up the private data of Twitter accounts, including email addresses linked to the accounts and internet protocol addresses that can give up a user's location. It appeared to link Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful 34-year-son of King Salman, to the effort.

Two former employees of Twitter and a third man from Saudi Arabia face U.S. charges of spying for the kingdom by digging up private user data Ex - Twitter Workers Charged with Spying for Saudis as part of Kingdom’s Growing Crackdown on Dissent - Продолжительность: 14:46 Democracy Now!

The Justice Department charged two former Twitter employees of spying for Saudi Arabia, after the ex - employees were caught invading thousands of private accounts to seek personal information for the Riyadh government. Yahoo Finance’s Adam Shapiro, Dan Roberts, Sibile Marcellus and Dan Howley

After returning to San Francisco, Alzabarah allegedly accessed the private data of more than 6,000 Twitter users, including at least 60 for whom Saudi law enforcement officials had sought information through official Twitter channels. After Twitter fired him, he later joined a charitable foundation in Saudi Arabia where he worked with a team “to monitor and manipulate” social media, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors say Almutairi ran a Saudi social media marketing company for the members of the Saudi royal family. He allegedly met with Abouammo before the London trip and also met Alzabarah.

Facebook, Twitter and the Digital Disinformation Mess: QuickTake

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

Officials at the Saudi embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The dissident who sued Twitter last month claims that Saudi agents -- through information about his account provided by Alzabarah in 2015 -- were able to plant malware on his phone in 2018 and spy on his activities.

Omar Abdulaziz alleges that’s how Saudi spies discovered plans for a social media protest that he was planning with Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Months later, Khashoggi was slain in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.

Twitter declined to comment on Abdulaziz’s lawsuit.

The criminal case is USA v. Abouammo, 19-mj-71824 U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. The dissident’s lawsuit is Abdulaziz v. Twitter Inc., 19-cv-06694, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

--With assistance from Kurt Wagner and Glen Carey.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Burnson in San Francisco at rburnson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Peter Blumberg

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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