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US Says 2 Former Twitter Employees Spied for Saudi Arabia
A protest in support of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for criticizing the Saudi regime on Twitter and setting up a forum on free speech, at the Saudi Embassy in the Netherlands, January 2015. (NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

US Says 2 Former Twitter Employees Spied for Saudi Arabia

The US Justice Department has indicted three people – two former Twitter employees and a third man from Saudi Arabia – on suspicions that they provided Saudi officials with private user data of critics of the regime in exchange for payment. The Twitter employees were identified as Ali Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo, and the Saudi national, who worked at the time for the royal family, was named as Ahmed Almutairi. According to the indictment, filed Wednesday, Abouammo and Alzabarah accessed private information associated with the accounts of critics of the royal family in 2015. In return, they were paid cash and expensive gifts. Twitter placed Alzabarah on administrative leave in 2015 after discovering that he had accessed data from more than 6,000 accounts, including 33 for which Saudi authorities had made law enforcement requests to Twitter. “This information could have been used to identify and locate the Twitter users who published these posts,” the Justice Department said in a press release. Almutairi acted as a go-between for the Saudi government and the Twitter employees, according to the complaint. Abouammo was arrested in Seattle, Washington; the other two are presumed to be in Saudi Arabia.

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