Former Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison after being convicted of spying for Saudi Arabia, Reuters and NBC news report. Ahmad Abouammo was employed by Twitter between 2013 and 2015, during which time he used his position as media partnership manager for the Middle East and North Africa to access and forward personal information of users critical of the Saudi government. to Saudi officials.
Reuters notes that Abouammo received a $42,000 watch as a gift from a Saudi official, as well as two wire transfers of $100,000. In return, he sought information from two Twitter users, including phone numbers and dates of birth. After leaving the company in 2015, Abouammo continued to try to influence Twitter to verify Saudi accounts or remove posts flagged by the Saudi government, according to testimony from an FBI agent.
Abouammo received hundreds of thousands of dollars in wire transfers
Abouammo was convicted in August this year of, among other things, acting as an agent of a foreign government, as well as fraud, money laundering and forgery of documents. He was first charged in 2019 along with another Twitter employee who was accused of accessing thousands of Twitter accounts for the Saudi government. The second employee, Ali Alzabarah, left the US before being charged.
The case highlights the extremely sensitive information held by Twitter, given the many high-profile politicians, celebrities and business people who use the service on a daily basis.
The Kingdom Holding Company of Saudi Arabia, which is 16.9 percent owned by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s cabinet jointly claim the second largest investor in Twitter following the company’s acquisition by Elon Musk. The US government has reportedly investigated whether Musk’s foreign investment partners could access users’ private data on the platform.