San Francisco, Nov 7 (IANS) Raising concerns that American technology firms might be exposed to foreign governments, two former Twitter employees have been charged with spying for the Saudi Arabia government and the Kingdom's royal family, according to the US Justice Department.
The two former Twitter staffers, Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi national and Ahmad Abouammo, a US citizen, used their access at the micro-blogging giant to gather sensitive and non-public information on dissidents of the Saudi regime, the Justice Department said in a criminal complaint.
The case, unsealed in San Francisco federal court, underscores allegations the Saudi government tries to control anti-regime voices abroad. It also recalls a move reportedly directed by the country's controversial leader to weaponise online platforms against critics, CNN Business reported on Thursday.
One of the two people is reportedly an associate of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — who the CIA has concluded likely ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year.
“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,” US Attorney David Anderson said in a statement.
Another man, named Ahmed Almutairi, who is also from Saudi Arabia, allegedly acted as a go-between to the two Twitter staffers and the Saudi government, which according to the complaint rewarded the men with hundreds of thousands of dollars and, for one man, a luxury Hublot watch, the report added.