The United States government has charged three Twitter employees for spying after they were reportedly recruited by oil- rich Saudi Arabia to gather confidential personal information on thousands of accounts that included prominent opponents.
Prosecutors said on Wednesday the accounts included those of a popular critic of the government with more than one million followers and a news personality. Neither was named.
Those charged were Twitter employees Ali Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo, along with Ahmed Almutairi, a marketing official with ties to the royal family.
“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 US lawyer David Anderson.
“US law protects US companies from such an unlawful foreign intrusion. We will not allow US companies or US technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of US law,” he said in a statement.
The complaint unsealed in US 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.
According to a court filing, they were guided by an unnamed Saudi official who worked for someone prosecutors designated “Royal Family Member-1,” which The Washington Post reported was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or MBS as he is commonly known.
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