Authorities in the United States filed charges on Wednesday against three men – two of them Twitter employees – who they say used internal access to user data to help Saudi Arabia track its dissidents, such as the late Jamal Khashoggi.
The charges against the three, filed by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and first reported by the Washington Post, detail how the two Saudi nationals, as well as a U.S. citizen, began in 2014 to lay the groundwork of an operation to benefit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and linked directly to its royal family.
The FBI said Ahmad AbouAmmo, then the head of Twitter partnerships for the Middle East and North Africa, and Ahmed Almutairi, a Saudi national doing public relations for the KSA, are charged with illegally acting as an agent of a foreign government, and the destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.
Almutairi also faces charges of spying, the Post reports.
“AbouAmmo was involved in assisting notable accounts of public interest, brands, journalists and celebrities for the MENA region,” the court papers said.
Ali Alzabarah, the second Saudi, faces the same charges.
Through an anonymous spokesperson, the Post said, the social media company insisted that user data access was limited to specifically trained employees, and assured they “understand the incredible risks faced by many who use Twitter to share their perspectives with the world and to hold those in power accountable.”
The move comes just days after Twitter announced it will not be accepting political ads, and as social media companies including Facebook grapple with the security and social vulnerabilities of their products.
To read the complete court documents, see the Post link here.