A former Twitter employee has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for spying on behalf of Saudi Arabia. Ahmad Abouammo, 45, was convicted in August on various criminal counts, including money laundering, fraud, falsifying records, and acting as an illegal agent of a foreign government. Abouammo was arrested in November 2019 after being accused of using his access to Twitter’s internal systems to gather information about Saudi Arabia’s critics on the platform. He worked at Twitter from 2013 to 2015.
According to Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, “Mr. Abouammo violated the trust placed on him to protect the privacy of individuals by giving their personal information to a foreign power for profit. His conduct was made all the more egregious by the fact that the information was intended to target political dissidents speaking out against that foreign power.”
Evidence presented during the trial revealed that Abouammo, who worked as a Media Partnerships Manager for the Middle East and North Africa region, received cash from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in exchange for conveying identifying information related to its dissidents and critics, potentially exposing them to persecution. A bank account opened in the name of his father in Lebanon was credited with $200,000 in two transfers, half of which was laundered through small wire transfers to the U.S. with false descriptions. Abouammo also received a luxury watch that was subsequently sold on Craigslist for $42,000.
As part of the sentencing, Abouammo has also been ordered to forfeit $242,000 and will begin his jail term on March 31, 2023. Another former Twitter employee, Ali Alzabarah, who has also been accused of acquiring private information on accounts that were critical of the Saudi regime, fled the U.S. in December 2015 before being charged.
This news follows recent revelations by Twitter’s former head of security, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, about serious security failings at the company, as well as allegations that the Chinese and Indian governments forced the firm to hire one of their agents and likely gained access to sensitive user data.
- Ahmed is an experienced news editor at Player.me magazine, where he has been bringing the latest and most interesting tech news to readers for the past five years. He has delved into the inner workings of some of the biggest names in the tech industry, including Apple and Google, and has also honed his skills as a reporter and editor at other publications. With his extensive knowledge and passion for all things tech, Ahmed is sure to keep you informed and engaged.
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