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Trial of Ex-Twitter Employee Accused of Spying for Saudi Government Begins

Ahmad Abouammo, an Arabic-speaking American and former Twitter employee, is accused of leaking sensitive data of users critical of the Saudi government

A San Francisco Federal Court has begun hearings against a former Twitter employee accused of spying on ‘dissidents’ on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government, reported Bloomberg.  Ahmad Abouammo, an American citizen fluent in Arabic, was reportedly responsible for promoting the uptake of Twitter in the kingdom between 2013 to 2015. Data secretly handed over to the Saudi government by Abouammo and his co-conspirators included the dissidents' emails, phone numbers, dates of birth, and IP addresses. This information may have been used by the government to identify the owners of specific Twitter accounts, many of whom were critical of the regime. His information allegedly exposed them to State-sponsored ‘imprisonment and torture’, including being held in ‘secret prisons’, and subjected to sleep deprivation and electric shocks. Abouammo left Twitter in 2015. Why it matters: Abouammo’s trial sheds light on longstanding reports of the Saudi Arabian government cracking down on dissidents or regime-critical individuals using Twitter. It also highlights what dissidents believe to be Twitter’s muted response to these issues. Last April, a Saudi Arabian court sentenced Abdulrahman Al Sadhan to 20 years of imprisonment for violating laws prohibiting political speech. The alleged site of the crime was a pseudonymised Twitter account that parodied the ruling government. Al Sadhan reportedly stated that Twitter hadn’t done enough to protect activists in the country. Other activists suing Twitter in the US for this privacy infringement, have stated that the company has ‘enabled, collaborated, colluded, conspired with, aided and abetted, and/or otherwise turned a blind eye…

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