Former Twitter employee sentenced for spying
A US District Court has sentenced US-Lebanese national Ahmad Abouammo to three and a half years in prison for leaking the private information of Twitter users to the Saudi royal family. The ruling on Wednesday came after Abouammo was found guilty by a jury in August of spying on behalf of Saudi Arabia.
Abouammo had worked for Twitter and was in charge of helping oversee media partnerships for the company in the Middle East and North Africa. He was found to be part of a scheme to acquire the personal information of users, including phone numbers and birth dates, for a Saudi agent.
The prosecution had initially sought a prison term of just over seven years, stating it wanted a sentence strong enough to set an example and to “deter others in the technology and social media industry from selling out the data of vulnerable users.”
It’s believed that Abouammo was tasked with conveying sensitive information from Twitter’s internal systems to help Saudi officials identify and locate users of interest who had been critical of the Saudi government. For his assistance he was allegedly compensated with a $42,000 watch and two $100,000 wire transfers.
An FBI agent who gave testimony in the case claims that after Abouammo left Twitter in May 2015 he continued to help the Saudis by contacting former co-workers and encouraging them to verify particular Saudi accounts or to remove posts specified by agents as violating the site’s terms of service.
The US Justice Department has also stated it believes two other men had participated in the scheme – another former Twitter employee and a man suspected of helping the Saudi government. Both are suspected of having fled to Saudi Arabia to escape US authorities.
Neither Twitter nor the Saudi government have released an official response to the ruling.