Former Twitter worker convicted of helping Saudi Arabia spy on dissidents

Ahmad Abouammo allegedly helped the kingdom track critics.

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At least one former Twitter employee is facing prison time for allegedly helping Saudi Arabia spy on critics. Bloomberg reports a jury in San Francisco has convicted US resident Ahmad Abouammo of serving as an agent for Saudi Arabia, as well as falsifying records, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to prosecutors, Abouammo took bribes in 2015 from a key aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Bader Al Asaker, in return for sensitive account info that could be used to track and silence dissidents.

The one-time media partnership manager said that he was only doing his job. However, the prosecution showed evidence that Abouammo received $300,000 and a $20,000 Hublot watch from the aide.

Abouammo will be sentenced to between 10 and 20 years in prison. He and his legal team have declined to comment. However, defense attorney Angela Chuang argued in court that the conviction is a consolation prize meant to "save face" for government officials and Twitter. The US supposedly let its main target, former Twitter engineer Ali Alzabarah, flee to Saudi Arabia. A third suspect outside of Twitter, Ahmed Almutairi, is believed to have acted as a go-between before he left for Saudi Arabia.

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The case highlights concerns about the potential for staff at social media companies to abuse account information. Twitter previously said it limited data access to vetted employees and had "tools in place" to protect privacy, but those safeguards clearly failed. There are still concerns internet firms may need to further tighten security to prevent similar misuses.

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