Former Twitter employees accused of spying for Saudi Arabia

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In some instances, the accounts provided visuals that could have been construed as stability threats-including illustrations or photos of improvised explosive devices-and Twitter taken off the posts right after unexpected emergency takedown requests from the Saudi federal government.

Most contacts occurred in 2014 and 2015, when the crown prince was rising to power, according to the US complaint.

The complaint states that Asaker began "cultivating" Twitter employees for the goal of obtaining private user information on behalf of the Saudi government that it could not otherwise obtain.

Many Republican and Democratic lawmakers are already deeply critical of Riyadh's conduct of the war in Yemen and the 2018 murder at a Saudi consulate of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had US residency and wrote for the Washington Post.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at an investor summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In a statement, Twitter said it was grateful to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice for their work on the case.

Abouammo labored for Twitter in media partnerships within the Center East, and Alzabarah was an engineer; each are charged with appearing as unregistered Saudi brokers - spies. It has even arrested and imprisoned Twitter users. The spying was bankrolled by a charity led by the crown prince.

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Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports.

"If you combine that with what we know about at least these two individuals and what went on in 2014 and into 2015, it's pretty chilling", Coogle said. His Twitter account was suspended in September for violating its platform manipulation policy. We perceive the unimaginable dangers confronted by many who use Twitter to share their views with the world and to carry these in energy accountable.

According to the affidavit from the FBI, Saudi officials paid up to $300,000 to Abouammo for his work, which he tried to cover up with faked invoices to his personal needs, and also gifted him a luxury Hublot watch worth $20,000.

His lawyer, Christopher Black, declined to comment, as did Abouammo's wife, who did not give her name.

US citizen Ahmad Abouammo, who worked for Twitter as a "media partnerships manager", allegedly spied on three specific Twitter users, according to the complaint.

As an alleged intermediary between Saudi officials and the former Twitter employees, he is believed to be in Saudi Arabia working with Alzabarah on social media projects "for the benefit of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia", according to the complaint.

Investigation revealed that the accused were guided by a Saudi official who worked under a prosecutor called "Royal family Member-1".

The criminal complaint, unsealed on Wednesday, raises concerns about whether Twitter is doing enough to safeguard the information of users critical of authoritarian regimes.

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