A former employee Ahmad Abouamma at the microblogging site, Twitter has pleaded not guilty on November 20 after being accused of spying for Saudi Arabia. Abouamma still remains in custody in San Francisco after being charged with spying along with Ali Alzabarah, another ex-Twitter employee and Ahmed Almutairi, who worked for the Saudi royal family. The case has also highlighted the Silicon Valley over the protection of personal data including from tech company employees who have no other reason to access the information making it a public conflict between the United States and its ally.
The alleged Saudi agents were charged at a US court on November 6 for seeking personal information about Twitter users including known critics of the Saudi government. The accused Ahmad Abouammo, and Ali Alzabarah are originally from Saudi Arabia. Ahmed Almutairi is also accused of acting as a mediator between Abouammo and Alzabarah. It is also the first case of Saudi citizens being charged with spying inside the United States. Ahmad is also charged with falsifying documents and making false statements to the FBI. He left his job as a media partnership manager for Twitter in 2015.
The other two accused, Ali Alzabarah and Ahmed Almutairi are believed to be in Saudi Arabia and have arrest warrants issued against them. Alzabarah was accused of accessing personal data of over 6,000 Twitter users in 2015 after being recruited by Saudi agents. Investigators said at the court that when Twitter was about to confront him, he fled the country with his family to Saudi Arabia. The mediator is also believed to be in the Middle Eastern country. A federal judge in San Francisco has ordered Abouammo to be released next week, however, prosecutors are appealing that being a dual citizen of US and Lebanon, he presents a flight risk.
Responding to the investigation, Twitter said in a statement to media that it realises that the former employees are going to drag down the company and undermine it. The social media giant apologised, saying that it understands the incredible risks faced by many who use Twitter to share their perspectives with the world and to hold those in power accountable. It assured the public that it has tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work.