A former Twitter employee was found guilty of acting as an agent of a foreign government and illegally sharing Twitter user information.
Reports say, Ahmad Abouammo aged 44, formerly of Walnut Creek, California, and at present residing in Seattle, was employed at Twitter as ‘Media Partnerships Manager for the MENA region in 2015.
Access to Twitter User Information
The evidence clearly mentions that Abouammo took bribes in exchange for accessing, monitoring, and conveying the private information of Twitter users to officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Royal family.
“He received a Hublot watch and $300,000 in wire transfers, which the US said were bribes from the MBS aide, Bader Al- Asaker, in exchange for confidential Twitter account information on Saudi dissidents”, Bloomberg reported.
At work, Abouammo was in charge of protecting Twitter user information and owed Twitter his honest services. Reports say, Twitter policies also required Abouammo to disclose violations of Twitter’s security policies and report gifts from those with business dealings with the company.
When he enquired about the access to Twitter user information and the receipt of bribes, Abouammo lied to the FBI investigators and falsified a document.
Angela Chuang, a federal public defender representing Abouammo, told jurors the case was a product of a botched investigation and Twitter’s careless handling of its users’ data. Also, Abouammo’s alleged co-conspirator, Ali Alzabarah, who worked at Twitter as an engineer, ran away to Saudi Arabia in spite of being under observation.
Chuang told the judges, “Both the government and Twitter need a way to save face. The US let its primary suspect escape and Twitter threw Abouammo “under the bus”. This case is the best they could come up with?”
“Any attempts by foreign governments to hijack free speech – in social media or any form – will not be tolerated here in the United States. This case is proof of the FBI’s commitment to defend our constitutional right,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
“Authoritarian governments rely on transnational repression to shape the world in their favour and stifle dissent. We remain dedicated to protecting the United States from all threats foreign and domestic, which includes efforts by foreign governments to stalk, harass, or intimidate the people within our borders.”
The Charge for Acting as an Agent of a Foreign Government
Reports state that Abouammo faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the charge of acting as an agent of a foreign government and 20 years in prison for each of the other counts.
Additionally, fines of up to $250,000 and further periods of supervised release follow the prison term. Therefore a federal district court judge will decide any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
According to the reports, the sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
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