Ahmed Abuammo, a dual American-Lebanese citizen who oversaw Twitter’s relations with journalists and celebrities in the Middle East and North Africa, was convicted after more than two weeks of trial in federal court in San Francisco and faces 10 to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Bader al-Azghar, a close adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, recruited Abu Ammo to use his Twitter status to access social media accounts and obtain personal information about Saudi dissidents.
In this case, he was accused of accessing the data of 6,000 users as a result of espionage activities. The accounts, including at least 33 usernames, have been subpoenaed by Saudi Arabian law enforcement for Twitter to urgently release information. Abuammo was arrested in November 2019 and later released on bail.
One of the Twitter accounts the spy was interested in was @mujtahiddo, the pseudonym of a political agitator who gained millions of Twitter followers during the Arab Spring uprisings, accusing the Saudi royal family of corruption and other abuses.
Prosecutors allege Abouammo received at least $300,000 and a luxury watch worth $20,000 from Al-Asaker, deposited the money into a relative’s Lebanese account and then transferred it to his own account in the United States.
“The government showed and the jury found that AbuAmmo breached a sacred trust in holding the private personal data of Twitter customers and sold private customer information to a foreign government,” said attorney Stephanie Hinds.
Apoammo was also indicted on, among others, money laundering and conspiracy charges.
Another Twitter employee, Ali Alzabara, who worked as an engineer and collaborated with Abu Ammo, was accused of allowing the Saudis to access the accounts, but he fled the United States before being charged.
A Twitter spokesperson said the company cooperated with law enforcement agencies during the investigation, as well as informing users whose accounts may be at risk.
PAP / Marcin R.
“Twitter’s irretrievable researcher. An amateur social media lawyer. Award-winning music expert. Became an addict. Easily lethargic.”