A former Twitter employee has been found guilty of spying on Twitter users on behalf of the Saudi royal family and has been sentenced to three years in prison.
NBC News reports that a former Twitter employee has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for spying on users on behalf of the Saudi royal family.
Ahmad Abouammo, a dual U.S.-Lebanese citizen, was part of a scheme to acquire personal information, including phone numbers and birth dates, for a Saudi government agent. Abouammo helped oversee media partnerships for Twitter in the Middle East and North Africa. The sentence was handed down Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
According to testimony from an FBI agent, a Saudi government agent began courting Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo in 2014 by buying him gifts and depositing money in his cousin’s bank account.
Abouammo then secretly accessed the accounts of users who criticized the Saudi government and shared their email addresses and phone numbers with the government agent.
Even after his departure from Twitter in May 2015, Abouamma reportedly continued to contact former coworkers at the company and encouraged them to verify particular Saudi accounts or remove posts at the request of Saudi agents.
The U.S. Justice Department believes that two former Twitter employees accused of accessing user accounts and aiding the Saudi government have fled to Saudi Arabia to avoid American authorities. In April, a Saudi court sentenced a 34-year-old mother of two, Salma al-Shehab, to 34 years in prison for tweets protesting the government.