Posted BY: Margaret Flavin
In August, former Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo was found guilty by a jury on multiple counts including acting as a foreign agent without notice, money laundering, and falsifying records. In addition, Abouammo was found guilty on wire fraud and honest services fraud.
The convictions resulted from Abouammo accepting bribes from Saudi representatives in exchange for providing Twitter user information, users alleged to be dissidents of the Saudi government.
On Thursday, he was sentenced to 42 months in prison.
The Saudi government has been roundly criticized for its treatment of dissidents, including allegations that the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is alleged to have been carried out on orders of the crown prince.
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Ahmad Abouammo, who worked as a media partnership manager for Twitter’s Middle East and North Africa region, met with a close adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on multiple occasions, accepting thousands of dollars worth of gifts as he provided information about Saudi dissidents’ Twitter accounts, according to court documents.
“This case revealed that foreign governments will bribe insiders to obtain the user information that is collected and stored by our Silicon Valley social media companies,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds wrote in a statement. “In handing down today’s sentence, the Court emphasized that defendant shared the user information with a foreign government known for not tolerating dissidents, and he did so working with his even more culpable co-defendant who fled the country rather than face trial.”
At one meeting in London in late 2014, court documents show Abouammo received a Hublot watch that he later said was valued at $42,000.
Days later, Abouammo sent the Saudi adviser a dossier on the account of a Saudi dissident who tweets about alleged corruption in the kingdom’s royal family under a pseudonym, according to court documents.
“Mr. Abouammo violated the trust placed on him to protect the privacy of individuals living in the US by giving their personal information to a foreign power for profit,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen. “His conduct was made all the more egregious by the fact that the information was intended to deny US persons of their lawful rights.”
After the London meeting, court documents show Abouammo proceeded to access private information about other Twitter accounts and communicate with the Saudi official.