US requests to drop spy allegations against former Twitter employees

The US government has requested to drop charges against two former Twitter employees and another individual who had been accused of spying on Twitter users critical of the Saudi royal family.

The two former Twitter employees, Ahmad Abouammo and Ali Alzabarah, and the third person named Ahmed Almutairi had been arrested on charges of fraudulently accessing private information and acting as illegal agents of a foreign government.  

First reported by Bloomberg, prosecutors filed a notice on Tuesday requesting for the charges to be dropped. 

While the two-page notice itself does not provide reasons for the dismissal, the request was submitted “without prejudice”, meaning that the government could file new charges if the notice is approved.

The charges, originally unsealed late last year, alleged that from November 2014 and May 2015, Almutairi and Saudi officials convinced the two former Twitter employees to use their credentials to access private information about individuals behind certain Twitter accounts, particularly those who were critical of the Saudi government and royal family. 

The complaint also revealed the two former Twitter employees could access information such as recent IP address information, device used, user-provided biographical information, logs containing a user’s browser information, and a complete log of a user’s actions on Twitter.

ZDNet has reached out to Twitter for comment about the dropped charges.

Earlier this month, Twitter suffered a security incident that saw accounts of public figures — such as Barrack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Apple, Uber, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Michael Bloomberg, and many others — be breached. The breached accounts issued tweets promoting a cryptocurrency scam. The scam asked followers to send money to a blockchain address in exchange for a larger payback.  

Within 24 hours of the incident, Twitter commenced an investigation and confirmed internal tools were used to breach the verified accounts. Twitter has since provided various updates of its investigation, confirming that hackers accessed the direct messages of 36 users, targeted 130 accounts, tweeted on behalf of 45, and downloaded data from eight. 

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