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‘X’ known as twitter accused of helping Saudi Arabia commit rights abuses


LAHORE MIRROR — THE social media company X, formerly known as Twitter, has been accused in a civil US lawsuit of helping Saudi Arabia commit grave human rights abuses against its users, The Guardian reported.

The report accuses the social media firm of, among other things, disclosing confidential user data at the request of Saudi authorities in July and December 2015 at a much higher rate than it has for the US, UK, or Canada.

The lawsuit was brought last May, by Areej al-Sadhan, the sister of a Saudi aid worker who was forcibly disappeared and then later sentenced to 20 years in jail.

It centres on the events surrounding the infiltration of the California company by three Saudi agents, two who were posing as Twitter employees in 2014 and 2015, which ultimately led to the arrest of al-Sadhan’s brother, Abdulrahman, and the exposure of the identity of thousands of anonymous Twitter users, some of whom were later reportedly detained and tortured as part of the government’s crackdown on dissent, the report said.

Lawyers for Al-Sadhan updated their claim last week to include new allegations about how Twitter, under the leadership of then-chief executive Jack Dorsey, willfully ignored or had knowledge of the Saudi government’s campaign to ferret out critics but — because of financial considerations and efforts to keep close ties to the Saudi government, a top investor in the company — provided assistance to the kingdom, The Guardian reported.

The convicted man, Muhammad al-Ghamdi, 54, is the brother of a Saudi scholar and government critic living in exile in the UK. Saudi court records examined by HRW showed that al-Ghamdi was accused of having two accounts, which had a total of 10 followers combined.

The Saudi crackdown can be traced back to December 2014, as Ahmad Abouammo — who was later convicted in the US for secretly acting as a Saudi agent and lying to the FBI — began accessing and sending confidential user data to Saudi Arabian officials.

In the new lawsuit, it is claimed that he sent a message to Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to Mohammed bin Salman, via the social media company’s messaging system, saying “proactively and reactively we will delete evil, my brother”.

It was a reference, the lawsuit claims, to the identification and harming of perceived Saudi dissidents who were using the platform. Al-Qahtani was later accused by the US of being a mastermind behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

“Twitter was either aware of this message — brazenly sent on its own platform — or was deliberately ignorant to it,” the revised lawsuit states.

After Abouammo resigned in May 2015, he continued to contact Twitter to field requests he was receiving for the identity of confidential users. He made clear to the company, the lawsuit alleges, that the requests were on behalf of his “old partners in the Saudi government”.

The lawsuit also alleges that Twitter had “ample notice” of security risks to internal personal data, and that there was a threat of insiders illegally accessing it, based on public reporting at the time.

Twitter “did not simply ignore all these red flags … it was aware of the malign campaign”, the lawsuit claims.