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The social media company X, formerly known as Twitter, is facing a civil lawsuit in the United States that accuses it of complicity in grave human rights abuses committed by Saudi Arabia against its users. The allegations include disclosing confidential user data at the request of Saudi authorities at an alarming rate, raising serious concerns about the company’s involvement in potential human rights violations.

Disturbing Accusations 

The lawsuit, initiated in May, was brought forward by Areej al-Sadhan, the sister of a Saudi aid worker who was forcibly disappeared and subsequently sentenced to a 20-year prison term. The heart of the matter revolves around the infiltration of the California-based company by three Saudi agents, two of whom posed as Twitter employees in 2014 and 2015. This infiltration ultimately led to the arrest of al-Sadhan’s brother and the exposure of thousands of anonymous Twitter users’ identities. Some of these users reportedly faced detention and torture as part of the Saudi government’s crackdown on dissent.

Lawyers for al-Sadhan have recently expanded their claims, alleging that Twitter, under the leadership of then-CEO Jack Dorsey, not only ignored but had knowledge of the Saudi government’s campaign to identify critics. Despite this knowledge, the lawsuit suggests that Twitter provided assistance to the Saudi kingdom due to financial considerations and its desire to maintain close ties with a top investor, the Saudi government itself.

Behind the Scenes of Saudi Human Rights Abuse

Muhammad al-Ghamdi, aged 54, is the brother of a Saudi scholar and government critic living in exile in the UK. Saudi court records examined by HRW revealed that al-Ghamdi faced accusations related to operating two accounts followed by a mere 10 users. The roots of the Saudi crackdown trace back to December 2014 when Ahmad Abouammo, subsequently convicted in the US for covertly acting as a Saudi agent and misleading the FBI, initiated the access and transmission of confidential user data to Saudi authorities.

In the recent lawsuit, Abouammo’s message to Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to Mohammed bin Salman, via Twitter’s messaging system, stands out. The message, stating “proactively and reactively we will delete evil, my brother,” is alleged to be a sinister reference to identifying and harming perceived Saudi dissidents using the platform. Al-Qahtani later faced accusations in the US related to his alleged involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The amended lawsuit firmly contends that Twitter was either complicit in this message, boldly sent it on its platform or deliberately chose to remain uninformed. Even after Abouammo’s resignation in May 2015, he maintained contact with Twitter to facilitate requests for the identities of confidential users. The lawsuit alleges that he explicitly mentioned these requests were on behalf of his “old partners in the Saudi government.”

Also read: Ex-Twitter Employee Convicted of Spying for Saudia Arabia


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