The Justice Department has charged two former Twitter employees with spying for Saudi Arabia by accessing the company's information on dissidents who use the platform, marking the first time federal prosecutors have publicly accused the kingdom of running agents in the United States.
One of those implicated in the scheme, according to court papers, is an associate of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA has concluded likely ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year.
The case highlights the issue of foreign powers exploiting American social media platforms to identify critics and suppress their voices. And it raises concerns about the ability of Silicon Valley to protect the private information of dissidents and other users from repressive governments.
The charges, unveiled Wednesday in San Francisco, came a day after the arrest of one of the former Twitter employees, Ahmad Abouammo, a U.S. citizen who is alleged to have spied on the accounts of three users - including one whose posts discussed the inner workings of the Saudi leadership - on behalf of the government in Riyadh.