Twitter has reportedly provided Saudi Arabia with information about a dissident journalist who died as a result of torture while in custody.
The British daily Metro reported that Turki bin Abdul Aziz al-Jasser was arrested in March 2018 for allegedly running a Twitter account called Kashkool, which exposed human rights violations by Saudi authorities and royals.
An anonymous source said a so-called ‘Twitter mole’ handed over information on Jasser who was killed in November 2018 while in detention.
“They (Saudi authorities) got his information from the Twitter office in Dubai. That is how he was arrested,” he said.
According to the source, Twitter has become insecure for dissidents or critics. “Everyone speaks under threat and pressure. The accounts of Saudi dissidents are spied on. We are not safe using Twitter.”
The source also said Saud al-Qahtani, a former adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, leads a “cyber spy ring” and has contacts inside the Dubai Twitter office.
Qahtani was fired after being blamed for the brutal murder of murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashogg inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. The Saudi crown prince said in September that he took responsibility but denied that he ordered the slaying of Khashoggi.
In a post on his Twitter account in 2017, he alluded to three methods Saudi officials use to unmask activists on social media, warning that fake names could not protect critics.
“Does your nickname protect you from the #blacklist?” he wrote. “No. 1. States have a way of knowing the owner of the name. 2 – IP can be identified in many technical ways. 3- The secret I’m not going to say.”
The anonymous source said the tweet is “considered to be an intended threat.”
Twitter CEO met bin Saman: Report
The Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal on Saturday cited a complaint filed in a US district court that revealed a meeting between the Saudi crown prince and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in New York in June 2016.
It took place six months after the social media giant learned that one of its engineers, a Saudi citizen named Ali Alzabarah, had been accessing the personal data of users.
The MEE also referred to a second legal complaint filed by the US government that said it wasn’t just a small group of users whose information Alzabarah had accessed and that he was not alone.
“The thing that strikes me is when you look through the government’s complaint, this guy hacked 5,500 records in June. That’s not a small number. It raises the question about what Twitter did and did not want to know,” said Mark Kleiman, an attorney who represents Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi dissident living in Canada.
Kleiman stressed that he and Ben Gharagozli, a second lawyer representing Abdulaziz, understood that “somebody from one of the three letter agencies in the US” tipped Twitter off about Azabarah, before company put him on administrative leave in early December 2015.
“It’s hard to imagine that [Dorsey] wouldn’t have heard about it six months later,” he added.
Former Twitter engineer Alzabarah was recently charged by the US Justice Department with spying for the Riyadh regime along with another ex-Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo, a US citizen.
A third person, Saudi citizen Ahmed Almutairi, who allegedly acted as middleman between Saudi officials and the two former employees, was also charged with spying.
Abouammo was arrested in Seattle on Tuesday, but Alzabarah and Almutairi are both believed to be in Saudi Arabia.