Two former employees of Twitter have been charged in the United States with spying for Saudi Arabia.
The charges, unsealed on Wednesday in San Francisco, allege that Saudi agents sought personal information about Twitter users including known critics of the Saudi government.
The two were named as Ahmad Abouammo, a US citizen, and Ali Alzabarah, from Saudi Arabia. A third person, Saudi citizen Ahmed Almutairi, is also accused of spying.
The charges allege that Ahmed Almutairi acted as an intermediary between the two Twitter employees and Saudi officials. Ahmad Abouammo appeared in a Seattle court on Wednesday and was remanded in custody pending another hearing due on Friday. He is also charged with falsifying documents and making false statements to the FBI.
Ahmad Abouammo is said to have left his job as a media partnership manager for Twitter in 2015.
Ali Alzabarah and Ahmed Almutairi are both believed to be in Saudi Arabia.
Ali Alzabarah is accused of accessing the personal data of more than 6,000 Twitter users in 2015 after being recruited by Saudi agents. He was confronted by his supervisors and placed on administrative leave before fleeing to Saudi Arabia with his wife and daughter.
In a statement Twitter said that it recognised “the lengths bad actors will go to” to try to undermine its service.
“We understand the incredible risks faced by many who use Twitter to share their perspectives with the world and to hold those in power accountable. We have tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work,” it added.