twitter faces lawsuit for helping saudi arabia commit human rights abuses
Twitter, now known as X, is facing a civil US lawsuit for allegedly helping Saudi Arabia commit grave human rights abuses against the platform’s users. The lawsuit has been brought on by Areej al-Sadhan, the sister of a Saudi aid worker who was forcibly disappeared and then given a 20-year jail sentence.
It alleges the social media platform disclosed confidential user data at the behest of Saudi authorities. New allegations have been included Twitter under the leadership of then CEO Jack Dorsey ignored, or had knowledge of the Saudi government’s campaign to flush out critics. It says a top advisor in the company provided assistance to the kingdom in an effort to keep close ties with Saudi Arabia.
Early last decade 2010 – 2014, Twitter was a critical platform, more like a vehicle for democratic movements during the Arab Spring uprising. It became a platform of concern for the Saudi Arabia government. The lawsuit came to light just days after Human Rights Watch criticized a Saudi court for sentencing a man to death solely on the basis of his Twitter and YouTube activity. The organization called out the kingdom’s escalating crackdown on freedom of expression.
The lawsuit also sheds light on Ahmad Abouammo, who was convicted in the US for secretly acting as a Saudi agent and lying to the FBI, who accessed and sent confidential user data to Saudi Arabia officials. It further claims that Abouammo sent a message to Saud al Qahtani, a close aide of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, through Twitter’s messaging system.
He said “proactively and reactively we will delete evil, my brother”. This message reflects the identification and harming of perceived Saudi dissidents who used the social media platform. Al Qahtani was also accused by the United States of being one of the masterminds behind the ruthless murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The revised lawsuit says Twitter was either aware of the message, or was deliberately ignorant to it. It adds that the platform had ample notice of security risks to internal personal data, and there was a threat to insiders illegally accessing the information. The lawsuit states that Saudi Arabia authorities would formally follow up with Twitter once it received confidential user data from its agents working inside the company.
It pointed out that the platform put thousands of users at risk.