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Twitter and Ex-Employees Sued by Saudi Activist Over Account Hack

Twitter website on computer screen.

"Muenster, Germany - May 23, 2011: The twitter website is displayed in web browser on a computer screen. Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service and enabling its users to send and read messages."

Ali Al-Ahmed, a political asylum seeker granted refuge in the United States sued Twitter Inc. and two former employees, also Saudi double agents, for purportedly disabling his account and misappropriating some of his Twitter contacts’ information, resulting in their arrest, disappearance, or execution. Wednesday’s 39-page civil complaint accuses the defendants of complicity in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (KSA) “Twitter spy campaign” and violation of federal electronic communication protection laws and various others.

In June 2020, the plaintiff filed suit against Twitter in New York, alleging that the company ignored conduct that led to the suspension of his account. That suit was dismissed in August on jurisdictional grounds.

The Northern District of California filing describes Al-Ahmed as a journalist and leading KSA critic who was granted asylum as a Saudi Arabian political dissident and human rights advocate. The complaint says that the plaintiff, “[t]hrough his prominent social media presence, and persistent critique of the KSA … has brought broad awareness to issues of social and political concern including allegations of KSA human rights violations, KSA links to international terrorism, and KSA corruption within the Kingdom.”

The complaint asserts that the two individual defendants, Ali Hamad Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo, both former Twitter employees indicted for espionage, used the company’s internal resources to identify the plaintiff as a KSA critic and silence him by suspending his account in May 2018. In addition, Al-Ahmed alleges that as a result of Twitter’s “indefensible security practices,” the insiders were able to rifle through his account, harvest identifying information, and single out targets for the KSA.

The complaint implicates Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as well. Reportedly, the executive met with KSA Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his “henchman” after Dorsey became aware of the spy scandal. According to the complaint, Salman nefariously took hold of another prince’s 5.2% ownership of Twitter after imprisoning and possibly torturing him. As such, the lawsuit accuses the defendants of acting to appease Salman, described as a “critical investor.”

Al-Ahmed’s new complaint now brings 13 claims for relief under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, and California’s Unfair Competition Law. Additionally, he states claims for unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and negligent hiring, supervision, and retention, among others.

Al-Ahmed seeks injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and his attorneys’ fees and litigation costs. He is represented by Gerstman Schwartz LLP.

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