Twitter is being sued for allegedly conspiring with Saudi authorities by blocking accounts of its critics, a law firm handling the case on behalf of the plaintiff has announced.
Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, is the one behind the lawsuit that contains allegations of unauthorized access to his content on the platform. Al-Ahmed, a Saudi scholar, lost his citizenship and had to seek asylum in the US after supposedly exposing “major news stories such as the Pentagon’s botched translation of the 9-11 Bin Laden tape and the video of Daniel Pearl’s murder.”
And in addition to reportedly facing kidnapping and assassination attempts, Al-Ahmed and a number of his followers also faced censorship and deplatforming on Twitter.
The Institute for Gulf Affairs is a rights group based in Washington DC, while the law cited in the suit against Twitter is the Stored Communications Act. This legislation is meant to shore up US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment rights when it comes to wire and electronic communications and transactional records.
We obtained a copy of the lawsuit for you here.
What Twitter did, according to Al-Ahmed, was suspend his account, and those of “many” of his 36K followers, and then forward their private information and direct messages to the Saudis.
This resulted in revealing the identities of their critics to the authorities in Saudi Arabia – all the way to, according to an email Al-Ahmed sent to Twitter, exposing them to arrests and torture. Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges breach of contract and economic harm suffered by the plaintiff thanks to Twitter’s actions taken against him.
In an email to Twitter, Al-Ahmed says he wrote: “People that I keep in contact with via twitter alone have been arrested and now being tortured by the Saudi monarchy henchmen.”
The Saudi scholar’s legal representative said that Twitter in this way not only breached its own rules by giving personal information to a foreign government but also failed to properly supervise its employees who were behind this move.
This refers to Saudi spies allegedly managing to get jobs at Twitter, to then use the platform to further interests of their true employer – by using Twitter’s internal tools to access data of Saudi government’s critics.
To make matters seemingly even worse for the US social network, according to the lawsuit, all this was happening against the backdrop of Twitter having “entities controlled” by the Saudi government among its largest shareholders.