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Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Justice Department charges were revealed on Wednesday against two former Twitter employees for spying on behalf of Saudi Arabia by obtaining information on dissidents who use the platform, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters via the Post: This marks the "first time federal prosecutors have publicly accused the kingdom of running agents in the United States. ... The case highlights the issue of foreign powers exploiting American social media platforms to identify critics and suppress their voices," and it has escalated concerns over the tech industry's ability to protect user data.

The big picture: Ahmad Abouammo has been charged with spying on three users — one of which discussed Saudi leadership. Ali Alzabarah, the other former employee, allegedly accessed the private information of more than 6,000 Twitter accounts in 2015.

  • One of the accounts breached by Alzabarah belonged to a Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, who had been close to slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • Prosecutors say a third individual, Ahmed Almutairi, has also been charged with spying, serving as an intermediary between Saudi Arabia and Twitter employees.
  • Both Alzabarah and Almutairi are believed to be in Saudi Arabia.

What they're saying:

  • “The criminal complaint unsealed today alleges that Saudi agents mined Twitter’s internal systems for personal information about known Saudi critics and thousands of other Twitter users,” U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson said, per the Post.
  • “We will not allow U.S. companies or U.S. technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of U.S. law.”

Our thought bubble via Axios' Scott Rosenberg: This is a classic "insider risk" situation, illustrating how a company's public commitments to protecting individuals' data can fray if it's not also effectively curbing employee misbehavior.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
1 hour ago - Sports

European soccer is at war

Liverpool celebrating its 2019 Champions League victory. Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

2 hours ago - Science

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hovering the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.