Twitter Files Motion to Dismiss Activist’s Cyber Espionage Case

Twitter Inc. filed a 44-page motion to dismiss on Monday, alleging that Ali Al-Ahmed’s complaint is almost an identical copy of a previously filed and judicially disposed of lawsuit, and comes too late, among other deficiencies.

Al-Ahmed sued Twitter in October, accusing the company and two individuals working for Twitter, who the plaintiff said are double agents of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), of participating in an alleged spy campaign designed to silence KSA critics. The filing detailed the plaintiff’s history as a journalist and activist targeted for his outspoken views of the KSA.

It also explained Twitter’s role in the lawsuit, allegedly that it “enabled, collaborated, colluded,  conspired with, aided and abetted, and/or otherwise turned a blind eye to KSA’s efforts to suppress, torture, falsely imprison, terrorize, and murder dissenters both within Saudi Arabia and around the world.” As a result of this combined with the alleged hack of Al-Ahmed’s account in order to obtain information about people of interest to the KSA, Al-Ahmed claims he suffered economic injury and injury to his privacy rights.

Twitter’s motion to dismiss first states that the case is nearly identical to a lawsuit brought by Omar Abdulaziz regarding alleged state-sponsored espionage carried out by the KSA. “The Abdulaziz court dismissed these claims for numerous, overlapping reasons in three successive orders granting Twitter’s motions to dismiss, ultimately with prejudice,” the filing explains, urging this court to do the same.

As for timeliness, Twitter claims that nearly all Al-Ahmed’s claims fall outside the relevant statutes of limitations. They come more than five years after Twitter uncovered and ended the KSA’s activities, more than five years after the company notified Al-Ahmed of the unauthorized intrusion into his account, and more than three years after the suspension of one of Al-Ahmed’s Twitter accounts, the motion says.

The microblogging and social networking service also claims that it is not vicariously liable for KSA conduct, per the double agents, under a theory that Twitter either “aided or abetted” or otherwise “ratified” their illegal actions. The company in no way helped or approved of the KSA agents’ actions, the motion says, in part pointing to notices sent to the plaintiff once Twitter became aware of their misconduct, and the company’s own cooperation with the Department of Justice in a subsequent investigation and indictment of the double agents.

The motion also volleys a Communications Decency Act Section 230 defense, claiming that it is entitled to protection from Al-Ahmed’s account suspension-related claims, including violation of the Stored Communications Act, breach of contract, civil conspiracy, and replevin.

Al-Ahmed is represented by Gerstman Schwartz LLP and Twitter by Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP.