Tip Sheets

Saudi spying charges highlight regulation void for Twitter, social media

Media Contact

Jeff Tyson

Two former Twitter employees were charged this week with spying for Saudi Arabia, by digging up information on dissidents active on the social media platform.

Drew Margolin

Associate Professor

Drew Margolin, professor of communication at Cornell University, studies the way people communicate online and the role of accountability, credibility, and legitimacy within social networks. He says social media companies have long been vulnerable to this type of exploitation. He adds that in other industries, regulations are typically part of the solution.

Margolin says:

“Vulnerability to this kind of crime has been lurking in plain sight for some time. Social media companies hold rich data about millions of people who might have an incentive to keep this information concealed from governments, employers or even family members. 

“Typically when this is the case, we add special regulations and requirements, such as with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that applies to education, or the Right to Financial Privacy Act that applies to banking.”  

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