WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said Monday he wants a U.S. national security review of Saudi Arabia’s stake in Twitter after Elon Musk’s takeover of the social media website.
Murphy said he was asking the Committee on Foreign Investment — which reviews acquisitions of U.S. businesses by foreign buyers — “to conduct an investigation into the national security implications of Saudi Arabia’s purchase of Twitter.”
On Friday, Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Company and the private office of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal said they will continue their ownership of Twitter shares valued at $1.89 billion, according to a statement tweeted by Prince Alwaleed.
Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter has come under flak over a sizable funding a Saudi Arabian prince allocated to the American social media platform as the ultra-conservative kingdom grapples with a stark track record of human rights abuse and repression.
The $44 billion deal was concluded after a months-long spat between Musk and the Twitter Company, with the 51-year-old billionaire swiftly dismissing its CEO and other top executives as part of “reforms” he had already promised the internet and social media users, among them the “prioritization of free speech”.
Musk’s reliance on Saudi Arabia drew harsh criticism over Riyadh’s stifling of free expression and human rights violations at home and aboard.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accused of ordering the 2018 brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was a vocal critic of the Saudi royalty. Khashoggi was dismembered with a bone saw during a visit to the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
Some critics were miffed at the purchase and voiced concerns about the possibility of promoting hate speech online, highlighting what they viewed as a dangerous hypocrisy in allowing Saudi royalty so much ownership of Twitter.
“There’s not been enough scrutiny of the fact that Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover has been propped up with cash from Qatar & Saudi Arabia,” tweeted Business Insider’s Ryan Gallagher. “Twitter was prev compromised by Saudi spies who used internal data to out dissidents & have them jailed. Surprising any new owner of Twitter - especially one professing to be a free-speech absolutist - would want Saudi influence anywhere near the platform.”