As some members of US Congress have warned, that a Saudi billionaire is now the second investor in Twitter flagrantly contradicts the platform’s values.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the richest Middle East investors, announced last week that he is now the second owner of Twitter following Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform last week.
Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company rolled over its share of Twitter stock, valued at $1.89 billion, which makes bin Talal the second-largest investor of Twitter, following Musk.
Twitter was previously a publicly traded company, but will now be primarily owned by Musk as his $44 billion acquisition was finalized last Thursday.
On Friday, the Saudi royal tweeted “Dear friend “Chief Twit” @elonmusk Together all the way @Twitter,” with the image of a statement from the prince’s publicly-traded investing firm, Kingdom Holding, and his private office declaring that the prince was rolling over his 34.948 million shares of Twitter–worth $54.20 per share based on Musk’s offer–which made him the second largest shareholder in the company.
The irony of the year!
What is surprising about the announcement is that how a Saudi national can own Twitter while the Kingdom has a dark record of violations of freedom of speech and human rights on the whole.
In this regard, two US senators –Ron Wyden and Chris Murphy– have criticized the move.
In a statement, Wyden said this Friday that: “Given the Saudi regime’s history of jailing critics, planting a spy at Twitter, and brutally murdering a Washington Post journalist, the Saudi regime must be blocked from accessing Twitter account information, direct messages and other data that could be used to identify political opponents or to suppress criticism of the royal family.”
Wyden also noted that “the United States has a national security interest in protecting Americans’ data from murderous foreign governments, and this Saudi regime absolutely fits that description.”
Similarly, Sen. Chris Murphy on Monday called for an investigation into the national security implications of a company partially owned by Saudi Arabia maintaining its stake in Twitter; “Today I am requesting 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,” Murphy said on the social media platform.
“We should be concerned that the Saudis, who have a clear interest in repressing political speech and impacting U.S. politics, are now the second-largest owner of a major social media platform. There is a clear national security issue at stake and [the Committee on Foreign Investment] should do a review,” he also added.
Saudi’s record of violating freedom of speech
Taking over Twitter for a Saudi billionaire is now a reality while the Kingdom has a long record of imprisoning people simply for using this popular platform.
Last month, for example, Saudi Arabia sentenced an American citizen, Saad Ibrahim Almadi, to 16 years in prison for posting tweets critical of the Saudi government.
The country also sentenced Salma al-Shehab to 34 years in prison earlier this year for maintaining a Twitter account and for following and retweeting dissidents and activists critical of the Saudi government.
Nourah bint Saeed Qahtani, Saudi female activist, got 34 years and 45 years in prison respectively simply for having a Twitter account and following and retweeting dissidents and activists.
Musk has asserted several times before his big purchase that concerns over free speech motivated his Twitter takeover. But now, with Alwaleed bin Talal owning the second largest share of Twitter, it seems there is a big headache for the American businessman from day one in standing for freedom of speech in this universal platform.