The Saudi Arabian prince’s substantial funding of the American social media platform has sparked criticism of Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter. Saudi Arabia, an ultraconservative kingdom, has a long history of human rights abuse and repression. (Elon Musk faces backlash )
After months of conflict, Musk and Twitter Company reached a $44 billion agreement on Friday. The 51-year-old billionaire promptly fired the company’s CEO and other top executives as part of “reforms” he had already promised internet and social media users, including the “prioritization of free speech.” (Elon Musk faces backlash )
However, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal stated that he and his Kingdom Holding Company had rolled over a combined $1.89 billion in existing Twitter shares, making them Twitter’s largest shareholder after Musk. This caused controversy surrounding the purchase.
For the SpaceX founder to complete the transaction, equity from other investors was required. Media reports emphasized that Alwaleed, a Saudi prince and CEO of Kingdom Holding, committed $1.89 billion in equity, or nearly 35 million shares, to assist Musk in purchasing Twitter.
Due to Riyadh’s suppression of free speech and violations of human rights at home and abroad, Musk’s reliance on Saudi Arabia was met with severe criticism.
Jamal Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of Saudi royalty, was brutally murdered in 2018 by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to allegations. During a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Khashoggi was cut up with a bone saw.
In light of what they perceived as a dangerous hypocrisy, some critics raised eyebrows at the purchase and expressed concerns regarding the possibility of online promotion of hate speech. (Elon Musk faces backlash )
Business Insider’s Ryan Gallagher tweeted, “There’s not been enough scrutiny of the fact that Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover has been propped up with cash from Qatar and Saudi Arabia.” Saudi spies previously compromised Twitter and used internal data to expel and imprison dissidents. It is surprising that any new Twitter owner, particularly one who claims to be a proponent of free speech, would want Saudi influence anywhere near the platform.”
“The bird is free! The bird is free!” Mehdi Hasan, host of MSNBC, tweeted about Musk’s celebration of the purchase. The post was made by Hasan, a critic of the authoritarian regime in Saudi Arabia, as he retweeted the information about Alwaleed’s stake on Twitter.
“The second largest investor in Twitter is…Saudi Arabia,” tweeted Tommy Vietor, a former staffer for the former US President Barack Obama. The bone-shaving kingdom that recently handed down a 16-year prison sentence for a 72-year-old American man’s tweets.”
Due to its persistent crackdown on free speech and flagrant violation of human rights, Saudi Arabia has long been the focus of international attention.
For tweeting and retweeting posts that were critical of the ultra-conservative Riyadh regime, Saudi courts have sentenced a number of individuals to prison in recent weeks. Among them were two Saudi ladies who have gotten long term sentences, and a US resident of Saudi beginning.
Even despite international condemnation of the crackdown, the kingdom has arrested hundreds of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and others for their political activism since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became the de facto leader in 2017.
As the kingdom’s authorities continue to restrict freedom of expression, association, and belief, Muslim scholars have been executed, and advocates for women’s rights have been imprisoned and tortured.
Riyadh has also rewritten its anti-terrorism laws to target activism over the past few years.