Elon Musk Will Fund Twitter Deal With Money From Countries That Suppress Free Speech

When Elon Musk announced his bid to buy Twitter last month, he speak he wants to turn social media into a beacon for free speech. But as Musk scrambles to jointly fund the $44 billion dealThe billionaire is also planning to receive funding for the deal from two countries that have restricted freedom of speech: Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

On Thursday, a SEC filings revealed New financiers for Musk’s takeover include Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. Both countries impose harsh censorship to quell dissent: A Qatar law that spreading “false or malicious news” can land you in jail for 5 years, while in Saudi Arabia, government critics have face arrest and even killing. Saudi Arabia ranks 166/180 on the World Press Freedom Index, while Qatar ranks 119th, based on Reporters Without Borders.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the grant.

Prince Alwaleed wrote on Twitter that Kingdom Holding Company, an investment firm he controls, will channel its current $1.9 billion investment into Twitter to join Musk in “this exciting journey.” The move comes after Alwaleed rejected Musk’s plans for a while tweet last month, says that the Tesla CEO’s offer doesn’t come close to the company’s “intrinsic value.” KHC has been a Twitter stakeholder since 2011.

Musk answered by asking about the Kingdom’s share size on Twitter, as well as the country’s stance on “free speech in the press”. Saudi Arabia has often be censured about censorship and human rights abuses, including the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi government has denied any involvement by its leaders.

The prince did not publicly respond to Musk’s questions, but in a tweet on Thursday called Musk “a new friend” and “an outstanding leader.”

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund will also contribute $375 million to Musk’s takeover. In 2020, the country enacted a law that threatens to imprison “anyone who broadcasts, publishes or reposts false or biased rumors, statements or news, or inciting propaganda, in the country” or foreign countries, with the aim of harming the national interest, stirring up public opinion, or infringing upon the social system or the public system of the state. ”

Last year, the government arrest seven for using social media “to spread false news” during its election. The country also has a history of suppressing freedom of speech. In 2012, a Qatari poet was sentenced 15 years in prison after reading a poem critical of the government.

When the 2020 law is enacted, Amnesty International has called it “Another bitter blow to freedom of expression in the country” and said it “is a flagrant violation of international human rights law.” Musk said he wants to ensure free speech on Twitter as long as it doesn’t violate local laws, so Qatar’s financial involvement puts him in a precarious position.

The funding and the conflicts of interest it creates underline the difficulty Musk will face as he tries to realize his vision for Twitter. Musk speak Last month, he treated the platform as a digital city square. “My strong intuitive sense is that having a fully trusted and widely inclusive public platform is vitally important to the future of civilization,” he said.

Other backers announced Thursday include billionaire Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, who is investing $1 billion, and crypto exchange Binance, which is investing $500 million.

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