Sen. Chris Murphy calls for probe into Saudi Arabia's stake in Twitter
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Monday called for an investigation into the national security implications of a company partially owned by Saudi Arabia maintaining its stake in Twitter following Elon Musk's $44 billion acquisition of the platform.
What they're saying: "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," he added.
- "There is a clear national security issue at stake and [the Committee on Foreign Investment] should do a review."
Why it matters: Saudi Arabia, through a holding company partly owned by the country's sovereign wealth fund, maintains a major stake in the social media platform that's regularly used for political discourse, despite repeatedly repressing expressions of political dissent.
- While Musk has emphasized that concerns over free speech motivated his Twitter takeover, he's also said the social media company should follow the freedom of expression laws of the country in which it operates.
- That would include Saudi Arabia, which has the eighth most Twitter users of any country in the world but also has very limited freedom of expression protections.
By the numbers: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, founder and chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company, said the company would continue its ownership of Twitter shares valued at $1.89 billion after Musk completed the deal, making it Twitter's second largest investor.
- Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, which is chaired by crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), owns 16.9% of the Kingdom Holding Company.
The big picture: Earlier this year, a former Twitter employee was convicted of charges related to spying on behalf of Saudi Arabia by obtaining information on dissidents who used the platform and sharing it with officials in the Saudi government.
- The U.S. Department of State earlier this month also confirmed that the kingdom had sentenced an American citizen, Saad Ibrahim Almadi, to 16 years in prison for posting tweets critical of the Saudi government.
- The country 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, according to The Guardian.
- The Office of the Director of National Intelligence last year released an unclassified report assessing that MBS approved a "capture or kill" operation that resulted in the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi — a Washington Post journalist and Saudi dissident, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul — where his body was also dismembered.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Murphy requested an investigation from CFIUS, which is overseen by the Treasury Department. A previous version incorrectly said Murphy had requested a congressional investigation.