Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter may have been “chaotic,” “dangerous” and “a distraction,” according to the myriad headlines about the deal.
But is it also a national security risk?
At a press conference on Wednesday, President Joe Biden was asked that very question—and responded that Musk’s $44 billion buyout of the social media network is “worthy of being looked at.”
“Whether or not he is doing anything inappropriate, I’m not suggesting that. I’m suggesting it’s worthy of being looked at,” said Biden.
The cause for concern is the way Musk financed the deal, which sent shockwaves through the tech sector, news media and echo chamber of Twitter “blue-checks” after it closed on Oct. 27.
To raise funds for the costly acquisition, Musk leveraged some of his shares in Tesla as well as relationships with wealthy foreign investors.
In a May 2022 SEC filing, Musk listed equity commitments in the Twitter deal that included $1.9 billion from the Saudi royal Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, $375 million from Qatar Holding LLC and $500 million from Cayman Islands-based cryptocurrency exchange Binance.
“Due to the critical position of Twitter as a platform for political discourse in the U.S., the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) […] should investigate the Twitter deal on the grounds of national security,” wrote analysts at the Brookings Institution on Nov. 5.
Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who leads a foreign relations Senate subcommittee, called for a review of the deal in an Oct. 31 letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
“Given Twitter’s critical role in public communication, I am concerned by the potential influence of the Government of Saudi Arabia,” wrote Murphy, citing disinformation campaigns backed by the Saudi government.
The talk of a national security review is the latest turn in what looks to be a disorderly changing of the guard at the San Francisco-based tech firm.
Immediately after taking the helm at Twitter, Musk sacked its CEO, CFO and other top management before laying off close to half of the company’s total staff. Just days later, Twitter reportedly asked some of those fired employees to come back.
Earlier today, the slimmed-down company nixed a rollout of “official” labels for verified accounts after launching it just a few hours earlier.
“Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months,” Musk wrote in a tweet.
Annie Gaus can be reached at [email protected]