NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States on Monday to look into “potential national security concerns” from Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover, along with investments from the Saudi Arabian royal family.
Murphy announced via a statement and tweets that he had sent a letter to the committee.
“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,” Murphy tweeted. “There is a clear national security issue at stake and CFIUS should do a review.”
Another tweet in his thread adds, “If this deal goes through, two of the most important U.S. social media platforms will be owned, in whole or in part, by China (TikTok) and Saudi Arabia (Twitter). This is a dangerous trend, and we don’t have to accept it.”
In response to a tweet noting the investment happened in 2011 and 2015 and that the 2022 deal was a “rollover,” Murphy wrote “True. But the Saudis could have cashed out, like most everyone else. That would have been the financially sound thing to do. Instead, they allied with Musk in his takeover bid. There’s a clear political motivation to their decision, and CFIUS should get to the bottom of it.”
Musk’s purchase of the social media giant has already sent ripples across the platform, as Musk has laid off staff, fired top executives, and is reportedly planning to charge users $20 a month for verification.
Murphy’s two-page letter states that at least $1.89 billion from Musk’s Twitter bid to take the company private was from members of the Saudi Arabian royal family, and another $375 million from the Kingdom of Qatar.
CFIUS has the responsibility to review financial transactions that mean an American business could be controlled by a foreign entity, Murphy wrote.
“Setting aside the vast stores of data that Twitter has collected on American citizens, any potential that Twitter’s foreign ownership will result in increased censorship, misinformation, or political violence is a grave national security concern,” Murphy wrote. “Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive countries in the world, with little to no tolerance for free expression. Importantly, the Saudi government has demonstrated a willingness to enforce their restrictive approach to dissent outside the Kingdom’s borders—illustrated most tragically by the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
His letter goes on to state that federal prosecutors alleged in 2019 that Saudi Arabia recruited Twitter employees to spy on users. Another Twitter investigation led to 88,000 accounts tied to a Saudi-backed disinformation campaign.
He also cited the platform’s role in communicating with the public.
“The possibility that a foreign power may now be able to influence the ability of the White House or a Governor to communicate with constituents must be thoroughly examined,” Murphy wrote.