Jeff Bezos asks if Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover gives China more ‘leverage’

Amazon chief notes the matter is complex and says Elon Musk is ‘extremely good at navigating this kind of complexity’

Vishwam Sankaran
Tuesday 26 April 2022 14:29
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Elon Musk buying Twitter for an estimated $44 billion

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos wondered aloud on Tuesday whether the Chinese government has gained “a bit of leverage” over Twitter following Elon Musk’s acquisition.

On Monday, Twitter’s board agreed to sell the company to Musk for $44bn (£34.5bn), with the tech mogul paying around $54 per share for the San Francisco-based company.

Twitter said in a statement that the deal had “been unanimously approved by the Twitter board of directors”, and that it is expected to close in 2022, if approved by shareholders.

“The Twitter board conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive process to assess Elon’s proposal with a deliberate focus on value, certainty, and financing,” said Bret Taylor, Twitter’s independent board chair.

Following the announcement, Blue Origin founder and chief Mr Bezos posted a set of tweets on Tuesday, drawing attention to the close ties between Mr Musk’s electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing company Tesla and China.

Sharing tweets by New York Times reporter Mike Forsythe, Mr Bezos pointed out Tesla’s huge market in China and the EV company’s reliance on Chinese suppliers for its lithium-ion batteries.

“Tesla’s second-biggest market in 2021 was China (after the US). Chinese battery makers are major suppliers for Tesla’s EVs,” Mr Forsythe tweeted.

The NYT reporter noted that China’s ban on Twitter since 2009 had ensured that the communist country’s government had “almost no leverage” over the microblogging site, but this may now change following Mr Musk’s buy-out of the platform.

“Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square,” the Amazon chief asked while retweeting Mr Forsythe’s post.

Mr Bezos, however, added that he was sceptical of his own question.

“My own answer to this question is probably not. The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter,” he said.

“But we’ll see. Musk is extremely good at navigating this kind of complexity,” he added.

Mr Musk said following the Twitter buyout that he believes the microblogging site should be a platform for free speech.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Mr Musk said.

Mr Bezos use of the words “town square” in his own tweets could be a dig at this statement.

Following Twitter’s announcement, the company’s current chief Parag Agrawal reportedly told his employees at a company-wide meeting that the future of the social media firm is uncertain, and that he doesn’t know which direction the platform will go.

Though Mr Agrawal listened to staff questions about the Tesla chief’s plans for the company, he deferred many of the queries, including ones about the possibility of layoffs and the board’s rationale for the deal, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, the platform’s co-founder and former chief Jack Dorsey has said the Tesla titan’s takeover is the “singular solution” he trusts.

Mr Dorsey said “Twitter as a company” has always been his “sole issue” and biggest regret. “It has been owned by Wall Street and the ad model. Taking it back from Wall Street is the correct first step,” he said.

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