Jeff Bezos has asked if Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s leveraged buyout of Twitter will give China influence over the social media company.
The Amazon founder reposted this tweet late Monday an observationFrom New York Times journalist Mike Forsythe and added his own comment: “Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?”
The suggestion is that Musk’s business interests in China will make him vulnerable to pressure from Beijing.
Forsythe says that China is Tesla’s largest market, after the U.S. The automaker relies on Chinese battery makers. Bizos is also interested in China. China-based sellers are reported to have 75% of all new Amazon sellers in January 2021.
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About an hour after his tweet, Bezos appeared to downplay the suggestion, noting that “the more likely outcome” would be “complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter.”
His comments came hours after Twitter’s board approved the $44 billion buyout—one of the largest ever leveraged acquisitions of a listed firm.
Although changes to Twitter have not been formally announced, Musk’s acquisition has stirred debate on free speech.
Musk is an a self-styled “free speech absolutist” and has proposed easing up content moderation on the platform. The 50-year-old business magnate said he wants to make Twitter’s algorithm open-source to increase trust, defeat spam bots, and authenticate users. He also promises an editing button to tweets.
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The buyout is being celebrated by the political right. U.S. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, conservative Freedom Caucus called it “a great day for free speech,” while Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn said she hoped Twitter would “become what it was supposed to be: the online public space for everyone with different views.”
Critics argue that toxic rhetoric could flourish if the content is not moderated. Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren warned that Musk’s acquisition of Twitter was “dangerous for our democracy.”
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