The Democratic President casts a shadow over the billionaire’s ambitions.
Elon Musk has been warned.
The billionaire has become a global CEO.
He meddles in geopolitical affairs as well as in the conduct of domestic politics.
Starlink, the satellite Internet access service offered by his aerospace company SpaceX, has become a sort of weapon in the Russia-Ukraine war. This conflict started on February 24 with the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
The invasion was condemned throughout the world and aroused a wave of sympathy for the Ukraine. Musk has been one of the most influential voices in business to lend his support to Ukraine. After the start of the conflict, Starlink became the only communication system for the Ukrainian armed forces on the front.
This contributed to increasing the influence of Musk, who did not hesitate to propose a peace plan to end the war in early October. But his initiative was rejected by the Ukrainians as it would have permanently ceded control of some occupied lands to Russia.
Despite this setback, the billionaire’s influence has continued to grow. This influence became even more considerable with his acquisition of Twitter for $44 billion. The social network is defined as the Town Square of our time. It is the place where information circulates at a rapid speed. It is the platform which almost sets the political and geopolitical agenda.
Musk has never hidden his desire to use his influence to drive the issues and topics that are dear to him. The billionaire is on a mission to change civilization as we know it today.
These ambitions, which can conflict with the mandates of public authorities, are now attracting attention. Musk is now in the crosshairs of the U.S. federal government. Democratic President Joe Biden said on November 9 that he would support a review of foreign investors who backed Musk in the acquisition of Twitter.
Review Musk’s Foreign Ties
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and his Kingdom Holding Company have become Twitter’s second-largest shareholder since Musk bought the platform on October 27. Alwaleed has rolled over his $1.89 billion stake, acquired in Twitter in 2011, into the new Twitter. This Saudi investment in the influential platform has led U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to call on the federal government to review the transaction over national security concerns.
“Do you think Elon Musk is a threat to US national security and should the US, with the tools you have, investigate his joint acquisition of Twitter with foreign governments, which include the Saudis?” a reporter asked Biden during a news conference at the White House on November 9.
“I think that Elon Musk’s cooperation and or technical relationships with other countries is worthy of being looked at,” Biden said during a news conference at the White House on November 9. “Whether or not he is doing anything inappropriate — I’m not suggesting that — I’m suggesting that it’s worth being looked at. That’s all I’ll say.”
Biden, however, did not say whether the administration is currently reviewing the acquisition retroactively, but recent reports have indicated that the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) may review Saudi ties.
When asked under what conditions the review would be set up, Biden was laconic.
“There’s a lot of ways,” the president said. He refused to provide any details.
On October 31, Murphy wrote to CFIUS, which is tasked with investigating foreign investments in U.S. transactions, asking the Committee to review Saudi ties.
“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,” the lawmaker posted on Twitter.
“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. There is a clear national security issue at stake and CFIUS should do a review.”
He warned that “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.”
Besides Ukraine, Musk has also made comments that make it harder for the US government. Indeed, last month he proposed a plan to resolve the tensions between China and Taiwan.
“My recommendation … would be to figure out a special administrative zone for Taiwan that is reasonably palatable, probably won’t make everyone happy,” the billionaire told the Financial Times. “And it’s possible, and I think probably, in fact that they could have an arrangement that’s more lenient than Hong Kong.”