Amazon founder Jeff Bezos questioned whether China has gained influence over Twitter’s operations through Elon Musk’s impending takeover of the social media company.
The two billionaires are competitors in the commercial space sector, pitting Mr. Bezos’ Blue Origin and Mr. Musk’s SpaceX. After Mr. Musk’s proposed acquisition of Twitter gained approval from the company’s board on Monday, he is now competing with Mr. Bezos in the media realm, where Mr. Bezos owns The Washington Post.
“Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?” Mr. Bezos tweeted, sharing a tweet listing connections between China and Mr. Musk’s electric vehicle maker Tesla.
“My own answer to this question is probably not,” Mr. Bezos said a couple of hours after posing the question Monday evening. “The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter.”
Mr. Bezos’ concerns about the Chinese government’s influence over the public square did not mention the Chinese Communist Party’s relationship with The Post.
National Journalism Center program director T. Becket Adams noted that The Post has published supplements from the Chinese Communist Party’s “China Daily” publication for decades.
“Between 2016 and 2020, the CCP paid WaPo $4.5M+,” Mr. Adams tweeted. “Bezos purchased the Washington Post in 2013.”
Mr. Bezos’ concern about China was quickly cited by critics scrutinizing Mr. Musk’s takeover.
Rep. Ro Khanna, California Democrat, said Tuesday that Mr. Bezos was not making editorial decisions at The Post, but he had concerns about Twitter’s independence from Chinese influence.
“My question, I guess, for Elon Musk is does he really want to be running Twitter?” Mr. Khanna told CNBC. “I mean it’s a thankless job, who would want to do that? And is he going to set up some set of independence so he answers questions like is he going to be influenced if the Chinese Communist Party wants people to be taken off the Twitter platform?”
Mr. Musk’s proposed acquisition is expected to close in 2022 pending approval from regulators and Twitter stockholders, according to Twitter.