Bezos Takes Jibe at Musk-Twitter Deal, ‘Did the Chinese Government Just Gain a Bit of Leverage Over the Town Square?’

Jeff Bezos has asked in a post on Twitter if Elon Musk’s $44 billion cash deal to buy Twitter gives China “a bit of leverage over the town square”. The purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk has generated a debate about whether the deal is good for the social media network. In many countries, Twitter has been at the centre of intense discussions over free speech and the spread of misinformation. The social media platform is also wrestling with issues related to content moderation. Twitter is blocked in China, where Musk, the world’s richest person, has key business interests.

Just before word of Musk’s takeover of Twitter began to circulate online, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos responded to the news in a series of tweets, highlighting the Tesla CEO’s commercial interests with respect to its expansion in China and support from the government there. Bezos was replying to a New York Times reporter who highlighted Tesla’s operations in China and the fact that the government in the country had banned Twitter, Bezos tweeted, “Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?”

Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist and has criticised Twitter’s content moderation policy, reached a deal on Monday to buy the social media platform. Political activists expect that Musk’s ownership of Twitter will mean less moderation and reinstatement of banned individuals including former US President Donald Trump.

There are also questions on what the deal will mean for Twitter’s China content policy as Musk’s Tesla relies heavily on China for production and vehicle sales. Here’s the tweet by Mike Forsythe, the New York Times reporter, to which Bezos responded:

“Tesla’s second-biggest market in 2021 was China (after the US). Chinese battery makers are major suppliers for Tesla’s EVs. After 2009, when China banned Twitter, the government there had almost no leverage over the platform. That may have just changed”

Apropos of something:
-Tesla’s second-biggest market in 2021 was China (after the US)
-Chinese battery makers are major suppliers for Tesla’s EVs.
-After 2009, when China banned Twitter, the government there had almost no leverage over the platform
-That may have just changed — Mike Forsythe 傅才德 (@PekingMike) April 25, 2022

Bezos followed this up with two more tweets later.

In the first tweet, he stated, “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.”

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. — Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) April 26, 2022

The second tweet was about Musk being “extremely good at navigating this kind of complexity”.

But we’ll see. Musk is extremely good at navigating this kind of complexity. — Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) April 26, 2022

At the time of writing, Musk hadn’t yet responded to Bezos’s posts.

Bezos owns the aerospace company Blue Origin. For years, he and Musk have been fierce rivals. They’ve sparred over their space goals, made public digs at each other, and even traded positions as the world’s richest person.

China has been a crucial market for Tesla. The Shanghai Gigafactory, which launched in 2019, was Tesla’s first production facility outside of the United States.

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