After the richest man in the world, Elon Musk, decided he would move forward with his plan to buy Twitter for what experts say is nearly four times its current worth, even Twitter doubted that Musk actually meant to see the deal through. Now, as Musk remains under federal investigation for his merger conduct, The Washington Post reports that if Musk does take over Twitter, he plans to gut Twitter’s staff by 75 percent. And Bloomberg reports that the Biden administration is considering launching national security reviews into Musk’s Twitter and Starlink satellite Internet deals. Those reviews could end up blocking the Twitter deal after all, which many commenters think is exactly what Musk wants.
Twitter immediately sent out a staff memo denying any company-wide layoffs, according to Bloomberg. Musk seemingly isn’t talking about any of this on the record, but he did tweet to show how humorous he finds the situation.
Famed mixed martial arts fighter Nik Lentz tweeted, “It would be hysterical if the government stopped Elon from overpaying for Twitter.” Musk replied with two emojis: a 100 percent sign and a cry-laughing face.
None of this seems good for Twitter. Yesterday in pre-market trading, Twitter shares fell by as much as 16 percent.
According to Bloomberg’s interviews with “people familiar with the matter,” US officials were not comfortable with Musk’s tweets that threatened to stop funding Starlink service in Ukraine and discussed solutions to the war that would be favorable to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Concerns about Musk drawing Twitter finances from foreign investors reportedly began escalating within the Biden administration, which is trying to avoid national security threats surrounding Musk deals.
Current talks are reportedly focused on determining if the US even has the legal tools to conduct reviews into Musk’s deals.
Bloomberg pointed to one possibility in the law governing the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency panel governed by the Treasury Department that reviews acquisitions by foreign buyers of US businesses. But Bloomberg sources say it’s not clear if the law would support launching national security reviews of Musk’s deals. And even if the CFIUS did launch reviews, everyone would be kept in the dark. The Treasury Department told Bloomberg that the CFIUS doesn’t comment on any acquisitions it may be reviewing, so it will be difficult to track if the US attempts to go that route.
Because Twitter collects so much data on Americans—Pew Research says 1 in 5 US adults are on Twitter—the White House considers it a potential risk that a Musk-owned Twitter could end up supplying data on Americans to Russia, Gizmodo reported. Biden had previously expressed that same fear about China-owned TikTok, and this week, Forbes validated his concerns, as TikTok owner ByteDance reportedly planned to use TikTok data to track Americans. Last month, Biden announced a plan to avoid the TikTok security concerns without halting TikTok’s US operations, but the process of launching security reviews of Musk’s deals seems much less straightforward.
A spokesperson for the White House, Adrienne Watson, denied reports that US officials are holding these discussions. Twitter, Musk, and his lawyer Alex Spiro did not immediately respond to Ars’ requests for comment.
Last week, Musk confirmed that he would keep on providing Starlink services in Ukraine, but he has continued to tweet controversially. Bloomberg reported today on criticism of Musk’s “warm” tweet responding to a top Kremlin official, while within the last few hours, Musk has also tweeted that “Russia overrunning Ukraine would destabilize” perhaps “the entire world” but that he didn’t think removing Vladimir Putin would likely fix anything.
As Musk and Twitter move closer to next week’s expected deal closing on October 28, the Biden administration will likely join Twitter staff in watching Musk’s feed and nervously weighing what the consequences of the merger will be, should it be allowed to proceed.
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