Speculation is rife that the change in Twitter's censorship policy, announced last week, is perhaps linked to the $300 million investment that Saudi Prince Al-Waleed made in the company.
The announcement last week that Twitter is to introduce censorship policies which will allow countries to selectively block Tweets, has not gone down well on the social media site. Twitter explains the change is to be introduced to comply with hosts' nations law. However, this hasn't stopped speculation that the acquisition of a $300 millionstakein Twitter by Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud and his Kingdom Holding Company (KHC) in December has had something to do with the new policy.
Web Pro News reported that Tweets are circulating which say "You’d be niave to not see a connection between Twitter’s geo-specific censorship & Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal $300 million investment in Dec." and "Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal has made a $300 million investment in Twitter’. Do try to join the dots people" amongst others relating to the acquisition.
According to the Wall Street Journal Prince Al-Waleed's total stake in Twitter only amounts to 3.6 percent of the company, hardly a significantly influential stake. First Post reported that Alex Macgillivray, Twitter’s QC, has emphatically denied any connection between the Saudi Prince and the new Twitter censorship policy, saying " I can confirm that this has nothing to do with any investor (primary or secondary)."
CNN reported that Prince Al-Waleed denied he had any political motivation when he invested in Twitter, as he explained "It was a pure financial investment with economic objectives. Politics has no ingredients whatsoever in that investment … the secure economic financial investment with expected huge returns to our company Kingdom Holding.” However there was some concern by those who feared that the Prince's involvement as a member of "politically and socially conservative Saudi Arabia might thereby wield a chilling influence on free speech on Twitter," the Wall Street Journal reports.
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi completely discounted such fears saying Prince Al-Waleed hoped that his Twitter acquisition might make Twitter more accessible to Arabs.
Whilst speculation is likely to continue over the apparent connection between the Saudi businessman prince and the change in Twitter's censorship policy, it is realistic to remember that in spite of the millions of dollars involved the stake remains an unremarkable 3.6 percent.