A Saudi prince and billionnaire, Alwaleed bin Talal, bought a $300m stake in Twitter. Twitter's been a useful service for protestors in the Middle East, which saw several dictatorial governments fall in quick succession over the last year.
This has led people to immediately suspect foul play; has the regime bought a chunk of Twitter to help prevent a Riyadh Spring?
A few thoughts:
• The Saudis don't need to own Twitter to block it. The county established one of the world's most draconian internet censorship regimes and can impose silence as it pleases. All international Internet traffic is routed through a single proxy farm and the government regularly blocks major western sites and services.
• The stake isn't likely to give Alwaleed significant influence over Twitter's operations. Though it's not clear how much of Twitter he owns, the stake is surely less than 5 percent, based on recent valuations. Machinations would soon be leaked to reporters. Blocks would be obvious as soon as they were implemented. In any case, Twitter (and with it the value of Alwaleed's stake) could be ruined if it is seen to be controlled by foreign tyrants.
• Alwaleed is a businessman first. His holdings are diverse and he is not reliant upon oil or other local interests for his wealth. He also invests heavily in high-tech, making Twitter an obvious addition to existing buys in companies such as Apple.
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