The world’s second richest man when after the richest Monday evening when Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and chairman, raised the question of possible Chinese influence on Twitter.
The social media giant’s board of directors Monday afternoon unanimously approved the sale of the company to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The billionaire is a strong free speech advocate, and this is causing worry among many who want to censor content on Twitter and other platforms.
Bezos tweeted a response to New York Times reporter Mike Forsythe’s summary of links between Musk and China. Tesla has a major factory in Shanghai, and the Chinese market is the second largest for the electrical vehicle manufacturer besides the U.S. The Amazon founder asked if the “Chinese government just gain(ed) a bit of leverage over the town square?”
Many, including Musk, refer to Twitter as the modern “digital town square.”
What is the admonition for people who live in glass houses?
When Bezos’ own company was marketing Chinese President Xi Jinping’s collection of speeches and writings on its Chinese website two years ago, Beijing delivered a stinging edict to the e-commerce giant. Ratings and reviews of the president’s work must not be allowed in China. Reportedly it was one negative review that spurred the laying of the gauntlet.
So, what did Bezos and Amazon do? They complied, of course, and now the government-produced masterpiece is on the company’s Chinese site with no ratings and no customer reviews.
In addition and just as much of a surprise, in 2019 the Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos, included an eight-page “advertising supplement” titled China Watch. Readers were told the content was prepared without news or opinion of the Post’s staff and instead was written by China Daily, which is owned by the Communist Party of China.
Glass houses anyone?
Bezos did go on to declare that he did not feel the Chinese communists indeed purchased a plot on the “town square,” but that was after the initial posting. And even raising the question puts the Amazon chairman up as fair game for similar scrutiny, and just a cursory glance at the evidence reveals the posting may best have been left unsaid.