Twitter may soon undergo the same national security scrutiny from the Biden administration that TikTok began facing from the Trump administration.
Federal officials are in the early stages of determining whether foreign investment in Twitter warrants a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) amid Elon Musk’s takeover, according to reports. Proponents of the review point to previous investments from Saudi Arabia in Twitter as cause for concern.
CFIUS reviews commercial transactions for national security problems and is led by the Treasury Department alongside representatives from six other federal departments as well as White House officials.
TikTok has faced CFIUS scrutiny over its China-founded owner Byte Dance, but TikTok said in September that it was moving closer to resolving the U.S. government’s concerns.
The Biden administration is mum regarding whether it will investigate Twitter.
“Consistent with law and practice, CFIUS does not publicly comment on transactions that it may or may not be reviewing,” a Treasury Department spokesperson said in a statement.
Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, has led the charge to request that CFIUS review Twitter’s business. Earlier this week, Mr. Murphy said Americans should be concerned that two major social media platforms, TikTok and Twitter, have financial ties to China and Saudi Arabia, respectively.
“We should be concerned that the Saudis, who have a clear interest in repressing political speech and impacting U.S. politics, are now the second-largest owner of a major social media platform,” Mr. Murphy said on Twitter. “There is a clear national security issue at stake and CFIUS should do a review.”
Billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and his Kingdom Holding Co. are Twitter’s largest shareholders after Mr. Musk, having an estimated $1.89 billion worth of Twitter shares.
After Mr. Murphy shared his request for a CFIUS investigation into Twitter’s foreign funders, a note was added to the senator’s tweet by Twitter.
“Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Company and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal have not ‘purchased’ Twitter,” the note said. “Their existing investments from 2011 and 2015 are being rolled over as part of Musk’s takeover of Twitter.”
Concerns about Saudi Arabia’s influence at Twitter predate Mr. Musk’s acquisition. Earlier this year, a federal jury found former Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia. He was found guilty on charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent and other charges related to his using access at the company to inform on critics of the Saudi regime.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
• This article was based in part on wire service reports.