Skip to main content

Saudi Arabia, Turkey react to Elon Musk's Twitter takeover

Musk’s purchase of the social media giant is being heavily discussed in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, where the billionaire has a complicated history with both governments.
Elon Musk gestures as he speaks during a press conference at SpaceX's Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village in South Texas on Feb. 10, 2022.

Billionaire Elon Musk reached a deal to buy Twitter yesterday for $44 billion in cash. Much of Musk’s plans for the social media platform concern reforming Twitter’s content moderation policies, which have been criticized as restrictive of free speech. 

The acquisition elicited a strong reaction in some Middle Eastern circles, principally in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Saudi Arabia

Musk has a history with Saudi Arabia. In 2018, he had a feud with the Saudi sovereign wealth fund over his plans to take his electric car company Tesla private. 

More recently, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of Twitter’s largest shareholders, publicly rebuked Musk’s offer to purchase the company, saying Twitter was worth more. Musk did not respond well, tweeting at the prince about Saudi Arabia’s lack of a free media in response. 

How much of Twitter does the Kingdom own, directly & indirectly? What are the Kingdom’s views on journalistic freedom of speech?” Musk asked Talal. 

Saudi Arabia has the most Twitter users of any country in the Middle East, with some 25 million Saudis using the platform. Many Saudis commented in response to the news, with some comparing it to his 2015 tweet criticizing then-US presidential candidate Donald Trump.

A lot of Saudi users were happy about Musk buying Twitter, according to a Saudi-based analyst. Jamal AlTamimi told Al-Monitor, “Saudis as a whole are very happy with the deal because they [believe] Twitter's administration is against them and they think Musk will be more just.”

Tamimi added that the Saudi government is not particularly concerned with who owns Twitter “as long as its citizens use it successfully.”

Turkey 

Musk also has a history with Turkey, particularly with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Last year, Musk and Erdogan spoke about space exploration and a rocket from Musk’s SpaceX carried the Turkish satellite Turksat 5B into orbit. Musk met Erdogan in Turkey in 2017.

Some pro-government Turkish media outlets praised Musk’s Twitter takeover. Writing in Daily Sabah days before the deal was announced, Melih Altinok mocked Musk’s critics and slammed Twitter’s suspension of Trump and Robert Malone, whose criticisms of COVID-19 vaccines are controversial.

“They must be thinking that an uncontrolled libertarian like Musk, who already said he would open algorithms and prevent censorship, shouldn’t run Twitter. God forbid then he might even unblock Trump's account!” wrote Altinok. 

After the deal was reached, Turkish social media commentator Emir Cagdas Pekcetin told Yeni Safak that Musk has a “serious attitude toward a truthful news feed.”  

“His positive ties with our president will ensure a cleaner social media news flow in our country,” he said, claiming that Musk will block accounts associated with Turkey’s outlawed Gulenist movement. 

Turkey has a history of pushing for censorship on Twitter. In 2020, Turkey led the entire world in court orders sent to Twitter, followed by Russia. 

Some Turkish Twitter users pleaded with Musk to stop Twitter from restricting the accounts of some Turkish journalists. 

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in

Free

The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.

Free

What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing
Expert

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

Text Alerts - Be the first to get breaking news, exclusives, and PRO content.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to pro.support@al-monitor.com and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial