Bezos asks if Musk’s Twitter deal will signal change in China content policy

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos has asked in a post on Twitter if Elon Musk’s $44 billion cash deal to buy the U.S. social media platform gives China “a bit of leverage over the town square”.

Twitter is blocked in China, where Musk, the world’s richest person, has key business interests.

Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist and has criticised Twitter’s content moderation policy, reached a deal on Monday to buy the company.

Political activists expect that Musk’s ownership of Twitter will mean less moderation and the reinstatement of banned individuals including former U.S. President Donald Trump.

There are also questions on what the deal will mean for Twitter’s China content policy as Musk’s Tesla relies heavily on China for production and vehicle sales.

“Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?” Bezos tweeted late on Monday.

“My own answer to this question is probably not. The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter,” he later tweeted.

Musk said in a tweet on Monday: “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”

China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday there was no basis to speculation that Beijing could try to use leverage over Tesla in order to influence content on Twitter.

A Tesla spokesperson said the company has no comment. Twitter did not immediately reply to a Reuters’ request for comment.

(Reporting by Miyoung Kim, Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing, Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Jan Harvey)

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