Saudi Prince Al-waleed bin Talal, one of the richest men in world, increased his stake in Twitter following the announcement that the company’s co-founder Jack Dorsey would become its permanent CEO.
Al-waleed now owns up to 5.17% of Twitter, making him the second biggest shareholder after former CEO and co-founder Evan Williams and putting him ahead of Dorsey who owns 3.2%.
Since the news comes just days after Saudi Arabia reportedly warned its citizens that it could execute people for online "rumors," it’s understandably alarming that a member of the Gulf kingdom’s royal family holds so much influence in a social network that sees itself as “the free speech wing of the free speech party.”
But should users be worried? Not really.
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Similar concerns that the strictly Islamic Saudi regime might try to wield its suffocating influence on free speech on Twitter were raised when Al-waleed bought a 3% stake in the company in 2011 before it went public in 2013. However, the Saudi prince isn’t exactly as conservative as the rest of his family.
It’s believed that Al-waleed is “unlike other big Saudi princes,” – or at least, that’s the kind of image he has held in the media so far. For example, he often appears in public sporting his trademark tinted glasses and wearing suits instead of the traditional ankle-length garment for Arab men called thawb.
Despite living in a country where women can’t drive along, Al-waleed is known for championing women’s rights and taking pride in the fact that more than half of his employees working for his Kingdom Holding Company are females – whom he even discourages from wearing the traditional veil.
"Frankly I always side with qualifications regardless of gender," he once told the Saudi Gazette. "I am trying to be fair to women because their rights are still not fully recognized in our country."
Al-waleed is also known for his progressive views on music and cinema and has called for reforms in the Saudi monarchy. He is also known for his philanthropic causes. In July, he made headlines after announcing he’ll donate his entire multi-billion dollar fortune to various charitable projects.
He, however, remains a controversial figure. Most recently, in April, he prompted international outrage when he promised luxury Bentley cars to fighter pilots who are carrying out bombing raids in Yemen.
But Al-waleed, first and foremost, remains a businessman. Apart from Twitter, he has sizeable investments in other American companies such as Citigroup Inc., News Corp., Apple Inc. and Time Warner Inc.
Therefore, his status as a high-profile investor in Twitter will most likely make no difference whatsoever.
"He does separate between his investments and his long-term plans from day-to-day politics," Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist told the Wall Street Journal in 2011.