Musk's dream to turn X into a bank hits a roadblock

A law firm alleges Twitter is complicit in human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.
Sejal Sharma
X app on a phone
X app on a phone


Right around the time Twitter was renamed to X, the website’s owner Elon Musk tweeted, saying that in the months to come, X users would be able to manage their “entire financial world” of the microblogging website.

In Musk’s ambition to turn X into an ‘everything app,’ he’s also turning X into a bank. He knows a thing or two about the payment system, given he helped found PayPal in 1999. And from the looks of it, he’s getting closer to acquiring regulatory licenses to launch a payment system on the app. He reportedly has approved licenses from at least eight US states.

However, it seems that the company has a thorn in its side before it can fully implement the payment system. On Friday, an open letter, uploaded by Ars Technica, was sent to the Attorneys General and banking commissioners of all 50 states questioning Twitter's ‘general fitness and character’ to hold money-transmitter licenses.

Twitter 'unfit' for a payments system

The complaint alleges that Twitter is being used as a vector by the Saudi Arabian government to get information about their dissidents. The letter accuses Twitter of helping the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in carrying out human rights violations and unlawful transference of Twitter users’ confidential information, resulting in the suppression of Saudi people and journalists.

The complaint has been signed by a law firm representing the family of a Saudi national named Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, who is languishing in jail and now suing Twitter. Abdulrahman’s confidential personal information was obtained by Saudi agents posing as Twitter employees in 2014-15, reported The Guardian.

The complaint alleges that the Department of Justice has claimed that the Saudi agents disclosed confidential user data of over 6,000 Saudi reform advocates to the Saudi government.

“One of the KSA officials responsible for co-opting Twitter has been identified as a mastermind of the Khashoggi murder itself.” Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist and a columnist for The Washington Post whose premeditated murder inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey sparked shock and outrage.

Serious allegations against Twitter

The complaint alleges that even though Twitter has pushed the blame for the data leaks onto the misconduct of its employees, the company “sold its corporate soul” to get Saudi investments and ensured that Twitter remained available in Saudi Arabia, where it has 11.4 million users.

“Twitter allowed KSA to misuse these EDRs (emergency disclosers) to identify political dissidents and then approved them in droves—in 2016, 85% of all information requests were approved, eclipsing approval rates for Canada and the United Kingdom,” said the letter.

A spokesperson of X told The Guardian that the company had acted swiftly to cut off access to “malicious actors” as soon as it learned of the problem.

The letter urges the Attorneys General and banking commissioners to conduct a careful investigation into Twitter’s ‘troubling and deep ties’ with the Saudi government and not grant the company any more licenses. It has also urged the states which have already granted Twitter a license to review their decision.

“Before KSA potentially expands its reach into running money-transmitting entities in your states through Twitter, which will give it access to even more sensitive user data, your citizens need your vigilance,” concludes the letter.

After he’d acquired Twitter in 2022, Musk got on a call with his employees and directed the staff to envision a Twitter where digital payments are sent as easily as direct messages.

This open letter certainly raises questions about Musk's dream to turn X into an 'everything app' and how well it can protect user data. Interesting Engineering had reported earlier that X will now collect its users' biometric data and work history as part of its new policy starting later this month.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board