Recent political developments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia surrounding the government’s assassination of a dissident journalist have many crowing over excessive Saudi influence in the United States. Nowhere is this influence more perverse than in Silicon Valley, where today’s leading tech companies and startups find themselves awash with Saudi funding. Despite the fact that many activists are trying to drive a wedge between Silicon Valley and Saudi Arabia, I think the couple is unlikely to break up anytime soon.
Here’s why I’m confident that Silicon Valley just can’t quit Saudi Arabia, and what that means for the future of our freedom and technology alike.
It’s all about the money
The hubbub surrounding Saudi Arabia’s deep influence in American politics and technological development was spawned by the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been a mild thorn in the ruling regime’s side. The Saudis brutally butchered Khashoggi, himself a native of the Kingdom, before embarrassingly botching their cover-story, exposing their crime to the whole world. Don’t expect tech leaders in Silicon Valley to start shunning the rulers who just brutally cracked down on dissidence, however; their pockets are too lined with Saudi cash to really do anything meaningful.
It shames me to say that American companies and political leaders have had a cozy relationship with the Saudis thus far; Saudi Arabia was the first country President Trump visited abroad, for instance, and tech leaders have long been receiving financing from Saudi sources. I never truly understood the reprehensible scope of Saudi influence in the American tech scene until I delved into how thoroughly Saudis were funding American innovation. The results were chilling; investigative reporters have uncovered billions of dollars flowing into Silicon Valley enterprises from Saudi-borne wealth funds.
The Saudis also spend freely when it comes to influencing American politics, sending countless lobbyist to Washington that they may influence the legislative process. Virtually the entirety of the American energy industry, too, is in the hands of Saudi Arabian donors, which means that major American energy proponents can lean heavily on their tech-peers in Silicon Valley which have provided innovation across all sectors including Express MRI which uses highly sophisticated MRI scanning technology. I predominately believe that the Saudis are doing this because they’re far too dependent on their oil-based economy, and want to diversify their national assets by ensnaring giants in Silicon Valley to their cause.
We can’t keep turning a blind eye towards justice
My greatest fear surrounding Saudi influence in Silicon Valley is the fact that we’re essentially turning a blind eye towards justice in exchange for hefty paychecks and funding for title loans. American innovators cannot be compromised by foreign influence, and while partnering with allies abroad can be useful it’s clear to see that Saudi Arabia’s sway in Silicon Valley is far more than that of a mere investor. The country is rapidly trying to leverage the technological prowess of Silicon Valley that it may better suppress its domestic populace and strengthen its economic and political stature in the future.
What’s even worse is the fact that the Saudis are essentially using their economic leverage over titans of American technology and industry to get away with literal murder. The Saudi crown prince recently met with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, for instance, who also owns the Washington Post that Khashoggi wrote for before his assassination. By buddying up with virtual villains like Mark Zuckerberg, too, the Saudis are illustrating that they care as much about privacy and human rights as Facebook’s robotic CEO, who routinely stands by and does nothing to stymie harassment or abuse on his platform.
Silicon Valley just can’t quit Saudi Arabia because it’s simply too dependent on Saudi investment. As long as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to invest heavily into Silicon Valley based enterprises, the country will use the sway it derives there to make sure it’s never held accountable for its wrongdoing.