A few weeks after taking over Twitter, Elon Musk said he will fulfill one of his early promises for the platform by restoring Donald Trump’s account. The former president, who is running for the White House for a third time, is allowed to tweet again, Musk said.
Twitter’s new CEO appeared to be making the decision via a Twitter poll. On Friday night, Musk tweeted a poll asking people to vote on whether Twitter should reinstate the former president, who recently revealed he will run for the nation’s highest office again in 2024. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk said in a follow-up tweet. The phrase is Latin for “the voice of the people, the voice of God.” Twenty-four hours later, the poll was closed, and Musk announced that Trump will indeed be reinstated.
The option to reinstate the former president won with 51.8 percent of the 15,085,458 votes. While the poll was going on, Musk said yes get a million votes per hour, and also said “bot and troll armies” were responsible for some of the activity.
While Musk has long indicated he would allow Trump back on the platform, he previously vowed to form a moderation board before overturning any permanent Twitter account bans. On November 18, Musk restored some accounts, including those of Kathy Griffin and Jordan Peterson. At the time, he said that no decision had yet been made on Trump.
Twitter kicked Trump off the platform in early 2021 after he broke rules against inciting violence. He violated Twitter’s civic integrity policy by expressing support for the crowd that stormed the Capitol on January 6 last year. His account was initially suspended for 12 hours. A few days later, in his final days in office, Twitter permanently suspended Trump’s personal account. Trump has not been able to use the platform since, despite his efforts to circumvent the ban and a failed lawsuit to restore his access. It took Musk taking over Twitter for Trump to get his account back.
Trump’s return may be as much a business decision for Musk as anything. Earlier this week, a Reuters report suggested that many of Twitter’s heaviest users have moved from the platform to Instagram and TikTok. Musk himself has noted that many of the most followed Twitter accounts Don’t tweet often.
For better or worse, Trump is a prominent figure and his tweets drew attention. Whether advertisers will be happy to see Trump back remains to be seen. Just before officially taking control of Twitter, Musk tried to allay any concerns by stating that “Twitter clearly can’t become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said without consequence!”
In the wake of his actions around Jan. 6, Meta blocked Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. As things stand, that suspension will expire on January 7, 2023 – just as the 2024 election cycle gets into full swing.
Since leaving his platform for major services, Trump has turned his attention to smaller social networks, including his own app, Truth Social. Trump had promised he wouldn’t return to Twitter, but with 88 million followers there, he had an audience nearly 22 times the audience he has on Truth Social (a platform that, for what it’s worth, Musk has described as “essentially a right-wing echo chamber”).
Twitter has undergone massive changes since Musk took over the company. He has downsized the workforce by getting rid of thousands of employees and contractors, as well as some dissenters. Among those who have left are several top executives. About 1,200 more reportedly left after refusing to commit to Musk’s vision of a “hardcore” Twitter 2.0 that would require “long, high-intensity hours.” Trump’s return won’t really help stabilize the ship.
Mariella Moon and Karissa Bell contributed to this post.
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