After almost two years of absence, former President Donald Trump is able to get his Twitter account back – although it’s unclear if he’ll be back.
Elon Musk, the new owner of the social media company, announced on Saturday night that Trump’s Twitter account would be reinstated. A few minutes later, the former president’s profile was unblocked and his blue tick was restored.
The news comes days after Trump announced his 2024 presidential bid. He was banned from Twitter for inciting violence during the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
The move marks both the most high-profile and controversial figure Musk has welcomed to the social media platform since his turbulent $44 billion takeover of the company last month, which was marked by severe reductions in its workforce and revenue as many companies stopped advertising. .
“The people have spoken” Musk said on Twitter Saturday night. “Trump will be reinstated.”
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Trump, who announced Tuesday he was running for president again, said he would not return to Twitter even if prompted. But the former president didn’t get the same resonance from his Truth Social app, which has a much more limited reach.
On Truth Social, Trump has 4.57 million followers, a fraction of the more than 88 million he had on Twitter.
Before lifting the ban, Musk on Friday created a poll on his personal Twitter account asking users if he should “reinstate former President Trump.” More than 15 million users weighed in, though it was unclear how many of the survey participants were verified users or bots.
After the poll, Musk announced that Trump would be reinstated on the platform. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk said, a Latin phrase meaning the voice of the people is the voice of God.
Trump released a statement on Saturday about the poll and the possibility of being reinstated. “Vote positivity now, but don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere,” Trump said. “Truth Social is special!”
He explained during a virtual appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition leaders’ meeting, saying that while he’s “always loved” Musk and is glad he bought Twitter, he doesn’t “see no reason” to return to the platform.
“They have a lot of problems on Twitter,” Trump said. “You see what’s going on. It may do it, it may not, but the problems are unbelievable.”
The de-platforming of Trump and other figures on the political right has sparked outrage from conservatives who accuse Facebook and other major social media platforms of censorship and liberal bias.
Since Musk took over the company last month, he has reinstated other personalities and companiesincluding right-wing Canadian podcaster Jordan Peterson, far-right satire website The Babylon Bee and comedian Kathy Griffin, who was suspended after impersonating Musk on Twitter.
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But while his purchase of the widely used social media app was celebrated by Republicans and the far right, Musk resisted calls to immediately reinstate Trump.
“He should never have been banned,” Jake Denton, associate fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Tech Policy Center, told USA TODAY. “Trump’s return objectively moves Twitter down a new path. He’s the perfect guy to master Elon Musk’s new Twitter. It is the vehicle through which Elon can signal that he is serious about restructuring Twitter.
Trump’s comeback carries risks for Twitter and for democracy, Missouri State University communications professor Brian Ott told USA TODAY.
Trump continued to falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen.
“It provided him with a public forum to widely disseminate his lies, misinformation and hatred,” Ott said. “His return to these platforms would surely raise the temperature of our politics and greatly increase the likelihood of political violence.”
Trump lost his direct connection to his supporters when he was kicked out of the nation’s major social media platforms — Google’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — after the Capitol siege.
Trump, who frequently spreads misinformation online, being allowed to join Twitter comes at a vulnerable time for the company and potentially American politics.
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Musk has already laid off thousands of employees and recently cut content moderation contractors that help stop the spread of hate speech and misinformation.
More employees appeared to quit this week after Musk told staff they “would have to be extremely hardcore” to build “a Twitter 2.0 breakthrough,” and working long hours in a high-intensity environment would be part of that push. .
On Friday, Musk tweeted that Twitter’s new policy is “free speech, not free access.”
“Negative/hateful tweets will be deboosted and demonetized to the max, so no ads or other revenue for Twitter,” he tweeted. “You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically search for it, which is no different from the rest of the internet.”
Of the platforms, Twitter was Trump’s favorite and could provide a vital megaphone during his 2024 race to win back the White House.
Especially at a time when Twitter is struggling to keep its most active users engaged, Musk has a strong financial motive to bring back Trump, who is just the kind of mega-personality that drives engagement on the platform.
Facebook, meanwhile, will decide in January whether to lift Trump’s suspension.
As for YouTube, CEO Susan Wojcicki said last year that the platform would lift Trump’s ban “when we determine that the risk of violence has decreased.” YouTube declined to comment.
Even before Trump’s reinstatement, Musk and Twitter had caught the attention of several Democratic senators, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who on Thursday asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate a potential violation of the laws on consumer protection.
Under a 2011 consent order with the FTC, Twitter is not allowed to mislead consumers about the privacy and security of confidential user data. “We are concerned that the actions taken by Mr. Musk and other members of Twitter’s management already violate the FTC’s Consent Executive Order, which prohibits misrepresentation and requires Twitter to maintain a comprehensive security program. information,” the senators said in a letter to FTC Chairman Lina Khan.
Contributor: Christal Hayes and Marina Pitofsky
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