Elon Musk said on Tuesday he would ‘reverse the permanent ban’ of former President Donald J. Trump on Twitter and let him return to the social network, in one of the richest man’s first specific comments of the world on how he would change the social media service.
Mr Musk, who struck a deal last month to buy Twitter for $44 billion, told a Financial Times conference that the company’s decision to ban Mr Trump last year for tweets on the riots in the US Capitol was “wrong because it alienated much of the country and ultimately did not stop Donald Trump from being heard. He added that it was “morally wrong and downright stupid” and that “permanent bans fundamentally undermine trust in Twitter”.
Mr. Musk’s remarks were a preview of the kinds of sweeping changes he could make to Twitter, which he should make his own over the next six months. The billionaire, who also runs electric car maker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, has long supported free speech and said he was unhappy with the way Twitter decided what could and could not. could not be published online.
But until Tuesday, Mr. Musk, 50, had spoken mostly in general terms and had not identified Twitter accounts that could be affected by his takeover. He had called free speech the “foundation of a functioning democracy” and spoke of his desire to give people more control over their own social media feeds. But by making it clear that Mr. Trump could return to the rostrum, Mr. Musk unleashed a political storm.
Mr Trump has used Twitter for many years as both a megaphone and a cudgel, rallying his millions of followers on issues such as immigration and the prosecution of opponents. That avenue was cut off in January 2021 when Twitter, along with Facebook and other platforms, banned Mr Trump from posting following the attack on the US Capitol building. Twitter said at the time that Mr Trump violated policies and risked inciting violence among his supporters. Facebook banned Mr. Trump for similar reasons.
Mr. Trump, who has since launched a social media platform called Truth Social, did not immediately respond to request for comment. Last month, Mr. Trump said that even with Mr. Musk’s purchase of Twitter, he had no plans to return to the platform and that he was “going to stick with Truth.”
A Twitter spokesperson did not immediately comment.
Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP, said freedom of expression online must come with guardrails.
“Mr. Musk: Freedom of speech is wonderful, hate speech is unacceptable,” he said. “Don’t let 45 go back to the platform. hate speech or lies that subvert our democracy.”
But Twitter founder and board member Jack Dorsey said on Twitter on Tuesday that permanent bans of individual users “are a failure” of the company and largely “don’t work”. Mr Dorsey, who was chief executive of Twitter when Mr Trump was ousted, said last year that firing the former president was the right move for the company.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.