Elon Musk says he would overturn Twitter ban on Donald Trump

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SAN FRANCISCO — Elon Musk has said he will overturn the Twitter ban on former President Donald Trump, articulating his position for the first time on one of the most important decisions before him on the social media site he acquires.

“I think it was wrong to ban Donald Trump. I think it was wrong,” Musk said at a Financial Times event on Tuesday. country and ultimately did not prevent Donald Trump from being heard.”

“I think it was a morally wrong decision, to be clear and foolish in the extreme,” he said of the ban.

What Elon Musk said about Twitter

Musk – who himself is a prolific Twitter user with more than 90 million followers – agreed to buy the social media company for around $44 billion, touting his belief in its free speech benefits and its ability to act as the “de facto town square”. He expressed support for temporary bans rather than permanent bans, but had yet to outline his views on Trump, who was banned following the January 6 storming of the US Capitol. last year.

A resurrected Trump Twitter account could once again unlock an online platform the former president has used for years to amass a global following, garner attention and slam his opponents. Democrats — and some Republicans — also fear it could prove a powerful campaign tool for him ahead of the 2022 midterm elections and his likely 2024 presidential run.

Musk acknowledged on Tuesday that the Twitter deal was not yet complete and that there were still issues to be ironed out. “I guess the answer is that I would overturn the permanent ban,” he said before adding, “I don’t own Twitter yet.”

Even if he acquires the company, it’s unclear if Trump will join.

Twitter declined to comment. A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has no plans to join Twitter and hasn’t spoken to Musk, though he agrees with Musk’s summary of the episode, a Trump adviser who spoke undercover said on Tuesday. anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Musk began investing in Twitter earlier this year and spent much of March speaking out on the need for an open forum – without moderation – on social media, at one point asking if a new platform -shape was needed. In April, when Musk’s investment went public, his interest in Twitter became clear.

He grasped the importance of the platform for democracy and global debate and criticized what he described as a left-wing bias in moderation decisions. Twitter countered that its efforts were aimed at minimizing harm and improving user experience by limiting exposure to hate speech and harassment.

Twitter’s top lawyer has long weighed in on safety and free speech. Then Elon Musk called her.

Trump was once a prolific Twitter user, tweeting an average of 58 times a day during his first impeachment, and during his campaign and presidency he used tweets wisely to dominate the news cycle and political debate. Americans.

Shortly after a crowd of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, Twitter banned his account, citing “risk of incitement to violence.” A month before the riots, he tweeted: “Big protest in DC Jan 6th. Be there, it’s going to be wild!

Trump’s advisers fear that if Trump joined Twitter, he would instantly reduce the value of his company’s recently launched Twitter clone, Truth Social, from which he is still eager to reap financial benefits.

Musk said Trump’s move to Truth Social was proof of the failure of the permanent ban.

He said the result could be a “frankly worse” forum, where debate becomes fragmented rather than unified on a platform he described as a “de facto public square”.

Musk didn’t go so far as to say bans shouldn’t exist, but clarified that they should be exceptionally rare and reserved for bots and fraudulent accounts.

When asked if Trump’s behavior warranted action, Musk said, in general, “a temporary suspension is appropriate but not a permanent ban.”

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“Banning Trump from Twitter didn’t end Trump’s voice — it will amplify it from the right,” he said. “That’s why it’s morally wrong and downright stupid.”

Although Musk claimed that Trump’s Twitter ban actually amplified him, online discussion about Trump plunged after his Twitter ban to its lowest level in five years, according to data from analytics firms. online BuzzSumo and Zignal Labs.

Trump was banned just before leaving the White House, limiting his ability to influence the news. But his first attempt to match his online audience after Twitter was banned — a blog he called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” — was so unpopular he ordered his advisers to put it down. end after 29 days.

Trump urged people to use Truth Social, which he actively began posting on last week, doling out more than 50 “truths” and “truths” — the site’s names for tweets and retweets.

But his engagement there is still small compared to his lost presence on Twitter, where many of his tweets have often received hundreds of thousands of likes, retweets and replies.

Trump’s social truth in trouble as financial and technical problems mount

Trump now has just over 2 million followers on Truth Social – a tiny fraction of the 88 million followers he had amassed on Twitter before the ban.

Musk has previously criticized Twitter’s content moderation as cumbersome and rooted in leftist bias. Musk is expected to recall the site’s police and possibly replace the executives who brought them in if the deal goes through.

Elizabeth Dwoskin contributed to this report.

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