Elon Musk restores Donald Trump’s Twitter account


Elon Musk reinstated former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account on Saturday, a key move that could help the platform’s once-loudest, dullest force regain online attention just as another presidential election begins.

“The people have spoken,” Musk wrote in a tweet, nodding to the results of a Twitter poll that had just been completed on whether the former president should be reinstated.

Trump’s account was repopulated with old tweets and followers on Saturday night, although the former president had not tweeted immediately after being restored. He said Saturday he remained focused on his Twitter clone, Truth Social, and signaled he would not return to the site anytime soon.

Twitter users voted roughly 52 percent to 48 percent to restore Trump’s account, according to Musk’s unscientific and unrepresentative Twitter poll. Musk has set several key decisions up to a vote from his Twitter feed, including last year on whether to sell 10 percent of Tesla stock.

Musk had previously said he disagreed with the ban and intended to reinstate Trump. But after buying Twitter for $44 billion late last month, he had also promised to install a content moderation board to make such decisions – saying the process would likely take weeks.

Trump had more than 88 million followers before Twitter suspended him after January 6, 2021, citing fears of violent incitement in the days after his supporters stormed the US capital in riots that left five dead and hundreds injured.

A former Twitter employee familiar with the account recovery process, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said it can take up to a full day to restore suspended accounts to their previous state.

Hundreds are said to have chosen to leave Twitter over Musk’s ultimatum

Musk’s move, minutes after the close of his poll, reversed one of the most consequential decisions in Twitter’s history. A self-described “free-speech absolute,” Musk has said permanent bans undermine Twitter’s role as an unfettered haven for free speech.

The decision drew immediate criticism from the NAACP, which called on advertisers to pause all promotions on the platform on Saturday night.

“In Elon Musk’s Twittersphere, you can incite a riot at the US Capitol, which resulted in the deaths of several people, and still be allowed to spew hate speech and violent conspiracies on his platform,” it said in a statement. “If Elon Musk continues to run Twitter like this, using garbage polls that do not represent the American people and the needs of our democracy, God help us all.”

In a tweeted the letter the day he completed the $44 billion purchaseMusk promised not to turn Twitter into “a free-for-all hellscape” and said he bought the platform “because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be discussed in a healthy way, without resort to violence.”

Right-wing figures — including members of the former Trump administration and political figures aligned with the former president — celebrated Musk’s decision, welcoming Trump back to the platform on Saturday night.

Trump addressed Musk’s polling and the subject of his account during video link remarks at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s conference Saturday in Las Vegas.

Elon Musk says he would reverse the Twitter ban on Donald Trump

He reacted coolly to the prospect of rejoining the site, repeating earlier comments that he would rather focus his attention on his clone site, Truth Social.

“I don’t see any reason to,” Trump said of returning to Twitter, alluding to the social media’s reported problems with bots and declining engagement. “Truth Social has taken over for a lot of people, and I don’t see them going back to Twitter.”

While Trump used the opportunity to promote his own website, he said he appreciated the vote and welcomed Musk’s purchase.

“I like that he bought it, I’ve always liked him,” Trump said. “He’s a character, but I tend to like characters.”

If he returns, Trump’s reinstatement at the start of the 2024 presidential election could cement the platform once again as a hyper-polarized political battleground.

Trump used Twitter to great effect to seize the news cycle and tear down opponents — not just in the years before he ran for president, but on the campaign trail and later in the White House.

Although Trump has said he would not rejoin Twitter even if asked, some of his advisers told The Washington Post this spring that they doubted his commitment. Twitter was Trump’s most dominant megaphone, allowing him to reach an audience of tens of millions of followers with dozens of messages a day.

In Trump’s contract with Truth Social, he agreed to make his posts exclusively available on Truth Social for eight hours before he could share them elsewhere, The Post has reported. The agreement offered exemptions for “political messaging, political fundraising or get-out-the-vote,” which he could do anywhere at any time.

Musk issues ultimatum to employees: Commit to “hardcore” Twitter or resign

Scholars and activists have argued that Trump’s reinstatement would encourage rule-breakers and neutralize Twitter’s most potent tool for reducing harassment and lies: suspending someone’s account.

This would “open up the floodgates for incredibly unpleasant behavior,” said Joan Donovan, a research director at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy who has studied disinformation.

Trump’s reinstatement, she said, will not only help the former president drive the public conversation and influence the most popular medium for journalists and news junkies. It will also help to centralize a political rebel movement that has spread across less far-right corners of the web.

“This brings us back to 2020, where Trump understands the power of what he says in public and on Twitter to create mass hysteria,” she said. “The people he mobilizes have not gone away. They feel as strongly as ever that something is rotten in the government and they need a real savior.”

Elon Musk buys Twitter and fires top executives

Trump will join a Twitter that looks very different than it did when he sent his first tweet, in 2009, to encourage people to watch his brief appearance on “Late Night With David Letterman.”

Unlike his first time on Twitter, the public will likely know what to expect from him. It remains to be seen whether he can recapture his old audience.

After the Twitter ban, Trump began posting messages on a widely ignored blog that he abandoned after 29 days due to its small readership.

Trump later signed on with a small team of co-founders to build a Twitter clone, Truth Social, which launched earlier this year and promised to be a “media powerhouse.”

But Trump has only 4 million followers on the site, and his messages there receive only a small fraction of his former Twitter engagement and response. The startup that runs it, Trump Media & Technology Group, has also been undermined by bitter infighting, federal investigations and growing investor unrest.

Some critics expect Trump’s reintroduction to Twitter could further give truth to Social, which had counted on Trump’s involvement as its key differentiator in an increasingly crowded marketplace of right-wing social networks, meme sites and message boards.

Trump had promised to use Truth Social exclusively and was given 90 percent ownership in the startup. Investment partner Digital World Acquisition saw its stock fall to near-record lows on Thursday amid concerns about Trump’s return on Twitter.

On Truth Social, Trump has continued to lie about widespread election fraud and share conspiracy theories related to QAnon, the jumble of false claims that suggest Trump is leading a secret resistance against a global cabal of child-eating Satanists.

“He’s been whistling QAnon on Truth Social hoping to get attention in the mainstream media, just sending out all these conspiracy guys to get momentum and energy around his name,” Donovan said. “But there’s nothing new about it. A lot will depend on the lengths he’ll be willing to go to … get attention.”

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