After nearly two years of hiatus, former President Donald Trump can get his Twitter account back – it’s unclear if he will.
The new owner of the social media company, Elon Musk, announced on Saturday evening that Trump’s Twitter account would be restored. A few minutes later, the former president’s profile was deleted and his blue icon was restored.
This news comes a few days after Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2024. He was banned from Twitter for inciting violence during the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
The decision marks Musk’s return to the social media platform after last month’s $44 billion takeover of the embattled company, which has seen both its workforce and revenue cut sharply as many companies cut advertising. .
“The people have spoken” Musk said on Twitter Saturday evening. “Trump will be reinstated.”
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Trump, who announced his candidacy for the presidency again on Tuesday, said he would not return to Twitter even if invited. But the former president didn’t get the same resonance from Truth Social, which has a more limited reach.
Trump has 4.57 million followers on Truth Social, a fraction of the more than 88 million followers he has on Twitter.
Before lifting the ban, Musk created a poll on his personal Twitter account on Friday asking users if he should “reinstate former President Trump.” Although it is not clear how many of the survey participants were verified users or bots, more than 15 million users participated.
After the survey, Musk announced that Trump would be reinstated on the platform. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk said, is Latin for the voice of the people is the voice of God.
Trump made a statement on Saturday about the inquiry and the possibility of his reinstatement. “Vote with positivity now, but don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere,” Trump said. “Truth Social is special!”
He elaborated in a virtual appearance at a Republican Jewish Coalition leadership meeting, saying that while he’s “always liked” Musk and is happy he bought Twitter, he “sees no reason” to return to the platform.
“They have a lot of problems on Twitter,” Trump said. “You see what happens. He may or may not, but the challenges are incredible.”
The removal of Trump and other political right-wing figures from the platform has sparked outrage among 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 restored other well-known figures 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 has been celebrated by Republicans and the far right, Musk has resisted calls to immediately reinstate Trump.
“It should never have been banned,” Jake Denton, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Technology Policy Center, told USA TODAY. “Trump’s return objectively sets Twitter on a new path. He is the ideal man to run the new Elon Musk Twitter. It’s the vehicle through which Elon can signal that he’s serious about rebuilding Twitter.
Brian Ott, a communications professor at Missouri State University, told USA TODAY that Trump’s return carries risks for Twitter and democracy.
Trump continues to falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen.
“It provided him with a public forum to spread his lies, misinformation and hate at large,” Ott said. “His return to these platforms will undoubtedly raise the temperature of our politics and significantly increase the likelihood of political violence.”
Trump lost direct contact with his supporters after the Capitol siege when he was pulled from the nation’s top social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube.
Allowing Trump, who often spreads misinformation online, to rejoin Twitter comes at a sensitive time for the company and potentially American politics.
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Musk has already laid off thousands of employees and recently laid off content moderation contractors who help prevent the spread of hate speech and misinformation.
More employees resigned this week after Musk told staff that they needed to be “extremely tough” to “breakthrough Twitter 2.0” and that working long hours in a high-intensity environment would be part of that push.
On Friday, Musk tweeted that Twitter’s new policy is “freedom of speech, but not freedom of speech.”
“Negative/hateful tweets will be minimized and demonetized, so there will be no advertising or other revenue on Twitter,” he said. “Unless you specifically look for a tweet, you won’t find it, it’s no different than the rest of the Internet.”
Of the platforms, Twitter was Trump’s favorite, and it could play an important role in his run to retake the White House in 2024.
Musk has a strong financial incentive to bring back Trump, the kind of mega-personality that drives engagement on the platform, especially as Twitter struggles to keep its most active users engaged.
Facebook will decide whether to suspend Trump’s activities in January.
As for YouTube, CEO Susan Wojcicki said last year that the platform would lift Trump’s ban when it “determines that the risk of violence is reduced.” YouTube declined to comment.
Even before Trump’s reinstatement, Musk and Twitter had drawn the attention of several Democratic senators, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who on Thursday asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate potential violations of consumer protection laws.
Under a 2011 consent order with the FTC, Twitter is prohibited from misleading consumers about the privacy and security of sensitive user data. “We are concerned that actions taken by Mr. Musk and others at Twitter may already violate the FTC’s consent decree, which prohibits misrepresentation and requires Twitter to maintain a comprehensive information security program,” the senators said in the letter. FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan.
Contributed by Christal Hayes and Marina Pitofsky