Elon Musk on Saturday (Nov. 19) restored Donald Trump’s account on Twitter, lifting a ban that has kept the former president off the social media site since a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021, hit the US attacked the Capitol, as did Congress ready to certify Joe Biden’s election victory.
Musk made the announcement in the evening after conducting a poll asking Twitter users to click “yes” or “no” on whether Trump’s account should be restored. The “yes” vote won with 51.2 percent.
“People have spoken. Trump is reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God.”
Shortly thereafter, Trump’s account, which had previously appeared suspended, appeared again on the platform complete with his former tweets, more than 59,000 of them. However, his followers had disappeared, at least initially.
Whether Trump would actually return to Twitter is unclear. An irrepressible tweeter before he was banned, Trump has said in the past he would not rejoin even if his account were restored. He has relied on his own much smaller social media site, Truth Social, which he started after being blocked from Twitter.
And on Saturday, during a video address before a meeting of a Republican Jewish group in Las Vegas, Trump said he knew about Musk’s poll but saw “a lot of problems with Twitter,” according to Bloomberg.
“I heard we’re getting a big vote to go back on Twitter as well. I don’t see it because I don’t see a reason for it,” Trump was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. “It can do it, it can’t do it,” he added, apparently referring to Twitter’s recent internal upheaval.
The prospect of restoring Trump’s presence on the platform follows Musk’s purchase of Twitter last month — a takeover that has sparked widespread concerns that the billionaire owner will allow purveyors of lies and misinformation to thrive on the site. Musk has frequently expressed his belief that Twitter has become too restrictive when it comes to free speech.
His efforts to redesign the site were both rapid and chaotic. Musk has laid off many of the company’s 7,500 full-time employees and a untold number of contractors responsible for moderating content and other vital duties. His demand that remaining employees commit to “extremely persistent” work sparked a wave of layoffs, including hundreds of software developers.
Users have reported seeing increased spam and scams on their feeds and in their direct messages, among other things, following the mass layoffs and brain drain. Some programmers who were fired or terminated this week warned that Twitter could soon become so frayed that it could actually crash.
Musk’s online poll, which ran for 24 hours before ending Saturday night, ended with 51.2% out of more than 15 million votes favoring restoring Trump’s Twitter account. It comes four days after Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2024.
Trump lost his access to Twitter two days after his supporters stormed the Capitol shortly after the former president exhorted them to “fight like hell.” Twitter deleted its account after Trump wrote two tweets the company said cast further doubts on the legitimacy of the presidential election and raised risks for Biden’s inauguration.
After the Jan. 6 attack, Trump was also thrown off Meta Platforms-owned Facebook and Instagram, and Snapchat. His ability to post videos on his YouTube channel has also been suspended. Facebook will reconsider Trump’s account suspension in January.
Throughout his tenure as president, Trump’s use of social media posed a significant challenge for major social media platforms, which attempted to balance public interest in hearing from officials with concerns about misinformation, bigotry, harassment and incitement to violence to reconcile.
But in a speech at a car conference in May, Musk claimed that Twitter’s ban on Trump was a “morally bad decision” and “extremely stupid.”
Earlier this month, Musk announced the $44 billion acquisition of Twitter at the end of October.
On Friday, Musk tweeted that the suspended Twitter accounts of comedian Kathy Griffin, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and conservative Christian news-satire site Babylon Bee had been restored. He added that a decision on Trump has not yet been made. He also replied “no” when someone on Twitter asked him to reinstate conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ account.
In a tweet on Friday, the Tesla CEO described the company’s new content policy as “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.”
He explained that a tweet deemed “negative” or containing “hate” would be allowed on the site but would only be visible to users who specifically searched for it. Such tweets would also be “demonetarized, meaning no advertising or other revenue for Twitter,” Musk said.