Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of Twitter, has reinstated former President Donald Trump’s account.
A narrow majority of Twitter users voted for Trump’s reinstatement on Friday and Saturday, Musk polled. Musk tweeted on Saturday evening, “The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated.” the Latin phrase “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” means “people’s voice is God’s voice.”
Before convening a “content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints,” Musk had said he would not make major content decisions.
Following Trump supporters’ breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, claiming his tweets glorified violence. Similar moves followed from Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitch, and others.
Twitter has reinstated the former president’s account for the first time, giving him access to the powerful megaphone he used to attack political enemies and stir up fans, as well as reach an audience of nearly 90 million followers as his tweets were amplified across Twitter and mainstream media.
Trump and some of his allies launched Truth Social after being exiled from mainstream social media. In January 2021, Trump last tweeted. It remains to be seen whether Trump will return to Twitter. According to Bloomberg News, Trump told the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday he doesn’t see any reason to return to Twitter.
Tesla’s Musk has promised to advance free speech by “unlocking” Twitter’s potential after months of legal wrangling. Musk had criticized the platform before his purchase, saying it should allow all legitimate addresses, including harassment and hate speech.
Some employees and contractors responsible for ensuring that harmful content doesn’t take over Twitter were laid off or quit during Musk’s first chaotic weeks.
During a May conference, Musk called Twitter’s decision to ban Trump “morally bad” and “extremely foolish.” Musk also opposes permanent bans on social media.
The move alienated a large part of the country and didn’t end up preventing Donald Trump from speaking,” he said.
The site will still deemphasize what Musk calls “negative/hate tweets.” He has already reversed bans on right-wing author Jordan Peterson and the conservative website The Babylon Bee.
As growing polarization and increasingly aggressive rhetoric from Republicans fuel the prospect of political violence, Trump’s reinstatement on Twitter comes at a time of heightened concerns.
Trump on Truth Social openly embraces the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory. Trump reaches far fewer followers on Truth Social – 4.5 million -but screenshots and quotes still circulate on platforms that have banned him and other right-leaning social media sites.
It is unlikely that he will tone it down or rein it in if he gets back on one of these major platforms, Nicole Gill, executive director of Accountable Tech, said ahead of Twitter’s announcement, because his rhetoric has escalated since he has been relegated to his own social media platform. His ‘Big Lie’ is fueling wherever he can.”
Especially with Trump’s announcement that he’ll run for president again in 2024, Twitter’s move could have an impact beyond its platform.
Considering “signals related to real-world harm” in making its decision, Facebook is considering lifting its suspension of the former president in January 2023. When the risk of violence drops, YouTube will allow Trump to post videos again.
Trump’s return to Twitter would also have implications for Truth Social.
Trump has signed an agreement with Truth Social to post there first and refrain from publishing the same content on any other social media site for six hours — except for political messages, political fundraising, and get-out-the-vote efforts, which he may post anywhere at any time.