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.”

The ban, he added, “was a morally wrong decision, to be clear, and stupid in the extreme”. Twitter had banned Trump’s account shortly after a crowd of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, citing the “risk of further incitement to violence.”

Musk – one of Twitter’s most prolific users, with more than 90 million followers – agreed to buy the social media company for around $44 billion, arguing the site should host free speech unimpeded and operate as a “de facto public square”. He was widely critical of Twitter’s content moderation decisions, arguing that the company’s permanent bans for accounts breaking the rules should have been temporary removals instead, so as not to suppress their use of the site in the long run.

What Elon Musk said about Twitter

Musk’s decision to overturn Trump’s ban would not only undo one of the most important and widely debated corporate decisions in American tech. It could also return the former president to a megaphone he used for years to capture the world’s attention – and shout out his opponents – as he bolsters his allies in the 2022 midterm elections and is preparing for a presidential election expected in 2024.

Twitter declined to comment.

Musk acknowledged on Tuesday that the Twitter deal was not yet complete and that there were still issues to be worked out. But even if he does acquire the company, it’s unclear whether Trump will join.

The former president has no intention of doing so and has not spoken to Musk, although he agrees with Musk’s summary of the episode, a Trump adviser who spoke to him said on Tuesday. spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Trump’s advisers fear that if he joins Twitter, he’ll instantly undercut the value of his company’s recently launched Twitter clone, Truth Social, which has struggled to gain an audience and relies on Trump as its biggest draw.

But Trump only has about 2 million followers on Truth Social — a tiny fraction of the 88 million Twitter followers he’s lost — and he’s expressed annoyance that his posts aren’t getting as much attention as they do. previously, his advisers in Washington have said. To post. Trump aides still print tweets from notable politicians and journalists for him to read, and he still sees them as a quick and impactful way to reach the media and general public.

“He loved his Twitter,” a Trump adviser told the Post last month. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

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

Trump was once a hyperactive 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 piss off his followers and dominate political debate. A month before the Capitol riots that preceded his Twitter ban, he tweeted: “Big protest in DC Jan 6th. Be there, it’s going to be wild!

Musk, CEO of electric car maker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, started investing in Twitter this year and spent much of March speaking out on the need for an open forum — less restricted by moderation – on social media, asking at some point if a new platform 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.

Musk said Trump’s move to Truth Social was evidence of the failure of the permanent ban policy, which he said could lead to further polarization of the debate, and he argued that bans should be reserved for the most egregious rule breakers, including bots and fraudulent accounts.

“It could end up being frankly worse than having a single forum where everyone can debate,” Musk said. 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,” Musk said. “That’s why it’s morally wrong and downright stupid.”

But Musk’s claim doesn’t match the reality of the Twitter ban’s impact. Online discussion of Trump actually plunged after the ban to its lowest level in five years, according to data from online analytics firms 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.

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Musk’s argument that Trump was wronged by Twitter’s rules has aligned itself with Trump supporters and some free speech advocates who argue the tech company unfairly censored a political leader and contradicts his mission to support freedom of expression.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, tweeted on Tuesday: “It’s best for our democracy that social media platforms like Twitter play as limited a role as possible in determining the limits of a acceptable political discourse”.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey tweeted agree, saying “permanent bans of individuals are directionally wrong”. Last January, he had claimed the oppositeclaiming the ban was “the right move for Twitter” in “an extraordinary and untenable circumstance” that forced the company to focus on reducing the real threat of “offline harm”.

Supporters of the ban argue that the company is fully within its rights to remove posts or accounts whose tweets incite violence, encourage harassment or spread lies – and that no one, regardless of political influence, should not be above the law.

On internal Slack company channels, Twitter employees reacted on Tuesday saying they were not surprised, and that they were disappointed and disgusted, according to a description of the conversations from a person who expressed on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive subjects. Employees said users should have refund paths to have their accounts reinstated, but Trump reported no change in behavior or mood.

Elizabeth Dwoskin contributed to this report.


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