LONDON (AP) — Elon Musk has said Twitter will reverse its ban on former President Donald Trump if his purchase of the social media company goes through, signaling how permissive the platform could become on free speech. under his ownership.
Speaking virtually at an automotive conference, Musk said on Tuesday that Trump’s Twitter ban following the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising on the U.S. Capitol was a “morally wrong decision” and “insane at the time.” extreme”.
“I think it was a mistake because it alienated a lot of the country and ultimately didn’t stop Donald Trump from being heard,” Musk said, adding he preferred temporary suspensions and other sanctions. narrowly tailored for content that is illegal or otherwise “destructive to the world”.
Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey agreed in a Tuesday tweet in which he stated that “generally permanent bans are a failure on our part and do not work”.
Shares of Twitter fell 1.5% on Tuesday to $47.24 per share. That’s 13% less than the $54.20 per share — or $44 billion — offer Musk made on April 14, reflecting Wall Street fears the deal could still fall through. Musk stressed on Tuesday that this was “definitely not a done deal.”
Musk has repeatedly criticized Twitter’s content moderation decisions, including banning Trump for “inciting violence,” but mostly avoided saying what he would do about Trump’s account. He was pressed for details on Tuesday by Peter Campbell, automotive correspondent for the Financial Times, which hosted the automotive conference.
“If Musk is worried that many people will be upset about Trump’s ban, he should see how many more people would be upset if Trump wasn’t banned,” said Kirsten Martin, professor of technology ethics at the University of Our Lady. “Musk only seems to care about the opinion of a small group of individuals who incite violence or perpetuate hate speech.”
Trump has previously said he has no intention of joining Twitter even if his account is reinstated, telling Fox News last month that he would instead focus on his own platform, Truth Social, which is mired in problems since its launch earlier this year.
A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment in response to Musk’s remarks.
While Trump was president, his Twitter persona functioned as a hodgepodge of political announcements, often out of the blue; media complaints; denigration of women, minorities and perceived enemies; and praise for his followers, replete with exclamation marks, capital letters, and one-word statements such as “Sad!”
He fired many officials on Twitter and his posts, like his speeches at rallies, were a torrent of misinformation.
In announcing its ban on Trump in 2021, Twitter said its tweets amounted to a glorification of violence when read in the context of the Capitol riot and plans circulating online for future armed protests around Trump. inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Musk’s remarks on Tuesday raise questions about whether those banned besides Trump could also return. The long list of people banned from Twitter includes QAnon loyalists, COVID deniers, neo-Nazis and former reality TV star Tila Tequila, who was suspended for hate speech.
Other Trump allies who started Twitter include Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell, Lin Wood and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was permanently banned in January for repeatedly spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and the coronavirus. vaccine safety.
White supremacist David Duke and the often violent organization Proud Boys were banned, along with far-right trolls like one called Baked Alaska, who promoted anti-Semitic tropes and faced charges stemming from his involvement in the attack of January 6. .
Alex Jones, the creator of Infowars, was permanently banned in 2018 for abusive behavior. Last year, Jones lost a defamation case filed by parents of children killed in the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting over Jones’ repeated claims that the shooting was fake.
Twitter, Musk said on Tuesday, currently has a strong left-leaning, largely because it’s located in San Francisco. This alleged bias prevents him from building trust in the rest of the United States and the world, he said: “It’s way too random and I think Twitter needs to be a lot fairer.”
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment on Musk’s comments.
Earlier on Tuesday, Musk said he backed a new European Union law aimed at protecting social media users from harmful content after meeting the bloc’s single market chief.
EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he explained to Musk how the bloc’s online regulations aim to maintain free speech while ensuring that everything illegal “will be banned in the digital space”, which Musk “fully agreed with”. .”
In a Breton video tweeted On Monday night, Musk said the two had a “great discussion” and that he was okay with the Digital Services Act, which is expected to receive final approval later this year. It will force big tech companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook parent company Meta to more strictly police their platforms for illegal or harmful content like hate speech and misinformation or face billions in fines.
O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island.; Krisher reported from Detroit. Associated Press writer David Klepper contributed from Providence, Rhode Island.
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