Tech billionaire Elon Musk said Tuesday that he would allow former President Donald Trump back on Twitter after Musk completes his plan to buy the company, giving the most concrete example yet of how his vision of social media would play out in reality.
Musk said at an event sponsored by the Financial Times that it was “foolish in the extreme” for Twitter to permanently suspend Trump in January 2021 after Trump’s supporters violently stormed the US Capitol, according to a video of the event posted online.
“I do think that it was not correct to ban Donald Trump,” Musk, the CEO of Tesla, told the newspaper’s Future of the Car event via remote video.
“I think that was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice,” he said, citing Trump’s newly launched tech platform, Truth Social.
“I would reverse the permanent ban,” Musk said.
Trump’s spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Musk’s statements.
Twitter’s CEO at the time, Jack Dorsey, defended the Trump ban as protecting against offline harm “based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter.”
Trump said last month that he would not return to Twitter even if allowed to do so, telling Fox News that he was committed to Truth Social. It’s not clear if Trump would change his mind about him.
Musk said he feared that political discussions would become too fractured if conservatives weren’t welcome on Twitter.
“I think this could end up being frankly worse than having a single forum where everyone could debate,” he said.
Before and during his four years in office, Trump used Twitter as a key channel to communicate with supporters, opponents and the media. He sometimes used the service to inform subordinates — and the world — that he had fired them, including Mark Esper, whom Trump had appointed defense secretary.
In 2018, Trump used the service to taunt North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, tweeting that his “Nuclear Button” is “much bigger & more powerful” than Kim’s — “and my Button works!”
The taunt prompted a debate about whether Trump had violated Twitter’s rules, and days later, rather than ban Trump at the time, Twitter executives chose to rewrite part of their terms of service to mostly allow world leaders to break the rules without losing their accounts.
But that changed after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. As Trump’s supporters stormed the building in Washington, DC, and disrupted the counting of Electoral College votes showing then-President-elect Joe Biden had won the 2020 election, Trump used his Twitter account to repeat unfounded claims that the election was taken from him.
Suspensions followed by Facebook, YouTube and even Trump’s email vendor, as tech companies distanced themselves from the violent attack in which more than 100 police officers were injured.
Musk said he had spoken to Dorsey about permanent bans, a subject on which Dorsey has been ambivalent, and believes that they undermine trust in Twitter as a service.
“Now that doesn’t mean that somebody gets to say whatever they want to say,” Musk said at the FT event.
“If they say something that is illegal or otherwise destructive to the world, then there should perhaps be a timeout, a temporary suspension or that particular tweet should be made invisible or have very limited traction,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism