Elon Musk reinstated Donald Trump’s Twitter account on Saturday, lifting a ban that kept the former president from accessing the social media site after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, as Congress prepared to confirm Joe Biden’s victory in elections.
Musk made the announcement in the evening after conducting a poll in which Twitter users were asked to click “yes” or “no” on whether Trump’s account should be reinstated. “For” won – 51.8%.
“The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, using a Latin phrase that means “voice of the people, voice of God.”
Soon after, Trump’s account, which was previously believed to be suspended, reappeared on the platform along with his earlier tweets, more than 59,000 of them. However, he had no followers, at least not at first.
It’s unclear whether Trump will return to Twitter. A prolific tweeter before he was banned, Trump said he would not rejoin even if his account was reinstated. He relied on his own social media site, Truth Social, a much smaller platform he launched after being banned from Twitter.
And on Saturday, during a video address to a Republican Jewish group in Las Vegas, Trump said he was aware of Musk’s polling but had seen “a lot of trouble on Twitter,” Bloomberg reported.
“I hear we’re getting a lot of votes to get back on Twitter. I don’t see it because I don’t see a reason for it,” Trump said in a Bloomberg report.
“It might do it, it might not,” he added, apparently referring to Twitter’s recent internal turmoil.
The prospect of Trump restoring a presence on the platform follows Musk’s purchase of Twitter last month, an acquisition that sparked widespread concern that the billionaire owner would allow spreaders of lies and misinformation to thrive on the site. Musk has often expressed his belief that Twitter has become too restrictive of free speech.
His efforts to reshape the site were swift and chaotic. Musk has laid off many of the company’s 7,500 full-time employees and countless contractors responsible for content moderation and other critical duties. His demand that the rest of the staff pledge “extremely hard” work triggered a wave of resignations, including hundreds of software engineers.
Users are reporting an increase in spam and fraud in their feeds and direct messages, among other disruptions, following mass layoffs and employee attrition. Some programmers who have been fired or resigned this week have warned that Twitter could soon deteriorate to the point where it could shut down.
Musk’s online poll, which ran for 24 hours before ending Saturday night, concluded that 51.8% of more than 15 million votes were in favor of restoring Trump’s Twitter account. It comes four days after Trump announced his 2024 presidential bid.
Trump lost access to Twitter two days after his supporters stormed the Capitol, shortly after the former president urged them to “fight like hell.” Twitter suspended his account after he wrote a pair of tweets that the company said cast further doubt on the legitimacy of the presidential election and raise the stakes for Biden’s inauguration.
Following the January 6 attack, Trump was also banned from Facebook and Instagram, owned by Meta Platforms, and Snapchat. His ability to post videos on his YouTube channel was also suspended. Facebook plans to reconsider suspending Trump’s account in January.
Throughout his presidency, Trump’s use of social media has posed a major challenge for major social media platforms, which have sought to balance the public’s interest in hearing from government officials with concerns about misinformation, bigotry, harassment and incitement to violence.
In a speech at an automotive conference in May, Musk said Trump’s Twitter ban was a “morally bad decision” and “stupid in the extreme.”
Earlier this month, Musk, who completed his $44 billion takeover of Twitter in late October, said the company would not allow anyone who was kicked out of the site to return until Twitter established procedures for doing so, including creating a “council on content moderation”.
On Friday, Musk tweeted that the suspended accounts of comedian Kathy Griffin, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and the conservative Christian satire site Babylon Bee had been reinstated. He added that the decision on Trump has not yet been made. He also said no when someone on Twitter asked him to restore the account of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
In a tweet on Friday, Tesla’s chief executive described the company’s new content policy as “freedom of speech, but not freedom of access.”
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 will also be “demonetized, so no advertising or other revenue for Twitter,” Musk said.