Elon Musk is officially in charge of Twitter. Now, the biggest question on some people’s minds is whether Donald Trump will be allowed back on the platform. One clue that the ban won’t be imminently lifted: On Friday afternoon, Musk tweeted that he would be forming a “content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints… No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes.”
For his part, Trump has said that he would not return to Twitter even if the ban were lifted in favor of building up his own social media platform, TRUTH Social. On Friday, Trump reiterated his support for TRUTH Social in a post on the site in which he also expressed his satisfaction that “Twitter is now in sane hands.”
Here’s what to know about the chances of Trump making his way back to Twitter.
Why Trump was banned from Twitter
Twitter permanently banned Trump from the platform on Jan. 8, 2021 due to “the risk of further incitement of violence” following the deadly Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. It acted after Facebook, Snapchat, Twitch and other platforms had also placed limits on the former president.
At the time of the ban, Trump had over 88 million followers on Twitter, which had served as his preferred social media megaphone throughout his presidency. Twitter said in a blog post that two tweets Trump posted on Jan. 8, 2021—one in which he described his supporters as “American Patriots” and another in which he said he would not go to the forthcoming Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden—violated its glorification of violence policy.
“Our determination is that the two Tweets above are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so,” Twitter said.
What Elon Musk has said about letting Trump return
Musk suggested earlier this year that he would allow Trump back on Twitter once he took ownership of the company.
While speaking virtually at a conference in May, Musk said that he viewed Trump’s ban as a mistake because it “alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice.”
He went on to say that he’s broadly against permanent bans and favors more tailored punishments for content that is illegal or otherwise “destructive to the world,” echoing an opinion he had previously expressed in an April text message to then-Twitter CEO Agrawal.
“Would be great to unwind permanent bans, except for spam accounts and those that explicitly advocate violence,” Musk wrote in the text, according to court filings.
Musk tweeted Friday that he would be “digging in” on lifting shadow bans and reducing restrictions on users. However, in the letter he posted to Twitter on Thursday, he indicated that he understood he could be at risk of alienating advertisers by allowing things to go too far.
“The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence,” he wrote.
Some advertisers plan to pause their spending on Twitter if Trump’s account is reinstated, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
What Trump has said about Musk’s takeover
Trump told Fox News in April that, regardless of Musk’s takeover, he would not return to Twitter after being permanently banned.
He said that he intended instead to remain on TRUTH Social, the alternative right-wing social platform he created under the umbrella of his media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, last year to “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.”
“I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on TRUTH,” Trump said the day Musk’s deal was announced. “I hope Elon buys Twitter because he’ll make improvements to it and he is a good man, but I am going to be staying on TRUTH.”
Trump has since maintained that he has no intention of rejoining Twitter. On Friday, Trump sung the praises of TRUTH Social in a post on the site in which he also addressed the news of Musk’s deal.
“Twitter must now work hard to rid itself of all of the bots and fake accounts that have hurt it so badly. It will be much smaller, but better,” he wrote. “I LOVE TRUTH!”
Trump’s following of 4.38 million on TRUTH Social remains a fraction of the size of the audience of nearly 90 million he had on Twitter before being banned.
What this means for the future of Trump’s TRUTH Social
Despite Trump’s posturing, TRUTH Social’s business prospects are in a precarious position.
The fate of the platform is hanging in the balance as delays continue to plague the $1.3-billion merger between Trump Media and blank-check company Digital World Acquisition Corp that would potentially secure its future. At the same time, Trump himself is facing a host of legal, financial, and political woes.
TRUTH Social has thus far struggled to lure subscribers despite advertising itself as a refuge for free speech. And a Musk-owned Twitter with fewer speech restraints and less content moderation isn’t likely to do TRUTH Social any favors—especially if Musk reverses bans on prominent conservatives like Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose personal Twitter account was permanently suspended earlier this year for spreading COVID-19 misinformation.
It would likely be difficult for Trump to resist rejoining Twitter if he were allowed back, Jonathan Nagler, co-director of NYU’s Center for Social Media and Politics, told TIME earlier this year.
“Twitter gives him a megaphone that he otherwise doesn’t have,” Nagler said. “And he’s shown that social media is a very, very important way that he communicates with the public.”
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