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SAN FRANCISCO: Billionaire Elon Musk said he would reverse Twitter’s ban on former US President Donald Trump when he buys the social media platform.
Musk, the world’s richest person and chief executive of electric vehicle maker Tesla, has inked a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. He has called himself a “free speech absolutist,” but given few specific details of his plans.
Musk is expected to become Twitter’s temporary CEO after closing the deal. The question of reinstating Trump has been seen as a litmus test of how far Musk will go in making changes, even though Trump himself has said he would not return.
Twitter, like other US-based social media platforms, has banned various individuals for violating its policies on misinformation and glorification of violence.
Musk, speaking to a Financial Times conference, added that he and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey believe permanent bans should be “extremely rare” and reserved for accounts that operate bots or spread spam.
“Wrong and bad” tweets should be deleted or made invisible and a temporary account suspension could be appropriate, Musk said. “I think permabans just fundamentally undermine trust in Twitter as a town square where everyone can voice their opinion.”
Musk said the decision to ban Trump amplified Trump’s views among people on the political right, and he called the ban “morally wrong and flat-out stupid.”
The suspension of Trump’s account, which had more than 88 million followers, silenced his primary megaphone days before the end of his term and followed years of debate about how social media companies should moderate the accounts of powerful global leaders.
Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter shortly after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. Twitter cited “the risk of further incitement of violence” in its decision.
Conservatives, who have accused Twitter of bias against right-leaning views, have cheered the prospect of Trump’s return to the platform. Democrats have said Trump’s potential reinstatement could constitute a threat to democracy.
Trump previously said that he would not return to Twitter if allowed. His own social media app, Truth Social, launched on the Apple app store in late February.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that Twitter’s ban on Trump was a matter for the company to decide. The Biden administration wants online platforms to protect freedom of speech but also ensure they are not forums for disinformation, she said.
During the conference, Musk said the deal to acquire Twitter could be done in two to three months in the “best-case scenario.”