June 17, 2024

Elon Musk said on Tuesday that he would allow former President Donald Trump back on Twitter if the Tesla CEO follows through with his plan to buy the social media company. Trump was permanently banned from the social media site three days after the January 6 attack on the Capitol because of “the risk of further incitement of violence.” 

In an exclusive interview with the Financial Times at the Future of the Car conference on Tuesday, Musk was asked about Trump’s potential return to Twitter. After answering with commentary about when permanent bans should be applied, Musk said that he “would reverse the permanent ban” against Trump, adding, “I don’t own Twitter yet so this is not a thing that will definitely happen.” 

Musk noted that Trump has since resorted to using the platform Truth Social, which was created by Trump Media & Technology Group. Following Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, Trump said that he would still not consider going back to the platform, even if his account is reinstated. 

Instead, he told Fox News last month that the number of users on Truth Social is growing and that the platform is “much better than being on Twitter.” 

“The bottom line is, no, I am not going back to Twitter,” he said.

But Trump using a different platform, Musk said, is “worse than having a single forum where everyone can debate.” 

“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,” Musk said. “…Banning Trump from Twitter didn’t end Trump’s voice. It will amplify it among the right, and that is why it’s morally wrong and flat out stupid.”

Trump was banned following last year’s deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol. Prior to the attack, he had regularly touted conspiracy theories and false claims of voter fraud, both of which contributed to the January 6 attack, during which a throng of his supporters attempted to overturn the 2020 presidential election. 

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said in a statement at the time. 

When asked if he stands by his statements even considering Twitter’s original reasoning for banning the then-president, Musk said that “bad” tweets should simply be deleted or made invisible. A “temporary suspension” would also be appropriate, he said. 

“Perma-bans just fundamentally undermine trust in Twitter as a town square where everyone can voice their opinion,” he said. “I think it was a morally bad decision, to be clear, and foolishly extreme.” 

Musk said that he believes permanent bans should be “extremely rare” and reserved for “bots, or spam/scam accounts.” However, that doesn’t mean people will be able to say whatever they want, he said. 

Anyone who posts something illegal or “destructive to the world” should face a “time out,” temporary suspension or have their tweet made invisible, Musk said. 

Musk reached a deal at the end of April to buy Twitter for $44 billion, saying after the deal was announced that he plans to ensure that the platform is dedicated to free speech. 

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” he said in a statement. 

The deal with Twitter could close this year. 

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