Elon Musk, who has reached a $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter, said the social network’s permanent ban on the 45th U.S. president was a “morally bad decision” and “flat-out wrong” — one that Musk would overturn, if he successfully closes the deal.
Twitter’s ban of Trump “was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the county and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice,” Musk said, speaking at a Financial Times automotive conference Tuesday, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
More broadly, Musk said, he’s opposed to Twitter imposing a permanent ban on any account. “If there are tweets that are wrong and bad, those should be either deleted or made invisible, and a suspension — a temporary suspension — is appropriate, but not a permanent ban,” he said.
That said, Trump has insisted he will not rejoin Twitter regardless of who owns it. “I am not going on Twitter. I am going to stay on Truth,” Trump told Fox News last month following the news of Musk’s agreement to buy Twitter, referring to Truth Social, the ex-president’s own rival social network.
Twitter banned Trump permanently on Jan. 8, two days after the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters, citing the risk of ongoing violence if the then-president were allowed to remain on the social network. Other services, including Facebook and YouTube, followed suit in deplatforming Trump.
Last year Trump formed Trump Media & Technology Group, hiring former GOP congressman Devin Nunes as CEO, and in February 2022 launched Truth Social, a virtual copycat of Twitter that claims it is “free from political discrimination.”
Musk, like Trump and other conservatives, has accused Twitter under its current management as exhibiting a left-wing bias. Musk has said he wants Twitter to strictly follow principles of “free speech,” which has raised concerns that the tech mogul would ease up on the social media service’s content-moderation policies — and potentially open the floodgates to misinformation and abusive behavior.
In response to Musk’s comments Tuesday, Angelo Carusone, president of progressive watchdog group Media Matters for America, said in a statement, “The only thing worse than Twitter replatforming the likes of Donald Trump and Alex Jones — as well as reversing course in dealing with disinformation and extremists — is the perverse pressure it’ll create on other major social media platforms, including Facebook, to let them back on as well, effectively igniting a race to the bottom.”
Musk has been lining up new financing for his potential Twitter takeover, which is still pending regulatory and shareholder review. At the FT conference, he said he expects the Twitter deal to close in the next two or three months. Musk, the world’s richest person, is CEO of Tesla and SpaceX.
Last week, Musk announced $7.14 billion in new financing agreements for the bid, including $1 billion from his friend and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison. Over the past few weeks, Musk has suggested a range of changes to Twitter, including authenticating all users, shifting the company’s business to rely more on subscriptions than advertising, and charging companies and governments to use Twitter.
Musk has sought to clarify his stance on allowing “free speech” on Twitter. “By ‘free speech,’ I simply mean that which matches the law,” Musk wrote in an April 26 tweet. “I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.”
On Monday, Thierry Breton, the European Union’s Commissioner for the Internal Market, posted a video on Twitter with Musk after the duo met in Austin, Texas, to discuss the EU’s Digital Services Act. The proposed legislation, among other things, would set standards requiring internet platforms to remove illegal content and to provide greater disclosures about content-moderation decisions.
In response to Breton’s 65-second video, Musk replied, “Great meeting! We are very much on the same page.”