Will Donald Trump return to Twitter?

Elon Musk's takeover has many wondering when, not if, the former US president will be back

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It has been 658 days since Donald Trump last had the power of Twitter to galvanise his millions of followers.

Permanently banned following the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol “due to the risk of further incitement of violence”, the former president has since started his own social media platform called Truth Social.

Elon Musk's $44 billion Twitter takeover has opened the door for a revocation of the ban, and many see Mr Trump's return to the platform as a matter of when, not if.

In May, Mr Musk told a Financial Times forum that removing Mr Trump from the platform “was a morally bad decision, to be clear, and foolish in the extreme”.

Mr Musk has already fired several high-ranking executives, including former chief executive Parag Agrawal.

The world’s richest person also fired the executive responsible for Mr Trump's ban, sparking speculation that the president's return from exile could be imminent.

But Mr Trump is financially invested in his Truth Social platform and has not said if he will return to Twitter, assuming the ban is lifted.

On Friday, he posted a message on the site saying he was happy Twitter was “now in sane hands, and will no longer be run by the Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs that truly hate our country”.

In April, Mr Trump told Fox News that he hoped Mr Musk would buy the company but that it would not convince him to rejoin.

“I am not going on Twitter. I am going to stay on Truth,” he said.

A screengrab of a Truth Social post by Donald Trump. Photo: Truth Social

But staying away from Twitter, where his @realDonaldTrump account had more than 88 million followers, may be impossible to resist for the man widely expected to run for president again in 2024.

He only has 4.37 million followers on Truth Social.

Mr Trump is not the only high-profile person who has been banned from the platform.

Allies Steve Bannon and Roger Stone have also been barred from tweeting. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a congresswoman who has staunchly backed Mr Trump in the past, was permanently banned for spreading misinformation regarding Covid-19.

Rapper Kanye West, who's recent anti-Semitic tirades have led to him losing major business deals with Gap and adidas, has been temporarily suspended, though many are calling for a permanent ban.

Mr Musk has long said he wants Twitter to be a bastion of “free speech” but has also promised advertisers it will not become a “free-for-all hellscape”.

He said on Thursday that increasing polarisation stoked by traditional media had damaged the “opportunity for dialogue” on the platform.

“That is why I bought Twitter. I didn't do it because it would be easy. I didn't do it to make more money. I did it to try to help humanity, whom I love.”

But social media watchdogs are concerned that Twitter could become a "cauldron of extremism".

"Letting all these people back on would be the most visible signal of the deeper and more malevolent changes and disruptive changes that will be happening under the hood," said Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matter for America.

Mr Carusone said that while Twitter may not have the most users, it has "agenda-setting power" and he worries that loosening the rules that the company has spent years putting in place could have serious ramifications.

But Mr Musk has tried to assuage such concerns. On Friday, he tweeted that "Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints".

He said no "major content decision or account reinstatements" would take place until the council has been formed.

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Updated: October 28, 2022, 6:42 PM
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