Elon Musk restored the Twitter account of former president Trump on Saturday, a pivotal move that could help the platform’s once loudest, bluntest force regain online attention just as a new presidential election begins.
“The people have spoken,” Musk wrote in a tweet, nodding to a poll that had just completed on whether to reinstate the former president. Twitter users voted roughly 52 percent to 48 percent to restore Trump’s account.
Musk had previously said he disagreed with the ban and intended to restore Trump. But after purchasing Twitter for $44 billion late last month, he had also promised to install a content moderation council to make such devisions — saying they would likely take weeks.
Trump had more than 88 million followers before Twitter suspended him after Jan. 6, 2021, citing fears of violent incitement in the days after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in riots that left five dead and hundreds injured.
An account with Trump’s handle reappeared on the site Saturday, and was slowly re-accumulating followers. A former Twitter employee familiar with that process, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said banned accounts can take up to a full day to be restored to their prior state.
Musk’s move reversed one of the most consequential decisions in Twitter’s history. A self-described “free speech absolutist,” Musk has said permanent bans undermine Twitter’s role as an unrestricted haven for free expression.
In a tweeted letter the day he completed his $44 billion acquisition, Musk pledged not to make Twitter “a free-for-all hellscape” and said he bought the platform “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.”
Still, it’s unclear if the former president will take him up on the offer. Trump addressed Musk’s poll and the subject of his account during video-link remarks to the Republican Jewish Coalition conference on Saturday in Las Vegas.
He reacted coolly to the prospect of rejoining Twitter, reiterating previous remarks that he would rather focus his attention on his clone website Truth Social.
“I don’t see any reason for it,” Trump said of returning to Twitter, alluding to the social media network’s reported problems with bots and declining engagement. “Truth Social has taken the place for a lot of people and I don’t see them going back onto Twitter.”
While Trump took the opportunity to promote his own website, he said he appreciated the poll and welcome Musk’s purchase.
“I like that he bought it, I’ve always liked him,” Trump said. “He’s a character, but I tend to like characters.”