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Musk restores Trump’s Twitter account after online poll

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Elon Musk restored Donald Trump’s account on Twitter on Saturday, reversing a ban that has kept the former president off the social media site since a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol January 6, 2021 when Congress was ready to certify Joe Biden’s election victory.

Musk made the announcement in the evening after conducting a poll asking Twitter users to click “yes” or “no” on whether Trump’s account should be restored. The “Yes” vote won with 51.8%. Musk previously said Twitter would establish new procedures and a “content moderation council” before making decisions to restore suspended accounts.

“People have spoken. Trump is reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, using a Latin phrase meaning β€œthe voice of the people, the voice of God.”

Shortly thereafter, Trump’s account, previously thought to be suspended, resurfaced on the platform, along with his previous tweets, more than 59,000 of them. His followers were gone, at least initially, but he quickly began to regain them. However, as of late Saturday, there were no new tweets from the account.

Musk restored the account less than a month after the Tesla CEO took control of Twitter and four days after Trump announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential race.

Whether Trump would actually return to Twitter is unclear. An irrepressible tweeter before he was banned, Trump has said in the past he would not rejoin even if his account were restored. He has relied on his own much smaller social media site, Truth Social, which he started after being blocked from Twitter.

And on Saturday, during a video speech before a Republican Jewish group meeting in Las Vegas, Trump said he knew about Musk’s poll but saw “a lot of problems with Twitter.”

“I heard we’re getting a big vote to go back on Twitter as well. I don’t see it because I don’t see a reason for it,” Trump said. “It can do it, it can’t do it,” he added, apparently referring to Twitter’s recent internal upheaval.

The prospect of restoring Trump’s presence on the platform follows Musk’s purchase of Twitter last month — a takeover that has sparked widespread concerns that the billionaire owner will allow purveyors of lies and misinformation to thrive on the site. Musk has frequently expressed his belief that Twitter has become too restrictive when it comes to free speech.

His efforts to redesign the site were both rapid and chaotic. Musk has laid off many of the company’s 7,500 full-time employees and a untold number of contractors responsible for moderating content and other vital duties. His demand that remaining employees commit to “extremely persistent” work sparked a wave of layoffs, including hundreds of software developers.

Users have reported seeing increased spam and scams on their feeds and in their direct messages, among other things, following the mass layoffs and brain drain. Some programmers who were fired or terminated this week warned that Twitter could soon become so frayed that it could actually crash.

musk online surveywhich was posted on his own Twitter account, attracted more than 15 million votes in the 24 hours it ran.

Musk acknowledged that the results were hardly scientific. “Bot and troll armies may be running out of steam soon,” he tweeted Saturday morning. “Some interesting lessons to clean up future polls.”

It’s not the first time he’s used Twitter polls to make business decisions. Last year, he sold millions of shares of his Tesla stock after asking his followers if he should.

Democratic US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York responded to Musk’s poll on Trump by tweeting video of the Jan. 6 riot. She tweeted Friday that when Trump was last on Twitter he was “used to incite a riot, several people died, the Vice President of the United States was nearly assassinated and hundreds were injured, but I don’t think that’s enough, to answer this question. Twitter poll is.”

Trump lost his access to Twitter two days after his supporters stormed the Capitol shortly after the former president exhorted them to “fight like hell.” Twitter deleted its account after Trump wrote two tweets the company said cast further doubts on the legitimacy of the presidential election and raised risks for Biden’s inauguration.

After the Jan. 6 attack, Trump was also thrown off Meta Platforms-owned Facebook and Instagram, and Snapchat. His ability to post videos on his YouTube channel has also been suspended. Facebook will reconsider Trump’s suspension in January.

Throughout his tenure as president, Trump’s use of social media posed a significant challenge for major social media platforms, which attempted to balance public interest in hearing from officials with concerns about misinformation, bigotry, harassment and incitement to violence to reconcile.

But in a speech at a car conference in May, Musk claimed that Twitter’s ban on Trump was a “morally bad decision” and “extremely stupid.”

Earlier this month, Musk announced the $44 billion acquisition of Twitter at the end of October.

On Friday, Musk tweeted that the suspended Twitter accounts of comedian Kathy Griffin, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and conservative Christian news-satire site Babylon Bee had been restored. He added that a decision on Trump has not yet been made. He also replied “no” when someone on Twitter asked him to reinstate conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ account.

In a tweet on Friday, the Tesla CEO described the company’s new content policy as “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.”

He explained that a tweet deemed “negative” or containing “hate” would be allowed on the site but would only be visible to users who specifically searched for it. Such tweets would also be “demonetarized, meaning no advertising or other revenue for Twitter,” Musk said.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that the yes vote was 51.8%, not 51.2%.

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