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Donald Trump's account on Twitter reappears

November 20, 2022

New Twitter owner Elon Musk posted a poll asking whether former US President Donald Trump should be reinstated, and later celebrated the number of participants. The razor-thin result has favored Trump's return.

Elon Musk's Twitter account displayed on a smartphone. Elon Musk polls its users on whether to reinstate former U.S. President Donald Trump's account on Twitter. (
Musk posted the poll late on Friday and celebrated the high levels of engagementImage: Andre M. Chang/Zuma/picture alliance

Donald Trump's Twitter account has reappeared shortly after Elon Musk said on Saturday that the former US President's account would be reinstated.

The Twitter owner announced the decision to reinstate Trump's account after a poll he posted on the social media platform narrowly went in favor of doing so.  

"Vox populi, vox dei," Musk wrote, a Latin phrase loosely translating as "the voice of the people is the voice of god." 

But earlier in the day, Trump had said that he was not interested in returning to the social media platform Twitter, even as new owner Elon Musk celebrated high turnout in the vote.

Musk, who has been toying with reinstating famous personalities' suspended accounts since his Twitter takeover, had posted the poll on Friday evening.

The poll closed late on Saturday by US time zones, with a narrow majority of 51.8% of participants voting in favor of reinstating Trump's account. Just over 15 million votes were cast in the 24-hour period, according to the Twitter website's own tracking statistics. 

When asked if he planned to return to Twitter by a panel at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual leadership meeting on Saturday, which he was attending via video link, Trump said "I don't see any reason for it." 

He said he would stick with his new platform Truth Social, the app developed by his Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) startup, which he said had better user engagement than Twitter and was doing "phenomenally well."

When and why was Trump banned from Twitter? 

Trump's Twitter account was permanently banned soon after the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters. 

At the time, Twitter published a statement saying that two of his Tweets on January 8 had violated the company's policies against what it calls the glorification of violence. 

One message from Trump had said that those who voted for him would have a "GIANT VOICE" long into the future and that they would not be "disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!"

The other said: "To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th." 

Twitter said that given the wider context of Trump refusing to accept the election results and not planning to attend Biden's inauguration, his comments could be interpreted by supporters as condoning further violent acts contesting the impending handover of power, similar to those of January 6.

"Our determination is that the two Tweets above are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so," Twitter said on January 8, 2021, explaining its decision. 

Fellow social media behemoths Facebook and YouTube would take similar steps around the same time. 

From very early in his presidential bid, Twitter had grown into a core component of Donald Trump's communication strategy. At the time of his suspension he had more than 80 million followers.

Since being frozen out of most of the largest platforms, he has tried to promote the recently launched Truth Social app, where he has a much more modest 4.57 million followers.

Twitter's decision divided opinion at the time. Some argued Trump's long-notorious Tweets had deteriorated to a new and dangerous level, particularly since his election defeat. Others, including then-Chancellor Angela Merkel, said it was problematic for a company like Twitter to suspend a still-sitting US president under almost any circumstances. 

Musk, Twitter reinstating some previously suspended accounts

Musk styles himself as a "free speech absolutist" and has frequently used Twitter to discuss plans to change the company's policies to suspended accounts since taking over the company. 

He first raised the prospect of a possible Trump return in May, soon after his initial purchase offer. 

Earlier this week, he had said Twitter had reinstated three prominent accounts. At that point, Musk explicitly added that the "Trump decision has not yet been made."  

These included comedian Kathie Griffin, who had been suspended for changing her name to "Elon Musk" as a joke in response to Musk saying he intended to ban all impersonation accounts unless they were "clearly specifying parody." 

Another reinstated account was controversial psychologist and self-help author Jordan Peterson, suspended when he declined to delete a tweet about a transgender actor who he had referred to using his abandoned female name.

Peterson responded to the news by offering Musk his opinion on the Trump question. 

"Probably best to reinstate Trump too. Let him do what he needs to do, and let the people decide. Right out in the open. Where such things should be decided," Peterson wrote. 

Twitter also reinstated an account called Babylon Bee, which often lampoons left-leaning politicians in the US, that had been suspended for not removing a Tweet about a Biden administration official who identifies as transgender.

Widespread layoffs, drastic reshaping of Twitter

As well as fueling discussion about Twitter's future on the website, Musk has also been implementing far-reaching and rapid changes since reluctantly completing his buyout. 

He has halved the workforce and severely cut the company's trust and safety team, which is responsible for preventing the spread of misinformation and harmful content.

These actions and Musk's tweeting have pushed major companies to halt advertising on the site as they monitor how the platform handles hate speech.

On Saturday, Bloomberg reported Twitter could fire more employees in its sales and partnership divisions, citing unnamed sources, just days after a mass resignation of engineers.

msh/wmr (AFP, Reuters)