Elon Musk has said he would lift Twitter’s ban on former US President Donald Trump if his deal to buy the global messaging platform is successful.
“I would reverse the permanent ban,” the billionaire told a Financial Times conference, noting that he doesn’t own Twitter yet, so “this is definitely not something that will happen.”
The Tesla chief’s $44 billion deal to buy Twitter has yet to win the backing of shareholders and regulators, but he has expressed enthusiasm for less content moderation and “timeouts” rather than bans.
“I think it was wrong to ban Donald Trump,” Musk said.
“I think it was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and ultimately didn’t result in Donald Trump having no voice.”
Mr. Trump was banned from Twitter and other online platforms after his supporters, fired up by his tweets alleging voter fraud, attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in a deadly and failed attempt to prevent Joe Biden from being certified as the victor in the US presidential election.
Musk said he and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey have a similar opinion that permanent bans should be rare, reserved for accounts that are spam, scams or run by software “bots.”
“That doesn’t mean someone can say whatever they want to say,” Musk said.
“If they say something that is illegal or just destructive to the world, then maybe there should be a timeout, a temporary ban, or that particular tweet should be made invisible or have very limited traction.”
However, Musk insisted that he feels permanent bans are a “morally bad decision” that undermines trust in Twitter as a public online plaza where everyone can be heard.
He noted that Trump has publicly stated that he would not return to Twitter if allowed, opting instead to stick with his own social network, which has failed to gain ground.
Activist groups have called on Twitter advertisers to boycott the service if it opens the door to abusive and misinformation posts owned by Musk.
“Your brand risks being associated with a platform that amplifies hate, extremism, health misinformation and conspiracy theorists,” read an open letter signed by more than two dozen groups, including Media Matters, Access Now and Ultraviolet.
“Under Musk’s stewardship, Twitter risks becoming a cesspool of disinformation, with his brand attached.”
Twitter makes most of its revenue from ads, and that could be compromised by advertisers’ reaction to content posted on the platform, the San Francisco-based tech firm said in a filing with US regulators. .
Advertising revenue on Twitter rose 16% to $1.2 billion in the recently ended quarter, while revenue from subscriptions and other media fell to $94.4 million, the company said in the filing.
While Musk hasn’t revealed the nitty-gritty details of how he would handle the business side of Twitter, he has expressed a preference for making money from subscriptions.
At the end of March, an average of 229 million people were using Twitter daily, an increase of nearly 16% from the first three months of last year, Twitter said in a recent regulatory filing.
“We believe that our long-term success depends on our ability to improve the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” the company said in the filing.
Efforts toward that goal include combating abuse, harassment, spam and “malicious automation,” or when accounts are managed by software rather than people, Twitter told regulators.