Musk says he would overturn Twitter ban on Donald Trump

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May 10 (Reuters) – Billionaire Elon Musk said on Tuesday he would reverse the ban on Twitter imposed on former U.S. President Donald Trump when he buys the social media platform, the clearest signal of the Musk’s intention to cut site moderation.

Musk, the world’s richest person and CEO of Tesla Inc, has signed a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. He called himself a “free speech absolutist” but gave few specific details about his plans.

Musk is expected to become Twitter’s temporary CEO after the deal closes, Reuters previously reported according to a source familiar with the matter.

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The issue of Trump’s reinstatement has been seen as a litmus test of how far Musk will go to bring about change.

Musk, speaking to the Financial Times Future of the Car conference, added that he and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey believe permanent bans should be “extremely rare” and reserved for accounts that run bots or spread spam.

Musk said the decision to ban Trump boosted views of Trump among people on the political right, and he called the ban “morally wrong and downright stupid.”

The suspension of Trump’s account, which has more than 88 million followers, silenced his main megaphone days before the end of his term and follows years of debate over how social media companies should moderate the accounts of powerful world leaders.

Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter shortly after the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol. Twitter cited “the risk of further incitement to violence” in its decision.

Musk also said the platform must limit speech as required by law, and he told a European Union official on Monday that EU policy was “exactly aligned” with his own thinking, referring to a new law that imposes heavy fines on companies that fail to do so. control illegal content such as advertising aimed at children.

“SHOULD BE EVERYWHERE”

Conservatives, who have accused San Francisco-based Twitter of bias against right-wing views, cheered the prospect of Trump’s return.

“He (Trump) should be wherever he can,” Republican Senator Rick Scott told reporters when asked about Musk’s comments. “We shouldn’t have social media companies that limit people’s ability to get their message across.”

Democrats have said Trump’s potential reinstatement could pose a threat to democracy, though some hope a frequently tweeting Trump could upset their base and boost turnout in November’s congressional midterm elections.

Twitter declined to comment.

Trump previously told Fox News that he would not return to Twitter if allowed, preferring his own social media app, Truth Social, a Twitter-like platform that launched on the App Store in ‘Apple at the end of February and in which users post “truths” instead. of tweets.

Trump has ramped up his messaging on the new platform after a slow start, posting about 50 times, mostly in the past week, to his 2.7 million followers. He sent an average of 18 tweets a day when he was president.

There was no immediate comment from a Trump spokesperson.

Trump is chairman of the company that owns Truth Social, which is merging with blank check acquisition company Digital World Acquisition Corp.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that banning Trump from Twitter was a matter for the company to decide. The Biden administration wants online platforms to protect free speech, but also ensure they are not forums for disinformation, she said.

At the conference, Musk said the deal to acquire Twitter could be completed in two to three months in the “best case scenario.”

Earlier Tuesday, shares of Twitter fell to a level that signaled the stock market believed Musk was unlikely to complete the $44 billion acquisition as he had originally agreed.

Musk’s decision to take on Twitter worried some Tesla investors and put pressure on the stock. Musk added on Tuesday that he would stay at Tesla “as long as I can be of service.”

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Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; additional reporting by Eva Matthews, Bernard Orr

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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