February 3, 2023

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Elon Musk has reactivated Donald Trump’s Twitter account

Donald Trump may rejoin Twitter That’s what Elon Musk announced. Musk justified this decision with the results of his personal Twitter poll. That @realDonaldTrump Account and his tweets are fully visible again just days after Trump confirmed he will run for president again in 2024.

Shortly after assuming control of the social network, Musk said he would not reactivate suspended accounts until the company established and convened a Content Moderation Council with “very diverse viewpoints.”

Instead, on Friday night, as people drifted into the Thanksgiving weekend, he decided to poll his own followers on Twitter. “Rehire former President Trump,” he said tweetednext to a poll with buttons to choose Yes or No.

“Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” he added in a follow-up tweet, Latin for “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”

The “yes” answers won by a narrow margin of 52-48. It’s not clear how many of them might have been bots; Musk himself suggested that the poll was attacked by bots. Musk also famously tried to get out of the Twitter deal by claiming that up to 20 percent of Twitter accounts are fake, and he once suggested that bots were responsible for the results his controversial poll on Russia and Ukraine.

Above 134 million people saw the survey, according to Musk, although there were just over 15 million responses in the end. That would indicate that only about 11 percent of those who saw it clicked one of the buttons.

We’ll likely never know if Musk actually made the decision based on the poll or if he’s already made up his mind. In November 2021, he sold 10 percent of his Tesla shares after polling his followers and the majority responded that he should do it. At the time, he wrote, “I will stand by the results of this poll, whatever the outcome.” But the Wall Street Journal revealed that he had already made the decision to buy these stocks in September, two months earlier, as part of an upfront established trading plan designed to discourage executives from insider trading.

Former President Trump was banned from Twitter on January 8, 2021 “due to the risk of further inciting violence” after Trump was the instigator of the January 6 Capitol attacks. Twitter said at the time that Trump’s messages broke its rules against the glorification of violence. From that time until tonight, visitors to his Twitter profile were greeted with the message “Account Suspended” instead of seeing his tweets.

According to Musk's Twitter, 51.8 percent of respondents answered

According to Musk’s Twitter, 51.8 percent of respondents answered “yes.” 48.2 percent answered “no”. Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

During Twitter’s long and difficult buying process, Musk said he would restore Trump’s account. “I don’t think it was right to ban Donald Trump,” Musk said in May. “I think that was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and ultimately didn’t result in Donald Trump having no voice … I think the answer is I would undo the permaban.”

It’s not clear whether Trump will be invited or not to return to Twitter. After being booted from Twitter, Trump joined Truth Social, a right-wing social media venture developed by a company founded by the former president. Following Musk’s comment about allowing him to rejoin Twitter, Trump said he will remain on Truth Social regardless of being invited back. “Twitter has become very boring. They got rid of a lot of good voices on Twitter, a lot of their conservative voices,” Trump said at the time.

After being asked about Musk’s poll during a Q&A on Saturday, Trump suggested he might not rejoin, saying, “I don’t see it because I don’t see a reason to.” But Trump challenged his supporters to truth Social also up to vote for the Twitter poll on Saturday afternoon, about three hours before the end of the poll.

Trump urges his supporters on Truth Social to “vote now” on Elon Musk’s poll. Screenshot of Emma Roth / The Verge

Musk has described himself as a centrist in the past, but said in May 2022 that he “can’t support anymore [Democrats] and will vote Republican.” Just before the US Midterms, Musk publicly suggested to his supporters that they also vote Republicans.

Musk also announced that Jordan Peterson, Kathy Griffin, and The Babylon Bee would all be reinstated, without mentioning the establishment of the aforementioned Content Moderation Council. Musk also mentioned no Content Moderation Council alongside tonight’s decision to reinstate Trump. It’s not clear what happened to his promise that “no major content decisions or account restorations will take place before this council meets.”

“No major content decisions or account recoveries will happen before then [the content moderation council] called,” Musk wrote in late October.

“No major content decisions or account recoveries will happen before then [the content moderation council] get together,” Musk wrote in late October. Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

If Trump decides to return to Twitter, it could have significant implications for the 2024 US election, as the former president is back in possession of his favorite megaphone: a Twitter account that’s being watched by the world’s media and with which he both support and direct abuse – and the implicit support of the owner of this platform in doing so.