PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – NOVEMBER 15: Former United States President Donald Trump leaves the stage after speaking during an event at his home in Mar-a-Lago on November 15, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump announced that he would seek another term and officially launched his 2024 presidential campaign. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/Getty Images via AFP)
Twitter had issued a “permanent” ban to Trump after his supporters attacked the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as he attempted to reverse his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
But Musk, who describes himself as a “free speech absolutist,” released a Twitter poll on Saturday showing a majority supporting the former president’s reinstatement, and the platform’s new owner wasted no time in responding.
As of Sunday at 11:30 a.m. EST (1630 GMT), the revived account of the “45. Presidents of the United States of America” with his blue “verified” checkmark not posting any new messages.
The latest news comes on Jan. 8, 2021, when the billionaire said he would not attend Biden’s inauguration.
On the same day, Twitter blocked the account, which was followed by around 88.8 million people, citing the risk of further incitement to violence.
– Campaign Links –
Trump’s followers numbered 86.6 million as of Sunday — although it was unclear how many of those were real and how many were bots — while the number of accounts he was following went from zero to 49.
The account was also linked to a campaign website asking for donations for Trump’s 2024 presidential election.
It wasn’t clear who linked the website to the account or what changes in follower count mean — mass layoffs in recent weeks under Musk have meant Twitter’s communications team has been decimated.
Trump liked to use Twitter as a mouthpiece during his presidency, making policy announcements, attacking political rivals and communicating with supporters.
More than 15 million votes were cast in Musk’s poll – Twitter has 237 million daily users – with 51.8 percent for restoring Trump’s controversial profile and 48.2 percent against.
Musk asked for a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the “reinstatement of former President Trump” statement.
On Saturday, while the poll was still ongoing, Trump posted a link to it on Truth Social, the Twitter alternative he founded, and urged his 4.6 million followers there to vote for him.
But he also wrote: “Don’t worry we’re not going anywhere. Truth Social is something special!”
And when Trump appeared via video at a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, he said he welcomed the poll and was a fan of Musk, but appeared opposed to any return to the platform.
“I don’t see it because I don’t see a reason for it,” he said.
– “Better Choices” –
Posting frequently on Truth Social, sometimes dozens of times a day, Trump has engaged in extremist content more brazenly than ever in recent months, including dozens of posts by proponents of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Although his reach there is relatively small, experts say the misinformation he spreads is reverberating around the internet.
His reinstatement on the much larger and mainstream platform of Twitter comes as his announcement that he will run for president again in 2024 doesn’t meet with the kind of enthusiasm that characterized his previous candidacies.
He announced his candidacy shortly after the midterm elections, in which he had endorsed hundreds of candidates.
But Democrats performed better than expected and a predicted Republican “red wave” failed to materialize, prompting an anti-Trump backlash and extremism in the Republican Party.
Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence, himself a potential contender for the 2024 Republican nomination, told CBS on Sunday that there will be “better alternatives” than his old boss.
© Agence France-Presse