London, May 11: Elon Musk said Twitter would reverse its ban of former President Donald Trump if his purchase of the social media company goes through, signalling just how permissive the platform could become towards free speech under his ownership.
Speaking virtually at an auto conference, the Tesla CEO said on Tuesday that Twitter’s ban of Trump following the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol was a “morally bad decision” and “foolish in the extreme”.
“I think that was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice,” said Musk, adding that he preferred temporary suspensions and other narrowly tailored punishments for content that is illegal or otherwise “destructive to the world”.
Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey voiced his agreement in a Tuesday tweet in which he said “generally permanent bans are a failure of ours and don’t work”.
Shares of Twitter dropped 1.5% on Tuesday to $47.24 per share. That’s 13 per cent below the offer of $54.20 per share—or $44billion—that Musk made on April 14, a reflection of Wall Street’s concerns that the deal could still fall through. Musk emphasised on Tuesday that it is “certainly not a done deal”.
Musk has repeatedly criticised Twitter’s content moderation decisions, including banning Trump for “incitement of violence,” but had mostly avoided saying what he would do about Trump’s account. He was pressed for more details on Tuesday by Peter Campbell, an automotive correspondent for the Financial Times, which hosted the auto conference.
“If Musk is concerned that many people were upset that Trump was banned, he should see how many more people would be upset if Trump was not banned,” said Kirsten Martin, a professor of technology ethics at the University of Notre Dame. “Musk appears to be worried only about the opinion of a small group of individuals who incite violence or perpetuate hate speech.”
Trump has previously said that he had no intention of rejoining Twitter even if his account was reinstated, telling Fox News last month that he would instead focus on his own platform, Truth Social, which has been mired in problems since its launch earlier this year.