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Elon Musk Vows to Unban Trump From Twitter

The tech billionaire, who's in the process of buying Twitter for $44 billion, has been sharply critical of its moderation strategies.

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Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
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Queenie Wong Former Senior Writer
Queenie Wong was a senior writer for CNET News, focusing on social media companies including Facebook's parent company Meta, Twitter and TikTok. Before joining CNET, she worked for The Mercury News in San Jose and the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. A native of Southern California, she took her first journalism class in middle school.
Expertise I've been writing about social media since 2015 but have previously covered politics, crime and education. I also have a degree in studio art. Credentials
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3 min read
Elon Musk on Twitter

Elon Musk is an aggressive Twitter user. And soon, he'll be calling the shots.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Elon Musk will remove the ban on former President Donald Trump if his bid to buy Twitter for $44 billion succeeds, the outspoken entrepreneur said Tuesday. 

Speaking at a Financial Times conference, Musk called Twitter's shutdown of Trump's Twitter account a "morally bad decision." Twitter, Facebook and other social networks barred Trump from using their services after the deadly attack on Capitol Hill by Trump supporters in January 2021. 

"I think perma-bans fundamentally undermine trust in Twitter as a town square where everyone can voice their opinion," Musk said via video chat, adding that temporary suspensions made sense. "If there are tweets that are wrong and bad, those should either be deleted or made invisible."

Musk's statement is the latest insight into how he might run the influential short-messaging service if he succeeds in purchasing the company and taking it private. He has previously said he doesn't agree with how the service is run and that he doesn't have faith in the company's leaders to do their jobs correctly. Musk, the world's richest person, has said he believes the company is overly aggressive policing its platform to remove hate speech and harassment, among other complaints.

Musk, who runs both Tesla and SpaceX, shook the tech world last month when he unveiled a plan to purchase Twitter in a leveraged buyout. Many venture capitalists and tech luminaries have voiced support for Musk's effort, particularly because of his strong stance in support of free expression. The First Amendment doesn't bar private companies from restricting speech like Twitter, which has its own rules about what you can't post on the site. 

Jack Dorsey, a Twitter co-founder and former CEO, called Musk the "singular solution I trust" to make the service better. In a series of tweets after Musk announced his acquisition plans, Dorsey said he believed in the tech billionaire's plans for remaking the company. 

On Tuesday, Dorsey tweeted that the Trump ban shouldn't have been a decision made by a business and that "we should always revisit our decisions and evolve as necessary." Dorsey said in late April that he doesn't believe that permanent bans, with the exception of illegal activity, are "right" or "should be possible." In January 2021, Dorsey said he thought banning Trump was the "right decision," citing public safety concerns, but he also noted he wasn't proud of the move.

In a blog post last year about the ban, Twitter said the company determined that Trump's last two tweets were "likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021," so it permanently banned the account. 

Re-admitting Trump would be a controversial move, exciting users on the right and alienating those on the left. Twitter has reversed decisions before, but it's been rare. In 2020, Twitter decided to no longer restrict the New York Post's account after updating its policy against hacked materials, even though the company normally doesn't apply rule changes retroactively. 

Trump has said he wouldn't rejoin Twitter if given his account back.

Trump created his own social network, Truth Social, after the ban and leaving office. The service had a buggy rollout but still topped download charts on Apple when it was released in February. Some people who downloaded the app were greeted with error messages when they tried to create an account, while others were placed on a lengthy waitlist. 

Correction, 1:05 p.m.: This story initially misreported which day Musk had made his comments about unbanning Trump's Twitter account. It was Tuesday.