Donald Trump’s Twitter account appeared to be back online after a slim majority of votes were cast, in a Twitter poll organised by Elon Musk, in favour of reinstating the former US president, who was banned from the social media service after the 6 January 2021 Capitol riot.
Slightly more than 15 million votes were counted in the poll with 51.8% votes in favour of reinstatement.
“The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated,” Musk tweeted. During the poll, Musk acknowledged the vote numbers were being affected by automated “bots”, which are not people, and suggested there was a need to “clean up” Twitter polls from being influenced by “bot and trolls armies”.
Trump had appeared less than keen earlier in the day to return to Twitter. “I don’t see any reason for it,” the former president said via video when asked about it by a panel at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting.
He said he would stick with his new platform Truth Social, the app developed by his Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) startup.
Twitter took the extraordinary decision to ban Trump after the 6 January attack on the US Capitol, saying his posts were “highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the US Capitol”.
Trump on Tuesday launched a bid to regain the White House in 2024, and praised Musk saying he had always liked him. But Trump also said Twitter suffered from bots, fake accounts and that the problems it faced were “incredible”.
Even as Musk was still completing his acquisition of Twitter, his self-avowed status as a “free speech absolutist” raised the possibility he would lift the ban on people whose Twitter accounts have been permanently suspended from the platform. Hate speech and misinformation experts have been bracing for the return of Trump, who in his time on the platform amassed more than 88 million followers.
Musk first said in May he planned to reverse the ban on Trump, and the timing of any return by Trump was also closely watched – and feared – by many of Twitter’s advertisers.
Musk sought to reassure users and advertisers that such a decision would be made with consideration by a content moderation council composed of people with “widely diverse viewpoints” and no account reinstatements would happen before the council convened.
He also said Twitter would not reinstate any banned users until there was a “clear process for doing so”.
But this week, Musk suddenly reinstated comedian Kathy Griffin, who had been banned for changing her profile name to “Elon Musk” which violated his new rule against impersonation without indicating it was a parody account. There has been no new information about the moderation council or reinstatement process.