Elon Musk says he will unban Donald Trump after Twitter poll

The new owner promised to reinstate the former president’s account after he took the reins.

The Washington Post via Getty Images

A few weeks after he took over Twitter, Elon Musk said he will fulfill one of his early promises for the platform, reinstating Donald Trump’s account. The former president, who is running for the White House for a third time, will once again be allowed to tweet, Musk said.

Twitter's new CEO appeared to make the decision via a Twitter poll. On Friday night, Musk tweeted a poll asking people to vote on whether Twitter should reinstate the former President, who recently just revealed that he will run for the country's highest office again in 2024. "Vox Populi, Vox Dei," Musk said in a follow-up tweet. The phrase is Latin for "the voice of the people, the voice of God." Twenty-four hours later, the poll had closed, and Musk announced that Trump will indeed be reinstated.

Soon after, @realDonaldTrump was once again online, though the former president has yet to tweet. Trump claimed earlier this year that he would not be returning to the platform even if his account was reinstated.

The option to reinstate the former President won with 51.8 percent of the 15,085,458 votes. While the poll was ongoing, Musk said that it was getting one million votes per hour, and also said "bot and troll armies" were responsible for some of the activity.

While Musk has long indicated he would allow Trump coming back onto the platform, he previously pledged to form a moderation council before reversing any permanent Twitter account bans. On November 18th, Musk reinstated a few accounts, including those belonging to Kathy Griffin and Jordan Peterson. At the time, he said no decision had been made about Trump.

Twitter booted Trump off the platform in early 2021 after he broke rules against inciting violence. He violated Twitter's civic integrity policy by expressing support for the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6th last year. His account was initially suspended for 12 hours. A couple of days later, in his final days in office, Twitter permanently suspended Trump's personal account. Trump has been unable to use the platform since, despite his attempts to skirt the ban and a failed lawsuit that sought to have his access restored. It took Musk acquisition for Twitter for Trump to get his account back.

Trump's return may be as much of a business decision on Musk's part as much as anything. Earlier this week, a Reuters report suggested that many of Twitter's heaviest users have moved away from the platform to the likes of Instagram and TikTok. Musk himself has noted that many of the most-followed Twitter accounts don't tweet often.

For better or worse, Trump is a prominent figure and his tweets commanded attention. Whether advertisers will be glad to see Trump back remains to be seen. Just ahead of officially assuming control of Twitter, Musk sought to soothe any concerns by stating that "Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!”

In the wake of his actions surrounding January 6th, Meta blocked Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts. As things stand, that suspension is set to expire on January 7th, 2023 — just as the 2024 election cycle gets into full swing.

Since being de-platformed from major services, Trump has turned his attention to smaller social networks, including his own app, Truth Social. Trump had pledged that he wouldn't return to Twitter, but with 88 million followers there, he commanded an audience almost 22 times the size of the one he has on Truth Social (a platform that, for what it's worth, Musk has described as "essentially a right-wing echo chamber").

Twitter has gone through enormous changes since Musk took over the company. He has slashed the headcount by turfing out thousands of employees and contractors, as well as some dissenters. Several top executives are among those who've departed. Around 1,200 more are said to have left after refusing to commit to Musk's vision of a "hardcore" Twitter 2.0 that would require working "long hours at high intensity." Trump's return won't exactly help to steady the ship.

Mariella Moon and Karissa Bell contributed to this post.