Musk says he would reverse Twitter’s ban of Donald Trump
Speaking virtually at an auto conference, the Tesla CEO said Tuesday that Twitter’s ban of Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. 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. “
Shares of Twitter dropped 1.5% Tuesday to $47. 24 per share. That’s 13 percent below the offer of $54. 20 per share — or $44 billion — that Musk made on April 14, a reflection of Wall Street’s concerns that the deal could still fall through. Musk stressed Tuesday that the deal is “certainly not a done deal.” “
Musk had repeatedly criticized Twitter for its content moderation decisions, including banning Trump from “incitement to violence.” But he had mostly avoided speaking about Trump’s account. Peter Campbell, an automotive correspondent at the Financial Times, pressed him Tuesday for more details.
“If Musk is worried that Trump was banned, he might want to see how many people would be upset if Trump were not banned,” Kirsten Martin, a professor of technology ethics, said. “Musk only appears to be worried 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.
Musk appeared to take those claims at face value, saying Tuesday that Trump will be going to Truth Social along with a “large part” of the U.S. political right, creating a situation that’s “frankly worse than having a single forum where everyone can debate.”
A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment in response to Musk’s remarks.
While Trump was president, his Twitter persona functioned as a mix of policy announcements, often out of the blue; complaints about the media; disparagement of women, minorities and his perceived enemies; and praise for his supporters, replete with exclamation marks, all-caps, and one-word declarations such as “Sad!”
He fired numerous officials on Twitter and his posts, like his speeches at rallies, were a torrent of misinformation.
In announcing its ban of Trump in 2021, Twitter said his tweets amounted to glorification of violence when read in the context of the Capitol riot and plans circulating online for future armed protests around the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Musk’s comments Tuesday raise questions as to whether Trump’s exclusion could be extended to others. The long list of people who were banned from Twitter include QAnon loyalists as well as COVID deniers, neoNazis, and former reality star Tila Tula, who was suspended because of hate speech.
Other Trump allies kicked off Twitter include Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell, Lin Wood and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was permanently banned in January for repeatedly spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccine safety.
White supremacist David Duke, and the violent Proud Boys organisation were banned. Far-right trolls, such as one known as Baked Alaska, also face charges for spreading anti-Semitic tropes.
Alex Jones, the creator of Infowars, was permanently banned in 2018 for abusive behavior. Last year, Jones lost a defamation case filed by the parents of children killed in the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting over Jones’ repeated claims that the shooting was fake.
Twitter, Musk said Tuesday, currently has a strong bias to the left, largely because it is located in San Francisco. This alleged bias prevents it from building trust in the rest of the U.S. and the world, he said: “It’s far too random and I think Twitter needs to be much more even handed.”
Twitter declined to comment on Musk’s remarks.
On Tuesday, Musk stated that he supports a new European Union law to protect social media users against harmful content. This was after he met with the EU’s single market chief.
EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he outlined to Musk how the bloc’s online regulations aim to uphold free speech while also making sure whatever is illegal “will be forbidden in the digital space,” which Musk “fully agreed with.”
In a video Breton tweeted late Monday, Musk said the two had a “great discussion” and that he agrees with the Digital Services Act, which is expected to get final approval later this year. It will require big tech companies like Twitter, Google, and Facebook parent Meta to monitor their platforms for illegal or harmful content. If they do, they could face billions of dollars in fines.
O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island. Krisher reported from Detroit. David Klepper, an Associated Press writer, contributed from Providence (Rhode Island).
See all of AP’s tech coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/technology.
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