Elon Musk, a fierce defender of free speech, said he was ready Tuesday to lift the permanent ban on Donald Trump’s account imposed after the attack on the Capitol, a decision he says is “morally wrong.”
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“I think it was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and ultimately did not prevent Donald Trump from being heard,” since he is now on his own social network, the entrepreneur underlined during an event organized by the Financial Times conference .
Permanent bans should be “extremely rare” and reserved for fake accounts, for example, he added during his video intervention.
Even if he did manage to buy Twitter for $44 billion, Mr. Musk said “I would lift the permanent suspension” of the former president.
The operation is not yet complete. If the Tesla CEO’s offer is accepted by the board of directors, shareholders will still have to approve the agreement and “there are still a few issues to be resolved,” Mr. Musk reminded. “In the best-case scenario, this can be done in two or three months.”
But the multi-billionaire, who wants to take Twitter private, has already announced that he wants to turn it into a bastion of freedom of expression, which he sees flouted by overly strict content moderation.
On Tuesday, he made it clear that he prefers temporary bans or deletion of the most problematic tweets to outright bans.
The former US President was suspended from Twitter on January 8, 2021 over the risk of inciting violence following the violent attack on the US Capitol.
With 88 million subscribers, the platform was her main daily communication tool until then.
At the time, Twitter founder and ex-boss Jack Dorsey felt Donald Trump’s departure was the “right” decision, but nonetheless a “failure” and “(set) a precedent” that seemed “dangerous” to him in relation to the power held by big corporations .
Mr Trump himself has ruled out a return to the social network, saying he wants to remain on the Truth Social platform he launched in February. However, it’s still struggling to grow as the former White House tenant’s account only has 2.7 million subscribers.
The lifting of the former president’s ban “doesn’t mean that anyone can say whatever they want when they tell the world something illegal or destructive,” Musk said.
“But I think permanent bans fundamentally undermine trust in Twitter as a public space where anyone can express their opinions,” he said.
He also felt that Twitter was “politically left-leaning” because it was based in San Francisco and needed to be “more impartial.”
On Monday, after an interview with EU Commissioner Thierry Breton in Texas, the businessman assured that he fully agrees with the new European rules regulating social networks, which will force the big platforms to take better action against illegal content.
For the director of the American freedom of expression organization PEN, Suzanne Nossel, Elon Musk has to clarify his message.
“Is he saying that nothing Trump or anyone else could tweet would be grounds for a permanent layoff? Does he decide that Trump was not involved in inciting violence, or is he saying that it is acceptable practice on Twitter for an incumbent president to incite his supporters to violence or rioting?” She wondered.
Angelo Carusone, director of the NGO Media Matters for America, is concerned about the impact of such a decision.
After Donald Trump, other personalities will be allowed to return to Twitter, including far-right extremists. And that will create “perverse pressure” on other social networks like Facebook, “actually triggering a race to the bottom,” he fears.