For weeks, Trump supporters have been preemptively clinging to Musk’s interest in Twitter as a surprising blessing – a way to overturn not just Trump’s ban, but what they claim, without evidence, is the systemic censorship of conservatives across the platform.
Trump himself has told advisers in recent weeks that he will not join the social network that banned him last year after the U.S. Capitol riots, even though Musk is changing the site’s moderation policy. A Trump spokesman on Monday confirmed his comments to Fox News that he planned to write exclusively to Truth Social in the coming weeks.
“I want everyone to come over to the TRUTH – conservative, liberal, whatever,” Trump told Fox News. “The response to TRUTH is much better than being on Twitter.”
Although Trump has publicly described Twitter as boring and irrelevant, he still often looks at the page, mostly through transcripts of tweets from politicians and journalists that his aides have given him, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Trump’s habits.
Trump regularly mourns his lost reach – his Truth Social fanbase is about 1 percent of his highest Twitter followers – and complains that his comments are now not so much occupied in public discussion or the press.
“Truth Social is figuring out his tricks, they take people on board … but he loved his Twitter,” said a Trump adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject’s sensitivity. “Let no one tell you otherwise.”
Musk has not directly commented on Trump’s potential return to the service, but has repeatedly said his goal is to protect the platform as a means of freedom of speech – comments that are widely understood as a threatening withdrawal from current moderation policies and enforcement actions. A person familiar with the matter said Trump had not spoken to Musk in the run-up to the deal.
But Musk’s Twitter purchase on Monday inspired celebrations among Trump supporters – and fears among those who fear his return to the White House – who claim Musk has championed the idea, including in a tweet to its 84 million followers on Monday that the platform should allow its “worst critics” to stay on the page “because that’s what freedom of speech means.”
In a statement on Monday, Musk said: “Freedom of expression is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital urban space where issues crucial to the future of humanity are discussed.” He did not explicitly mention Trump.
Trump’s Twitter ban, which came after months of boosting conspiracy theories about election fraud and urging fans to take direct steps to keep Joe Biden out of the White House, lost him direct access to nearly 89 million followers and sparked anger among Trump supporters who called it Big Tech censorship.
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Some observers outside Trump’s circle said they doubt he could resist the temptation to use a service that in turn could help him dominate the online conversation in the 2024 presidential race.
“It’s just that he’s a spoilsport. Of course he wants to be back on Twitter,” said Darren Linvill, lead researcher at Clemson University Media Forensics Hub, which has studied the flow of online disinformation. , has probably just been handed over to him. “
But Musk’s ideas of free speech do not match those of many scholars, who warn that the voices of the few powerful – including both Musk and Trump – may in practice drown out the others that make up the “town square.” Modesty makes the playing field more straightforward by curbing harassment, hate speech, and reinforcement techniques such as automated bots that can distort the free flow of ideas.
“Everything bad that the Internet has given us for so long is basically coming back roaring,” said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the nonprofit Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “And I think it’s a tragedy.”
As for Trump’s claims to stay away from Twitter: “He’s a well-known liar, as you know. I can not imagine him passing on that kind of audience.”
If Trump were to rejoin Twitter, he would likely downplay the value of his own Twitter rival, and he has turned down lucrative offers from other startups on social media in favor of bolstering his own brand.
Trump has told people in recent weeks that Devin Nunes, the former California representative who left Congress to become the company’s chief, is correcting Truth Social’s glacial slow rollout, technical glitches and other flaws.
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The former president has privately complained about the app’s countless problems, which has led to the resignation of three top executives and regular visits from Nunes to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla.
Conservative lawmakers and commentators on Monday took a victory round over Musk’s successful Twitter takeover, urging the world’s richest man to reinstate Trump and argues that the agreement can help them recover their own banned accounts.
House Republicans tweeted to Musk directly that “it’s a great week to free @realDonaldTrump,” and rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Who is running for Foreign Minister and has promised to recall the valid 2020 results, tweeted“WELCOME BACK FIRST CHANGE!”
But the news also hit the economic outlook for Truth Social, the cornerstone of Trump’s high ambitions to build the start-up Trump Media & Technology Group into a new Internet and media empire. The share price of Digital World Acquisition, a blank check company crucial to bringing Trump’s business to the stock market, fell 13 percent after news of the Musk deal on Monday and has lost two-thirds of its value since early March.
Trump himself has been a late adopter of the network, writing only on Truth Social once two months ago (“Get Ready! Your favorite President will see you soon!”). People close to him said earlier this month that he did not intend to use it until it was a proven success. At a rally Saturday in Ohio, he even messed up its name, calling the “Truth Central.”
Twitter leaders used to brag that their business was part of the “Freedom of Expression Party wing.” But years of controversy – including harassment, racism, hate speech, misinformation and terrorist activity on the platform – pushed Twitter to develop increasingly sophisticated moderation policies as well as mechanisms to enforce them.
Trumps Truth Social in trouble as economic, technical problems increase
It culminated in the move on January 6, 2021 to lock then-President Trump out in the hours after thousands of his supporters rioted in the US capital. The company threatened to ban him if he did not stop inciting violence, and offered the threat two days later, cutting Trump off from a platform where he once posted dozens of times a day.
The movement, as with other moderation steps from Twitter and its social media, provoked protests from conservatives who claimed that Trump’s right to free speech had been curtailed, part of what they portrayed as persistent bias from companies based in Northern California.
Jason Miller, a former top Trump adviser who runs his own conservative-friendly social network Gettr, said he believes Trump has no interest in returning to a platform he claims suffers from “a cultural problem … with political discrimination. “
Miller called Musk “one of the most talented innovators of our time,” but said he would “find it easier to put a man on Mars than it is to change Twitter’s culture.”
“Anything less than Donald Trump’s return to Twitter will send a signal that Twitter does not take its political discrimination problem seriously,” Miller added.
With business interests in cars, aerospace, public transportation, artificial intelligence and other arenas looking at the possibility of stronger federal regulation, Musk could have an incentive to be kind to a possible future president – especially one with an established legacy of punishing their enemies.
But Camille François, a disinformation researcher at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, warned against fixing whether Trump would rejoin the platform, saying life bans create serious human rights problems.
“The Trump issue is not the right thing to focus on,” she said. “A new management could stop a lot of the hard work and progress that Twitter has made on these topics without bringing Trump’s account online again; or give the teams working on content moderation, the space and the support they need. “while bringing back Trump’s account.”