Elon Musk reinstated Donald Trump’s account on Twitter on Saturday, reversing a ban that has kept the former president off the social media site for more than 22 months — since a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as Congress was poised to certify Joe Biden’s election victory.
Musk made the announcement in the evening after holding a poll that asked Twitter users to click “yes” or “no” on whether Trump’s account should be reinstated. The “yes” vote won, with 51.2%.
“The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God.”
Shortly afterward Trump’s account, which had earlier appeared as suspended, reappeared on the platform complete with his former tweets, more than 59,000 of them. However his followers were gone, at least initially.
It was not clear whether Trump would actually return to Twitter, and although his account was restored, he had not tweeted as of 9:30 p.m. Eastern time Saturday.
Musk’s decision came four days after Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2024.
In a speech at an auto conference in May, Musk asserted that Twitter’s ban of Trump was a “morally bad decision” and “foolish in the extreme,” and that he would allow Trump back on if he bought the company.
In late October, following his $44 billion takeover of Twitter, Musk declared he would form what he called a “content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints,” adding that no one whose account has been banned would be reinstated before that group has a chance to meet.
However, Trump’s account was restored without any input from such a council, and there was no evidence that such a council has yet been formed.
In response to the move, NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement that “any advertiser still funding Twitter should immediately pause all advertising. If Elon Musk continues to run Twitter like this, using garbage polls that do not represent the American people and the needs of our democracy, God help us all.”
On Friday, Musk tweeted that the suspended Twitter accounts for the comedian Kathy Griffin, the Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and the conservative Christian news satire website Babylon Bee had been reinstated. He added that a decision on Trump had not yet been made. He also responded “no” when someone on Twitter asked him to reinstate the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ account.
An irrepressible tweeter before he was banned, Trump has said in the past that he would not rejoin Twitter even if his account was reinstated. He has been relying on his own, much smaller social media site, Truth Social, which he launched after being blocked from Twitter.
And on Saturday, during a video speech to a Republican Jewish group meeting in Las Vegas, Trump said that he was aware of Musk’s poll but that he saw “a lot of problems at Twitter,” according to Bloomberg.
“I hear we’re getting a big vote to also go back on Twitter. I don’t see it because I don’t see any reason for it,” Trump said, Bloomberg reported. “It may make it, it may not make it,” he added, apparently referring to Twitter’s recent internal upheavals.
Trump lost his access to Twitter two days after his supporters stormed the Capitol, soon after the former president had exhorted them to “fight like hell.” Twitter dropped his account after Trump wrote a pair of tweets that the company said cast further doubts on the legitimacy of the presidential election and raised risks for the Biden presidential inauguration.
After the Jan. 6 attack, Trump was also kicked off Facebook and Instagram, which are owned by Meta Platforms, and Snapchat. His ability to post videos to his YouTube channel was also suspended. Facebook is set to reconsider Trump’s account suspension in January.
Throughout his tenure as president, Trump’s use of social media posed a significant challenge to major social media platforms that sought to balance the public’s interest in hearing from public officials with worries about misinformation, bigotry, harassment and incitement of violence.
This also comes as Trump is facing two criminal probes from the Justice Department. One is related to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, and the other to the classified documents seized during an FBI search at his Mar-a-Lago estate back in August.
On Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that he had named a special counsel to oversee both investigations: John “Jack” Smith, who is currently the chief prosecutor for the special counsel in the Hague.
Meanwhile, Musk’s purchase of Twitter has fanned widespread concern that the billionaire owner will allow purveyors of lies and misinformation to flourish on the site. Musk has frequently expressed his belief that Twitter had become too restrictive of freewheeling speech.
The billionaire’s efforts to reshape the site have been both swift and chaotic. Musk has fired many of the company’s 7,500 full-time workers and an untold number of contractors who are responsible for content moderation and other crucial responsibilities. His demand that remaining employees pledge to “extremely hardcore” work triggered a wave of resignations, including hundreds of software engineers.
By Thursday night, the deadline Musk gave for workers to stay or go, hundreds had turned in their resignations, leaving the company in “disarray,” the New York Times reported.
“It’s extremely chaotic and the morale is extremely low,” Melissa Ingle, a content moderator who was recently laid off, told CBS News’ John Dickerson Friday.
Shortly after the deadline, a self-described activist digitally projected statements criticizing Musk onto the side of Twitter’s San Francisco offices.
“Musk’s hellscape,” read one statement. “Launching to bankruptcy,” said another.
Users have reported seeing increased spam and scams on their feeds and in their direct messages, among other glitches, in the aftermath of the mass layoffs and worker exodus. Some programmers who were fired or resigned this week warned that Twitter may soon fray so badly it could actually crash.
In a tweet Friday, the Tesla CEO described the company’s new content policy as “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.”
He explained that a tweet deemed to be “negative” or to include “hate” would be allowed on the site but would be visible only to users who specifically searched for it. Such tweets also would be “demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter,” Musk said.