At the beginning of 2021, upon Trump using Twitter to incite protesters to violently attack the Capitol Building(s) on January 6th, the decision was taken to suspend his Twitter account permanently.
With Elon Musk’s almost certain takeover of the platform, could we see Trump return to Twitter very soon?
What led to Trump’s ban from Twitter?
As early as late December 2020, Trump had tweeted inciting protest on January 6th, posting a tweet that included a call to action for a “Big Protest in D.C. on January 6th.”
Over the following five days, Trump tweeted a number of times, falsely alleging voter fraud or rigging of the election.
One Day after Christmas, Trump was back at it, inciting supporters to “protest” on the 6th January.
January 3rd saw him question the credentials of those making the laws around elections in the US and call the result unconstitutional.
Two days before the assault on the Capitol, Trump questioned whether the election could be certified if results were “verifiably WRONG”, the following day announcing that he would be speaking at what he called the “SAVE AMERICA RALLY”.
Three days after the assault on the Capitol Building, Twitter took the decision to suspend @realDonaldTrump from its platform permanently.
What has the reaction been to his potential return?
Up until the time of Trump’s suspension from Twitter, his activity touched on a number of subjects. Not all his time was spent spreading falsehoods, just a lot of it. Some of his top tweets before his suspension were, however, the following:
TODAY WE MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! - one from the start of his presidency with 281k retweets
I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT! - a tweet shortly after the 2020 Election, with only 190k retweets, a 32% decrease in what could be implied to be support for Trump over that time period.
The reaction to his result has been mixed, ranging from positive reactions stating that he should never have been banned to promises to drown him out if he returns. Indeed, the response from the American Civil Liberties Union seemed mixed, at first acknowledging that the ban was perhaps an overreaction, then pointing to how many of his tweets helped the many lawsuits that ACLU filed against him.
Their full statement can be found here
Trump's return to Twitter will most likely get one of the most divided reactions since his insistence he won the Election and it remains to be seen whether he will want to return - many tweets have noted his previous comments on the matter, suggesting that perhaps he won’t.
What could be the impact of Trump’s return?
The impact of his return could go many ways, however, what is almost guaranteed is the return of the large-scale spreading of misinformation, a worry for some of the user base of the platform who see this as a gateway to Musk’s “free speech absolutist” attitude being taken too far.
Of course, Trump has always had divisive views and no doubt this would return as a common theme if his return were to go ahead, with the potential to, again, cause trouble.
Why is this happening?
Upon making a bid to purchase Twitter, Elon Musk, the demographic of the platform considerably changed. Musk describes himself as a “free speech absolutist”, leading many to question whether his plans for Twitter could lead to the extremes of Twitter, previously kept at bay by Twitter’s suspension policies, making a return.
This includes Trump’s account, which even Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, suggested was wrongfully suspended and a “business decision” in a string of tweets discussing the wider policy of permanent suspension from Twitter.
You can find the full thread here
Given that Musk’s purchase of Twitter is yet to get the approval of the regulator, none of this is guaranteed, however, should the deal go through, Trump’s return to Twitter may be on the cards.
As alluded to above, there is no guarantee of Trump’s return, however, if it is going to happen, Musk’s purchase of Twitter will need to pass the approval of the majority of Twitter shareholders, two different regulatory bodies and the US Department of Justice.
In the meantime, we wait to hear about Trump’s return and the future of the platform itself.
How long before Twitter unlocks Donald Trump's account as well?
While there is an expectation that the Musk takeover of Twitter, still subject to regulatory approval, will lead to a shift to the right in the political makeup of the platform, Trump’s return is likely first on Elon’s agenda.
While the timeline isn’t clear, it would be reasonable to think that a Trump return could happen within the first few weeks (or even days) of Musk’s leadership.
Should Trump return to Twitter?
This, in the wake of his incitement of violence using the platform, should be clear, however, is perhaps more a matter of political opinion. If Trump could return to Twitter and not spread misinformation or make comments which could be deemed inappropriate (racist or otherwise), there may be an argument that he has as much right to be on the platform as any other user.
However, given that these are all things that it is likely will reoccur, this is what makes the decision controversial. The answer is that it depends on who you ask but looking impartially at the evidence, it is hard to justify his return.
Will Trump return?
Trump’s return, even if he is allowed to return, may still not happen. Upon being banned from Twitter, YouTube and Facebook following the assault on the Capitol Building, the former president launched his own social network called Truth Social, which had 513K daily active users at last count.
Although small by comparison to Twitter, Trump could choose to stay off Twitter in favour of Truth Social. The fact is that we just don’t know.
How will Twitter change?
It is likely that under Musk’s leadership, despite a previous tweet in which he suggested that Twitter should be politically neutral, there could be a swing to the right.
Musk’s “free speech absolutist” stance would likely result in more than just Trump’s account being reinstated, and there is intense speculation that there could be a strong political shift in the makeup of Twitter. Indeed, this had already started happening upon the news of the purchase.