Elon Musk now owns Twitter. Which, among other things, means that the permanent ban of former President Donald Trump from the social media site could soon end.
“I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump, I think that was a mistake,” Musk said in May. “I would reverse the perma-ban. … Banning Trump from Twitter didn’t end Trump’s voice, it will amplify it among the right and this is why it’s morally wrong and flat out stupid.”
Trump’s ban was first implemented by Twitter following the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol. Musk said Friday that suspended accounts will not be reinstated until a new “content moderation council” is convened.
Earlier Friday, Trump put out a statement on Musk’s takeover of Twitter using his own social media platform Truth Social.
“TRUTH SOCIAL has become somewhat of a phenomena,” Trump wrote Friday morning. “I am very happy that Twitter now is in sane hands and will no longer be run by Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs that truly hate out country,” Trump wrote, adding: “I LOVE TRUTH.”
Which, well, OK.
Trump’s bluster about Truth Social aside, the fact remains that Twitter is a MUCH bigger platform for the former president. (Truth Social was, as of Friday morning, the 43rd most downloaded free social media app in the Apple Store.)
There are also other problems with Truth Social, including a series of legal and regulatory troubles.
As it became clear that, after much machination, Musk’s deal to buy Twitter would go through, shares of the special purpose acquisition company designed to take Truth Social public plummeted.
There’s also the issue of reach. Trump has 4.37 million followers on Truth Social, a miniscule number compared to the 88 million he had on Twitter before he was banned.
And Trump has been open about how critical Twitter was to the rise of his political prospects.
“I doubt I would be here if it weren’t for social media, to be honest with you,” said Trump in a 2017 interview on Fox Business. “Tweeting is like a typewriter – when I put it out, you put it immediately on your show. When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing and I take care of it. The other way, I would never be get the word out.”
Trump, however, has been insistent that he would not rejoin Twitter.
“I won’t be going back on Twitter,” Trump said in April. “I like Elon Musk. I like him a lot. He’s an excellent individual. We did a lot for Twitter when I was in the White House. I was disappointed by the way I was treated by Twitter.”
That’s easier to say before the person who says he will end your ban owns the company.
Trump has competing interests here.
It is beyond doubt that he is MUCH more influential via Twitter than he likely ever will be on Truth Social. His reach – and his ability to drive the political narrative – has been massively compromised by his ban from Twitter. If Trump did decide to go back – assuming Musk makes good on his statement to un-ban the former president – he would immediately reassert that news-driving ability.
On the other hand, Trump has a financial interest in keeping Truth Social alive and relevant. Trump’s net worth rose to $2.4 billion this year, according to Forbes – thanks in part to Truth Social. As Forbes noted in April, before Truth Social was hit by legal problems and Musk’s purchase of Twitter officially went through:
“Donald Trump, master of reinvention, has a new title: tech entrepreneur. It’s a stretch for the 75-year-old, who doesn’t even use email, preferring instead to scrawl notes in marker. But he doesn’t mind jumping into ventures in which he has little previous experience – and this gig should prove far more lucrative than the presidency. In fact, it has already boosted his net worth by $430 million.”
Trump may well be then caught between his two great loves: Money and power.
My guess: He tries to have it both ways – rejoining Twitter while still posting on Truth Social. Will that work? Time will tell.
This story has been updated with new information.