It’s easy to see why Elon Musk declared back in May that he would “reverse the permanent ban” on Donald Trump once he bought Twitter. It bolstered his claim that he’s a “free-speech absolutist” and satisfied his passion for making provocative statements. But now that the Tesla–SpaceX–Boring Company CEO actually owns Twitter, it seems his off-the-cuff trolling is once again creating some headaches.
On Monday afternoon, Musk suggested that he’s being inundated with questions about the former president:
And late Tuesday night, he announced that Twitter won’t reinstate any banned accounts for weeks, which means Trump and others expelled from the site won’t be able to tweet about the midterms.
Musk was responding to a tweet from Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, who said the company is “staying vigilant against attempts to manipulate conversations about the 2022 U.S. midterms.” As New York’s Kevin Dugan reported, yesterday Musk also held a 45-minute Zoom call with representatives from seven nonprofits about hate speech on Twitter. Jessica González, co-CEO of the online advocacy group Free Press who was part of the call, said Musk spent about half of it listening and half speaking. “He talked about, in the meeting, having a broadly inclusive digital town square,” she said. “I think he believes in freedom of speech for all. The trick is how to get there. And I don’t know that he totally knows how to do that.”
Now Musk will have at least a few more weeks to figure it out — or, in Trump’s case, maybe even more time. Last week, Trump reiterated that while he is in favor of Musk’s latest business move, he’s staying on his Twitter knockoff, Truth Social, as it has “become somewhat of a phenomena.” (This claim is true but only when you limit the Truth Social comparison to other alternative social-media sites that attract disaffected conservatives.)
But Trump’s potential return to Twitter keeps generating drama even when the ex-president declines to stir the pot himself. As Roth was tweeting about upholding election integrity, comedian Tim Heidecker started the intentionally false hashtag #TrumpIsDead to test the site’s policies on misinformation. “Trump is dead (died badly),” Heidecker said in a series of tweets. “i heard he died in a sad and sick way (not as a dog, but this reporting could change soon).”
Heidecker tagged Musk in the tweets, but the billionaire did not respond even as #TrumpIsDead trended on Tuesday, at one point overtaking the World Series as a trending topic, according to Sky News. Musk did change his Twitter bio from “Chief Twit” to “Twitter Complaint Hotline Operator,” and on Wednesday afternoon he remarked:
It’s unclear if this is a reference to his controversial plan to charge an $8 fee for blue check marks or the idea that his $44 billion acquisition came with 44 billion problems.
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