Donald Trump: will he be back on Twitter, what Elon Musk takeover means for president - what is Truth Social?

Trump’s ban, Musk claims, was a ‘morally bad decision’ that damaged public trust in Twitte

Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase has been put on hold “temporarily” due to the company’s spam user calculations.

“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Musk tweeted.

Though the deal appears to have been halted for the meantime, when Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, signed an agreement in April to acquire Twitter for $54.20 (£42.20) per share, or around $44 billion (£34.5 billion), many wondered what that meant for the social media service.

Musk has stated that he believes the site needs to alter in order to grow and better encourage free speech.

Musk, the world’s wealthiest person and a prolific Twitter user, has a controversial past on the site, and his taking the company private is likely to have substantial ramifications for a platform used by more than 300 million people, including many world leaders.

The takeover has led to speculation that the billionaire could significantly loosen Twitter’s content moderation rules and allow suspended accounts – most notably including that of former US president Donald Trump – back on the site.

So will Trump be reinstated on the social media network?

Here is everything you need to know.

What has Musk said about ‘free speech’?

As the takeover was disclosed, Musk's initial remarks on the subject focused on free speech, calling it the "bedrock of a functional democracy" and describing Twitter as a “digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated”.

The billionaire has previously described himself as a "free speech absolutist," and has claimed that Twitter has failed to uphold its free speech ideals, with its content moderation rules silencing some voices.

(Photo: -/AFP via Getty Images)(Photo: -/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo: -/AFP via Getty Images)

It's a stance that has helped Musk gain traction on the political right, with many conservatives, notably in the United States, believing that social media platforms are currently unfairly targeting them.

Musk's personal Twitter policy on free speech has a chequered past. He has blocked people on Twitter who have previously criticised him or his companies, been sanctioned by the US for statements about Tesla's business, and was sued for defamation after labelling a cave diver a "pedo man".

Musk has sparked suspicion that, now that he is ready to take full control of the firm, the billionaire could alter Twitter's content moderation policies and enable suspended accounts - most notably that of Donald Trump.

Will Donald Trump come back to Twitter?

Following the 6 January attack on the Capitol in 2021, Twitter permanently banned then US President Donal Trump, citing worries about the “risk of further incitement of violence.”

Despite the fact that Trump had previously broken the platform’s rules, the corporation had kept his account active under its guidelines for world leaders and information in the public interest.

Musk has now announced that, as part of his ambition to make permanent account suspensions a "rare thing" on Twitter, he will lift the Twitter ban imposed on the former US President.

Speaking virtually at the Financial Times Future of the Car Summit on Tuesday 10 May, Musk said illegal or "destructive" tweets should be deleted or hidden, but accounts should not be banned forever.

He said: “I think there’s a general question of should Twitter have permanent bans? I’ve talked with Jack Dorsey about this and he and I are of the same mind which is that permanent bans should be extremely rare and really reserved for accounts that are bots or spam scam accounts.

“I do think that it was not correct to ban Donald Trump. I think that was a mistake because it an alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice… I think this could end up being frankly worse than having a single forum where everyone can debate

“So I guess the answer is that I would reverse the permanent ban, obviously, I don’t own Twitter yet, so this is not a thing that will definitely happen because what if I don’t own Twitter?

Trump's ban, Musk claimed, was a "morally bad decision" that damaged public trust in Twitter.

What has Trump said?

Trump has said he is not coming back to Twitter for now, according to a statement he provided to Fox News.

“I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on Truth,” Trump told Fox News. “I hope Elon buys Twitter because he’ll make improvements to it and he is a good man, but I am going to be staying on Truth. The bottom line is, no, I am not going back to Twitter.”

Truth Social is Trump’s social media app that he hopes will rival Twitter and launched in February 2022.

(Photo: CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)(Photo: CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo: CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)

He is looking for a new digital stage to mobilise his fans, but shortly after its launch, Truth experienced technical difficulties, with tales of subscribers being locked out for hours. Others had difficulty logging in.

Trump is hoping that Truth Social will attract the millions of people who followed him on Twitter, which in turn could prompt a flood of new members to justify the billions of dollars invested in the enterprise.

Truth Social’s website describes the new platform as a “’Big Tent’ social media platform that encourages an open, free, and honest global conversation without discriminating against political ideology.”

In terms of the day-to-day functions of the platform, it appears to work just as one would expect any social media outlet to operate.

Users will sign up, “join the conversation” and share their “unique” opinions by ”posting a TRUTH, Re-TRUTH, photo, news story, or video link to communicate with your friends, customers, and the world.”

What does Musk’s takeover mean for online safety?

Musk’s purchase of Twitter has also raised concerns among online safety campaigners.

Amnesty International Technology’s director Rasha Abdul-Rahim said: “We are concerned with any steps that Twitter might take to erode enforcement of the policies and mechanisms designed to protect users.

“The last thing we need is a Twitter that wilfully turns a blind eye to violent and abusive speech against users, particularly those most disproportionately impacted, including women, non-binary persons, and others.”

The entrepreneur has stated that he plans to make the site's algorithms open source, which would mean that the code used to create them would be publicly available, allowing users to see how posts are served to them in their timelines.

He claims he's doing it out of the spirit of trust, and that this model is preferable to having tweets “mysteriously promoted or demoted”.

Musk has also mentioned "defeating the spam bots," a vow that is likely to be well-received by all parties.

Twitter has long had a problem with automated, fake accounts posting unhelpful or misleading content and artificially influencing discussion on the network.

However, some contend that there are a handful of automated accounts that provide a genuine public service - some provide weather and natural disaster notifications, while others allow users to bookmark individual tweets or threads for later viewing. - and that discretion should be exercised rather than a blanket eradication of bot accounts.

Governments throughout the world, including the UK, are enacting new legislation to combat dangerous online content, which will have significant repercussions for Musk’s vision of Twitter.

Companies who fail to restrict the spread of violent, abusive material, as well as hate speech and other content, could risk hefty fines or have access to their sites blocked under the conditions of the UK's proposed Online Safety Bill.

In other circumstances, there are even proposals to make corporation officials legally accountable for breaking the rules.