The new Twitter owner made the announcement in the early hours of Sunday morning (20 November) UK time after asking users to click “yes” or “no” on whether Mr Trump’s account should be restored.
Twitter users narrowly backed the move with 51.8% of more than 15 million voters choosing “yes”. “The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted after the vote, using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God”.
The move reverses a ban that kept the former US president off the social media site since a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol in Washington on 6 January 2021 as Congress was poised to certify Joe Biden’s election victory. His account was suspended due to the risk of incitement of violence.
Despite the reinstatement, it is not yet clear whether Mr Trump will actually make a return to Twitter after earlier saying: “I don’t see any reason for it”. He was an irrepressible tweeter before he was banned, but the former president has said in the past that he would not rejoin the social media platform even if his account was reinstated.
Shortly after Mr Musk’s announcement, Mr Trump’s account reappeared on the social media platform and while it still had over 1.2 million followers, it was not following any other users.
Mr Trump’s last tweet was posted on 9 January 2021, reading: “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.” All of his former tweets also reappeared when the account was reinstated – more than 59,000 of them.
Earlier in the evening while addressing a Republican Jewish group meeting in Las Vegas, Mr Trump said he was aware of Mr Musk’s poll but he saw “a lot of problems at Twitter”, according to Bloomberg.
The former president was quoted as saying: “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.”
“It may make it, it may not make it,” he added, apparently referring to Twitter’s recent internal upheavals.
Twitter at risk of ‘disappearing’
Mr Musk has already sacked half of Twitter’s 7,500 global workforce within a week of taking over the company, and has also ended remote working and set an ultimatum for remaining staff to agree to linger, more intense working patterns or leave.
The founder of rival social media site Mastodon has warned that Twitter has a “real chance of disappearing” under the billionaire Tesla owner’s management which has seen the platform’s workforce of engineers decimated.
Eugen Rochko, a 29-year-old programmer from Germany who created Mastodon as a decentralised alternative to Twitter in 2017, called the billionaire CEO’s leadership style “erratic”, saying it showed “incompetence”.
He told BBC Newsnight: “I would say it shows incompetence and a lack of understanding of the industry that he’s entered and the platform that he’s now in charge of. I would call (Mr Musk’s leadership style) erratic, and frankly, I’m not a fan of it.”
Mr Rochko went on to say that the sheer size of Twitter was not enough to insure it against failure, adding: “There are examples from history of social media platforms which were also immensely huge, like MySpace, for example, and they lost their relevance.
“Perhaps they’re still around, but they’re no longer popular or the place that you go to. And even though Twitter is very large, it’s still not even the largest social media platform out there.
“I definitely think that with the issues that it’s having right now, and with new management under Elon Musk, that it has a real chance of actually disappearing, because, well, it takes a lot to run a social media platform like that, that deals with real-time data and, you know, losing most of its engineers is not a good thing.”