Should Elon Musk’s $43 billion takeover of Twitter prove successful, it could have huge ramifications on the 2024 election.
Donald Trump, once the social media site’s most prominent user, even more so than Musk, was permanently banned from Twitter in 2021. But a Musk-owned company could reverse that decision—and some of Musk’s language in his takeover offer letter, particularly around “free speech,” has encouraged Trump supporters to think that the former president’s return could be a priority.
“I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” said Musk. “The company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”
Musk didn’t directly address Trump’s ejection from the platform following the Capitol riots on January 8, 2021. But three days later, he Tweeted what many interpreted as support for Trump: “A lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”
Since then, though, Musk hasn’t addressed Trump’s permanent suspension.
At a TED Talk Thursday afternoon, however, he did hint at it, saying he would be “very cautious with permanent bans.”
“Time outs are better than permanent bans,” he said. “A good sign of free speech is: Is someone you don’t like allowed to say something you don’t like? … Twitter has become a de facto town square. It’s important people have the reality and the perception that they’re able to speak freely within the bounds of the wall.”
In fact, the Washington Post pointed out last week, Musk’s biggest complaint about the platform has been “crypto spam bots.” He addressed that again Thursday afternoon.
“If I had a Dogecoin for every crypto scam I saw,” he joked.
Trump’s supporters, though, see his return as a fait accompli. Lara Trump, a Fox News contributor and wife of Donald’s son Eric Trump, voiced her support for a potential hostile takeover on Thursday.
“We’ll see what it means for my father-in-law, but the fact that you have terrorist organizations that have been allowed to stay on Twitter, but the former president of the United States still is not on there: absolutely outrageous,” she said. “Although he’s got other plans working right now, I don’t know if he’ll carry the way, but I bet there are millions of Americans who would like to see him back.”
At this point, however, no one knows if a Musk-controlled Twitter would pave the way for Trump’s return to the platform. Doing so would likely upset many of the company’s workers and could cause a talent exodus. Some users have threatened to quit the platform as well.
But if Trump does announce his candidacy for the 2024 election, a Musk-controlled Twitter becomes more of a key player in the race. And with Trump already leading in several polls against Joe Biden, it could become a deciding factor for some.
April 14, 2022: This story has been updated with additional public comments from Elon Musk.
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