LONDON (AP) — Elon Musk has said he would reverse former President Donald Trump’s permanent Twitter ban if the Tesla CEO closes his deal to acquire the social media company for $44 billion.
Musk, speaking virtually at a Future of the Car summit hosted by the Financial Times, said Trump’s Twitter ban was a “morally wrong decision” and “insane in the extreme”. He said permanent Twitter account bans should be rare and reserved for accounts that are scams or automated bots.
“I think that was a mistake because it alienated a lot of the country and ultimately didn’t stop Donald Trump from being heard,” Musk said. “So I think that could end up being frankly worse than having a single forum where everyone can debate. I guess the answer is that I would overturn the permanent ban.
Musk added that his distaste for permanent bans is shared by Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey, who voiced his agreement. in a Tuesday tweet in which he stated that “generally permanent bans are a failure on our part and do not work”.
Shares of Twitter fell 1.5% on Tuesday to $47.24 per share. It’s been nearly a month since Musk announced an offer to buy Twitter on April 14 for $54.20 per share. The low trading price was seen as reflecting concerns on Wall Street that the deal could still fall through.
Musk has repeatedly criticized Twitter’s content moderation decisions, including Trump’s ban, but mostly avoided saying what he would do about Trump’s account until he was pressed to more details on Tuesday from Peter Campbell, an automotive correspondent for the Financial Times. Twitter banned Trump’s account in January 2021 for “inciting violence” following the January 6 uprising on the US Capitol.
“If Musk is worried that many people will be upset about Trump’s ban, he should see how many more people would be upset if Trump wasn’t banned,” said Kirsten Martin, professor of technology ethics at the University of Our Lady. “Musk only seems to care about the opinion of a small group of individuals who incite violence or perpetuate hate speech.”
Trump has previously said he has no intention of joining Twitter even if his account is reinstated, telling Fox News last month that he would instead focus on his own platform, Truth Social, which is mired in problems since its launch earlier this year.
“I don’t go on Twitter. I’m going to stick to the truth,” Trump told the network. “I hope Elon buys Twitter because he will improve it and he’s a good man, but I’m going to stick with Truth.”
A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment in response to Musk’s remarks.
While Trump was president, his Twitter persona functioned as a hodgepodge of political announcements, often out of the blue; media complaints; denigration of women, minorities and perceived enemies; and praise for his followers, replete with exclamation marks, capital letters, and one-word statements such as “Sad!”
He fired many officials on Twitter and his posts, like his speeches at rallies, were a torrent of misinformation.
In announcing Trump’s ban, Twitter said Trump’s tweets amounted to a glorification of violence when read against the backdrop of the Capitol riot and plans circulating online for future armed protests around the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Musk’s remarks raise questions about whether those banned besides Trump could also return. The long list of people banned from Twitter includes QAnon loyalists, COVID deniers, neo-Nazis and former reality TV star Tila Tequila, who was suspended for hate speech.
Other Trump allies who started Twitter include Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell, Lin Wood and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was permanently banned in January for repeatedly spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and the coronavirus. vaccine safety.
White supremacist David Duke and the often violent organization Proud Boys were banned, along with far-right trolls like one called Baked Alaska, who promoted anti-Semitic tropes and faced charges stemming from his involvement in the attack of January 6. .
Conspiracy theorists were also eliminated. David Icke was kicked off the platform two years ago for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, including claims that Jews and 5G towers were to blame for the pandemic. Icke is a prominent advocate of the belief that a race of lizards took over the Earth by posing as human leaders.
Alex Jones, the creator of Infowars, was permanently banned in 2018 for abusive behavior. Last year, Jones lost a defamation case filed by parents of children killed in the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting over Jones’ repeated claims that the shooting was fake.
Twitter, Musk said on Tuesday, currently has a strong left-leaning, largely because it’s located in San Francisco. This alleged bias prevents him from building trust in the rest of the United States and the world, he said: “It’s way too random and I think Twitter needs to be a lot fairer.” Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Musk’s comments.
Earlier, Musk said he backed a new European Union law aimed at protecting social media users from harmful content after meeting the bloc’s single market chief.
EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he explained to Musk how the bloc’s online regulations aim to maintain free speech while ensuring that everything illegal “will be banned in the digital space”, which Musk “fully agreed with”. .”
In a Breton video tweeted On Monday night, Musk said the two had a “great discussion” and that he was okay with the Digital Services Act, which is expected to receive final approval later this year. It will force big tech companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook parent company Meta to more strictly police their platforms for illegal or harmful content like hate speech and misinformation or face billions in fines.
O’Brien reported from Providence, RI; Krisher reported from Detroit. Associated Press writer David Klepper contributed from Providence, RI
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