Elon Musk says he would let Trump back on Twitter. History shows us why that’s dangerous.
Musk: The decision to ban Trump from Twitter “was a morally bad decision” and “I would reverse the perma-ban.”
During an interview at the Financial Times’ Future of the Car conference earlier today, Elon Musk — who has a pending deal with Twitter to buy the company — announced that he would “reverse the perma-ban” currently preventing former President Donald Trump from using the platform. Musk’s comments ignore both Trump’s previous social media behavior, in which he regularly pushed harmful misinformation and extreme rhetoric, and his continued promotion of election misinformation that incited the January 6, 2021, insurrection. Musk also revealed his fundamental lack of understanding of how much Trump’s presence on these social media platforms helped push misinformation to a large audience.
As Musk criticized Twitter’s ban, he failed to acknowledge how Trump used social media before most major social media platforms permanently banned or suspended him, fearing that he would incite further violence after pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Media Matters found that in addition to inciting violence via his social media accounts, Trump amplified QAnon-promoting Twitter accounts at least 315 times during his presidency. On Facebook, roughly a quarter of Trump’s posts — 1,443 posts out of 6,081 — between January 1, 2020, and when he was suspended on January 6, 2021, contained COVID-19 misinformation, election lies, or extreme rhetoric about his critics. Many of Trump’s posts on Facebook, including the ones with misinformation, were also posted on Twitter, reaching millions of followers on each platform.
Despite being kicked off social media, Trump continues to push misinformation, even to a smaller audience. In fact, he has continued to repeat the same election misinformation that incited the January 6 insurrection at his post-presidency rallies. And his published statements — formerly posted to his failed website and now published on his PAC’s website — still contain election misinformation and harmful rhetoric attacking his critics.
Though Musk claims Trump’s Twitter ban “did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice,” the ban has stopped Trump from pushing out harmful misinformation to a large audience, which was also aided by algorithms that expanded his reach. In fact, Twitter and other platforms saw decreases in misinformation following Trump’s ban. And Trump has struggled to maintain a presence online following his bans. His blog failed in less than 30 days after garnering exceptionally low traffic and his new platform, TruthSocial, is a disaster so far.
Musk’s new comments indicate that he would allow Trump’s misinformation and harmful rhetoric to reach millions of Twitter users. And as Facebook will be deciding whether to reinstate Trump in January, Musk is setting the stage for Facebook to follow his lead and for Twitter to become a right-wing echo chamber with barely any rules.
You can watch Musk's full comments from the interview below: