scorecardThe big question on everyone's mind now that Elon Musk owns Twitter: Is Donald Trump coming back?
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The big question on everyone's mind now that Elon Musk owns Twitter: Is Donald Trump coming back?

Britney Nguyen,Grace Kay   

The big question on everyone's mind now that Elon Musk owns Twitter: Is Donald Trump coming back?
Tech3 min read
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and former President Donald Trump.    AP Photo/Alex Brandon
  • After months of litigation, Elon Musk bought Twitter on Thursday.
  • Musk has said he would reverse Twitter's ban on former president Donald Trump if he bought it.

Now that Elon Musk owns Twitter, there's still a big question looming over the social network's new era: Does this mean Donald Trump is coming back?

Serial-tweeter Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter in January 2021 after the siege of the US Capitol, "due to the risk of further incitement of violence."

But the executives who had the final say in Trump's ban were fired on Musk's first day, and now he's calling the shots.

Musk has been critical of moderation efforts at Twitter, often calling it the "town square" and saying he is "against censorship that goes far beyond the law."

In May, Musk said Twitter's suspension of Trump from the platform was a "morally bad decision" and "foolish to the extreme." The Tesla CEO said he "would reverse the permaban," on Trump during a live interview with the Financial Times, adding that "we should not have permabans."

Most recently, Musk responded to a Twitter user that was complaining about allegedly being "shadowbanned, ghostbanned, searchbanned." Early Friday morning, Musk said he will be "digging in more today."

The billionaire later tweeted that the company will form a new content moderation council.

"No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes," he said.

'I am not going back'

While Musk has promised to bring Trump back to Twitter, its not clear the former president will rejoin the social media platform.

On Friday, Trump said in a post on his social media platform, Truth Social, that he was "very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands," but the former president didn't indicate he would return and continued to promote his platform.

Trump has previously said that he isn't going back to Twitter, and instead wants to focus on Truth Social. But Twitter's massive reach may be hard for Trump to resist. Importantly, it would mean access to a larger platform for the former president heading into the next presidential election if he were to decide to run again. Before he was banned from Twitter, Trump had over 88 million followers. On Truth Social, he only has about 4.4 million followers.

In May, Trump agreed that he would post content to Truth Social at least six hours before posting it on any other platform, according to a regulatory filing. Though, the policy does not apply to "political messaging," including fundraisers and messages on voting information.

"The bottom line is, no, I am not going back to Twitter," Trump told Fox News in April, adding that he hopes "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."

Since then, the two have sparred, with Trump calling Musk a "bullshit artist," in July, and Musk saying Trump shouldn't run for president again that same month. Musk also called Truth Social a "right-wing echo chamber," in a Financial Times interview earlier this month.

Clearing the way

Earlier this month, Twitter reviewed its policies around permanent bans as it prepared for Musk's takeover. Two people told the Financial Times a change in leadership was not likely to make way for Trump to return to Twitter, saying that the platform is not considering removing bans for accounts that were found inciting violence.

But, now that Musk has bought the company he's already begun to make major changes. Within moments of officially taking over, the billionaire terminated four top executives — including legal and policy head Vijaya Gadde, the woman who led the team that booted Trump off Twitter.

Ultimately, Musk's decision when it comes to moderation on Twitter could have major ramifications for Twitter's future. Social media expert Matt Navarro previously told Insider that Musk's plan for moderation on the site could make it difficult for advertisers who wouldn't want their content next to posts that could be labeled as unsavory. And advertising makes up the vast majority of Twitter's revenue.

Twitter Chief Customer Officer Sarah Personette tweeted on Thursday that she had had a "great discussion" with Musk this week and that the company's "continued commitment to brand safety for advertisers remains unchanged.

"The decision on whether to allow Trump back on the platform will act as a bellwether for the direction Twitter will take under its new owner," said Chris Camacho, CEO of ad agency Cheil UK. He's advising advertisers to take a cautious approach.

Meanwhile, conservatives are already clamoring for Trump's return. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene led supporters in a victory lap after Musk took over Twitter and Rep. Lauren Boebert tweeted: "The bird is free, now free the GOAT."