WASHINGTON: Donald Trump has seemingly rejected returning to Twitter, but as he embarks on a new presidential campaign, will he be able to resist? All eyes were on his account Sunday for any activity, after it was reinstated by the platform’s new owner Elon Musk. Twitter had issued a “permanent” ban on Trump in the wake of the Jan 6, 2021 attack by his supporters on the US Capitol, as he sought to overturn his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
But Musk, who describes himself as a “free speech absolutist”, posted a Twitter poll Saturday that saw a majority support the former president’s reinstatement, and the platform’s new owner wasted no time in acting on it. As of 11:30 am EST (1630 GMT) Sunday, the revived account of the “45th President of the United States of America,” with its blue “verified” checkmark, had not posted any new messages.
The last message dates from Jan 8, 2021, when the billionaire said he would not attend Biden’s inauguration ceremony. On the same day, Twitter banned the account, which was being followed by some 88.8 million people, citing the risk of further incitement to violence. Trump’s followers numbered 86.6 million as of Sunday – though it was unclear how many of those were real and how many were bots – while the number of accounts followed by him went from zero to 49.
The account also linked to a campaign website seeking donations for Trump’s 2024 presidential run. It was not clear who linked the website to the account or what any changes in the number of followers means – mass layoffs in recent weeks under Musk have seen Twitter’s communications team decimated. Trump reveled in using Twitter as a mouthpiece during his presidency, posting policy announcements, attacking political rivals and communicating with supporters.
More than 15 million votes were cast in Musk’s poll – Twitter has 237 million daily users – with 51.8 percent in favor of reinstating Trump’s controversial profile and 48.2 percent against. Musk asked for a simple “yes” or “no” response to the statement, “Reinstate former President Trump”. On Saturday, while the poll was still underway, Trump posted a link to it on Truth Social, the Twitter alternative he founded, urging his 4.6 million followers there to vote for him.
But he also wrote: “don’t worry, we aren’t going anywhere. Truth Social is special!” And, appearing via video at a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, Trump said he welcomed the poll and was a fan of Musk, but appeared to reject any return to the platform. “I don’t see it, because I don’t see any reason for it,” he said.
Trump posts often on Truth Social, sometimes dozens of times a day, and in recent months has engaged more brazenly than ever with extremist content, including dozens of posts from promoters of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Although his reach there is relatively small, experts say the misinformation he spreads reverberates across the Internet. His reinstatement to the much larger and more mainstream platform of Twitter comes as his announcement that he will run for president again in 2024 is not being met with the kind of enthusiasm that marked his earlier bids.
He announced his candidacy just after the midterm elections, in which he had endorsed hundreds of candidates. But Democrats did unexpectedly well and a predicted Republican “red wave” did not materialize, prompting a backlash against Trump and extremism in the Republican Party. Trump’s former vice president Mike Pence, himself a potential contender for the 2024 Republican nomination, told CBS on Sunday that there would be “better choices” than his old boss. – AFP