LONDON ( Associated Press) — Elon Musk said he will reverse Twitter’s permanent ban of former President Donald Trump if the Tesla CEO follows through with his plan to buy the social media company.
Musk, speaking virtually at a Future of the Car summit hosted by the Financial Times, said Twitter’s Trump ban was a “morally bad decision” and “foolish in the extreme.” He said permanent bans of Twitter accounts should be rare and reserved for accounts that are scams or automated bots.
Twitter banned Trump’s account in January 2021 for “incitement of violence” following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.
“I think that was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice,” Musk said. “So I think this may end up being frankly worse than having a single forum where everyone can debate. I guess the answer is that I would reverse the permanent ban.”
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Musk added that his distaste for permanent bans is shared by Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey.
Trump had previously said that he had no intention of rejoining Twitter even if his account was reinstated, telling Fox News last month that he would instead focus on his own platform, Truth Social, which has been mired in problems since its launch earlier this year.
“I am not going on Twitter. I am going to stay on Truth,” Trump told the network. “I hope 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.”
A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment in response to Musk’s comments.
Twitter, Musk said, currently has a strong bias to the left, largely because it is located in San Francisco. This alleged bias prevents it from building trust in the rest of the US and the world, he said.
Twitter should get rid of bots and scammers to be a better public forum to exchange ideas, Musk said. It also needs to be transparent when a human takes action against an account, explaining what was done and why, he added. “It’s far too random” at present, he said.
Musk has also given his support to a new European Union law aimed at protecting social media users from harmful content after he met with the bloc’s single market chief.
EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he outlined to Musk how the bloc’s online regulations aim to uphold free speech while also making sure whatever is illegal “will be forbidden in the digital space,” which Musk “fully agreed with “
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In a video Breton tweeted late Monday, Musk said the two had a “great discussion” and that he agrees with the Digital Services Act, which is expected to get final approval later this year. It will make big tech companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook parent Meta police their platforms more strictly for illegal or harmful content like hate speech and disinformation or face billions in fines.
Musk’s plan to buy Twitter for $44 billion has raised fears he would make changes to the platform that would prioritize free speech over online safety — potentially putting him at odds with the looming rules in Europe, which has led a global movement to crack down on the power of tech giants.
The 65-second clip indicates Musk’s and the EU’s views may be closer than they appear. Breton says in the video that he explained the Digital Services Act to Musk in a meeting at Tesla’s Texas headquarters. Musk responds by saying it’s “exactly aligned with my thinking.”
“I agree with everything you said, really,” Musk said. “I think we’re very much of the same mind and, you know, I think anything that my companies can do that can be beneficial to Europe, we want to do that.”
The attempted Twitter acquisition by Musk, a billionaire and self-described free speech absolutist, had raised concerns that he would take a hands-off approach to content moderation.
Breton told Associated Press he explained to Musk that the new law means “we need also to have more moderators, and in the language where we operate. So he fully understood.”
The pair agreed on the importance of being able to inspect algorithms that determine what social media users are being shown, Breton said.
The Digital Services Act requires more transparency for algorithms, and Musk has called for opening them up to public inspection.
Breton said he told Musk the EU law includes provisions to maintain the rights of users, such as giving them the right to appeal bans.