(CN) — Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk would restore former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account should his attempts to buy the social media company succeed, he told the Financial Times Tuesday.
Musk called the ban “morally wrong" and saidgp-44 it does not prevent Trump from having a voice and publishing his views, but instead fractures the discourse and encourages all sides to retreat to their corners rather than engage in constructive debate.
"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. "...Banning Trump from Twitter didn't end Trump's voice. It will amplify it among the right, and that is why it's morally wrong and flat out stupid."
Twitter banned Trump from the platform after the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when a group of Trump supporters infiltrated the seat of the legislative branch while it was counting Electoral College votes.
Twitter said it would enact a permanent ban due to Trump’s “incitement of violence.”
Musk did say a temporary suspension was likely warranted in the case and others where incitement to violence is at issue but took exception to the permanent ban from the platform.
"Perma-bans just fundamentally undermine trust in Twitter as a town square where everyone can voice their opinion," he said. "I think it was a morally bad decision, to be clear, and foolishly extreme."
Musk has said his pending acquisition of Twitter for $44 billion is predicated on his desire to restore free speech principles to the platform and because Twitter acts as a sort of public forum where people go to debate ideas and politics.
"Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated," he said in a statement announcing the $44 billion deal.
While Twitter leadership has accepted the deal in principle, it is not finalized and deals of this size and complexity frequently fall through.
Even if it is completed, Musk may encounter pushback internally and externally regarding his views on content moderation and Trump.
“I don't own Twitter yet so this is not a thing that will definitely happen,” he said.
Trump used the ban as the impetus to start his own social media network, called Truth Social, which launched in February of this year and has yet to attract a large user base.
"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," the former president told Fox News in April.
Some liberals argue content moderation policies currently favored by Twitter leaders are important to stem the spread of misinformation, including anti-vaccination messages that have proved fatal. Liberals are also aggrieved about Trump’s repeated claims about the 2020 election being stolen from him due to massive voter fraud, despite the former president’s inability to furnish evidence supporting his claims in courts.
Conservatives say free speech is paramount and that some of the claims of misinformation have a decidedly partisan slant with certain users banned for saying things about various policies that have since proven true.
A recent high-profile case involved a story about Hunter Biden’s laptop, which contained information about the degree to which he was using his father’s name to secure high-paying sinecures with energy companies in Ukraine, Russia and China.
Twitter suspended The New York Post over its publication of the story about Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings, the central thrust and details of which have since been confirmed by other news outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Facebook and YouTube also suspended Trump in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Musk said having Trump on Twitter provides a “single forum where everyone can debate” rather than a fractured media landscape where users retreat to their ideological echo chambers.
Business analysts expect Musk’s purchase of Twitter to close sometime in 2022.
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