Twitter was the most important tool of then-President Donald Trump. Then he was locked out. Elon Musk is now considering bringing him back.

Attacks on opponents, unexpected announcements about political decisions and comments on the TV program in between: Donald Trump spoke directly to the public like no other US President. His Twitter account was his megaphone, reaching hundreds of millions of people. Until he got banned. Now the users should decide whether the lock should be lifted.

This was announced by Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk yesterday on the short message service. With a survey of his followers, he asked them to vote on a return to the short message service. Until shortly after midnight on Sunday, they should simply vote “Yes” or “No”. So far, the decision has easily been in favor of the ex-president.

Waiting for Donald Trump’s return

Trump was blocked from Twitter after a long struggle in the wake of the storming of the Capitol. Although it regularly violated the guidelines, for example with personal attacks or the dissemination of demonstrably false claims, the short message service had long turned a blind eye to its relevance. When Trump openly called on his supporters to attack US democracy on January 6, 2020, the company apparently had had enough. The Meta subsidiaries Facebook and Instagram had therefore blocked the president, who was still in office at the time, from their platforms.

During the first discussions about a Twitter purchase, Elon Musk described the decision in May as a mistake. This has “alienated a large part of the country”. In his opinion, the goal of depriving Trump of the platform was also missed. However, Trump’s own platform Truth Social never had the same reach as Twitter. After Musk’s takeover, Trump vowed that Twitter was finally “in sensible hands”.

Questionable choice of words

The choice of words in the vote is probably not inadvertently very ambivalent. Instead of specifically asking for the ex-president to be unblocked on Twitter, Musk speaks of a “reinstatement” of the former president. With the same choice of words, Trump had repeatedly called for his office to be restored after describing the 2019 election as “stolen”. Musk’s follow-up tweet “Vox populi, vox dei” (Latin for “The choice of the people is the choice of the gods”) can also be interpreted as sharing Trump’s allegation of election fraud. However, Musk had also chosen the wording when he announced on Friday that three other prominent accounts were unblocked.

On Friday, Musk had ordered all of the group’s software developers to the headquarters in San Francisco at extremely short notice and also requested that they be flown in from other locations. In addition to numerous questions about programming the site, he also announced how extreme views and hate speech will be dealt with in the future. “Twitter’s new policy is freedom of speech, but not a right to reach,” he said on Twitter afterwards. You want to show negative and hate comments to fewer people, and the service no longer wants to earn money with such tweets.

The demonetization of hate speech should also be understood as a signal to the advertising industry. Musk took over Twitter with the aim of enabling extreme freedom of expression there. This unsettled many advertisers: Because brands do not want to appear next to extremist, insulting or otherwise problematic tweets, many customers announced an advertising break on Twitter.

Twitter needs money

That’s a big problem for Musk. Even before the purchase, Twitter was making losses despite revenues of more than five billion dollars a year. Debt taken on by Musk creates an additional interest burden of at least $1 billion annually. The new boss therefore relies on a subscription model and extreme cost-cutting measures to make the service profitable.

However, the radical nature of the measures could get on his feet in the long run. Musk had already fired more than half of the employees when he sent an email asking the rest to make a decision about their stay. Hundreds of employees chose to leave. The most extreme case is the head of advertising. Robin Wheeler had already wanted to leave the company last week but was persuaded by Musk to stay. On Friday, she announced that she was leaving the company for the second time in a week. That shouldn’t do much for the trust of advertisers.

Quelle: Twitter, Wall Street Journal, The Verge