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Trump’s Twitter Comeback: A Right Turn for Musk’s Platform

Image: Elon Musk

More than two years after Donald Trump was banned from Twitter over concerns that his words would incite violence, Elon Musk welcomed the former president’s return in a move that showed how rapidly the site has transformed under his ownership.

Musk purchased the platform, now known as X, last year with the intention of restoring “free speech”. He had described Twitter’s decision to bar Trump in the aftermath of the January 6 attack on the Capitol a “mistake”, and within weeks of his takeover promptly ended the ban.

But Trump, for his part, appeared uninterested in returning, choosing instead to stick with his own platform, Truth Social. For the last nine months since he was officially allowed back on Twitter, Trump’s account has remained silent.

That was until Thursday. After surrendering at a Georgia county jail on racketeering and conspiracy charges for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, Trump shared his mugshot along with the words “Election interference! Never surrender!” and a link to his website, a post that Musk welcomed.

“Next-level,” he said, retweeting Trump. In other posts, Musk, who once described Trump as “amazingly good at Twitter”, highlighted the rapidly increasing number of views of Trump’s tweet.

Trump’s return marks the latest development in the evolution of Twitter into a libertarian haven for controversial users. Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist”, allowed a number of formerly banned users back on to Twitter after he took over the platform, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia representative, and Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist and conservative darling.

Trump, once a prolific user, said last year after Musk’s purchase he was “very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands”. While these decisions are not popular with many users or the advertisers the company relies on – ad revenue has fallen by 50% and traffic is down – rightwing figures have praised Musk’s leadership.


As advertising dollars dwindle, Musk is exploring new revenue models, including a focus on streaming, and hosting Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign announcement in May. This week, Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News host, aired an interview with Trump exclusively on Twitter.

Musk has also stressed plans to focus on subscription dollars. In April, he began to require users to pay for verification check marks previously assigned to public figures and journalists free of cost to maintain the integrity of information on the site.

Prominent far-right politicians cheered Trump’s return to Twitter, with Marjorie Taylor Greene writing, “WE ARE SO BACK!!!” and Kari Lake, an election denier who unsuccessfully ran for the governorship of Arizona, saying, “It’s not a mugshot. It’s a rallying cry.”

Before Trump’s tweet on Thursday, he had said he intended to stay with Truth Social, where he had reportedly signed a now expired exclusivity agreement. He posted his mugshot with the same message there, adding: “I love Truth Social. It is my home!!!”

His return suggests that he views Twitter as a useful tool in his attempt to return to the White House. Despite facing increasing legal peril from multiple lawsuits, including being indicted four times this year, he remains the leading Republican presidential candidate.

Returning to Twitter will allow Trump a broader platform as he gears up for the 2024 elections. The former president has posted extensively on Truth Social during his Twitter hiatus, but has only 6.4 million followers on the platform, compared to a reach of 86.5 million on Twitter. Truth Social has only 2 million active monthly users compared to 450 million on Twitter.

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