Speaking virtually at an auto conference, the Tesla CEO said Tuesday that Twitter’s ban of Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a “morally bad decision” and “foolish in the extreme.”
“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,” said Musk, adding that he preferred temporary suspensions and other narrowly tailored punishments for content that is illegal or otherwise “destructive to the world.”
Shares of Twitter dropped 1.5% Tuesday to $47.24 per share. That’s 13 percent below the offer of $54.20 per share — or $44 billion — that Musk made on April 14, a reflection of Wall Street’s concerns that the deal could still fall through. Musk emphasized Tuesday that it is “certainly not a done deal.”
Musk has repeatedly criticized Twitter’s content moderation decisions, including banning Trump for “incitement of violence,” but had mostly avoided saying what he would do about Trump’s account. He was pressed for more details Tuesday by Peter Campbell, an automotive correspondent for the Financial Times, which hosted the auto conference.
“If Musk is concerned that many people were upset that Trump was banned, he should see how many more people would be upset if Trump was not banned,” said Kirsten Martin, a professor of technology ethics at the University of Notre Dame. “Musk only appears to be worried about the opinion of a small group of individuals who incite violence or perpetuate hate speech.”
Trump has 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.
Musk appeared to take those claims at face value, saying Tuesday that Trump will be going to Truth Social along with a “large part” of the U.S. political right, creating a situation that’s “frankly worse than having a single forum where everyone can debate.”
A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment in response to Musk’s remarks.
While Trump was president, his Twitter persona functioned as a mix of policy announcements, often out of the blue; complaints about the media; disparagement of women, minorities and his perceived enemies; and praise for his supporters, replete with exclamation marks, all-caps, and one-word declarations such as “Sad!”