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Elon Musk says he's reinstating Trump's Twitter account

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump has a Twitter account again, courtesy of new CEO Elon Musk. Trump was kicked off Twitter and many other platforms after the January 6 insurrection. The company said he had glorified violence, violating its terms of service. And this comes just days after Trump announced that he's running for president again. We're joined now by NPR's Camila Domonoske to learn about the latest developments. Good morning, Camila.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: Good morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: So what explanation has Elon Musk given for restoring Trump's account?

DOMONOSKE: He says it's popular demand, more or less. Musk actually created a poll on Twitter, just in a tweet, the same way any Twitter user could do. And of the people who clicked on that poll, 51.8% said that Trump should get his account back. So Musk tweeted, the people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated. Vox populi, vox dei. That is, the voice of the people is the will of God, although in this case it really is the will of Elon Musk that matters the most. And what was missing from that announcement? There was no reference to the content moderation council that Musk had promised would meet to weigh in on these kinds of decisions. There was no reference to Twitter's terms of service or inciting violence or even to principles of free speech. He just included the poll result.

RASCOE: And this is an unscientific poll, about as unscientific as they get. Is Trump going to come back to Twitter? Doesn't he have his own thing going on?

DOMONOSKE: He does. So he has not tweeted again yet. And just yesterday, before he was reinstated, he told a Republican group that he didn't see a reason to go back on Twitter. Like you said, he's been really trying to promote Truth Social, this conservative alternative to social media platforms. And it's not just that he's on Truth Social. He owns a huge stake in it. And a whistleblower has accused Truth Social's parent company of violating securities laws, specifically around pressure to give stock to Trump's family. So, on the one hand, he's got a vested - a financial interest in boosting Truth Social instead of getting back on Twitter. On the other hand, well, I mean, you know, he really seemed to like tweeting.

RASCOE: Oh, I know. I covered him. So just last week, Trump said he's running for president again. Wouldn't that be a reason for him to go back to Twitter?

DOMONOSKE: Yeah. I mean, it was obviously a big megaphone for him. He used it often to talk straight to his supporters, tweet a ceaseless stream of falsehoods about the 2020 elections. He could elevate messages from conspiracy theorists to a huge audience. These things all, as we know, had huge consequences. And Trump told Fox News in 2017 that he didn't think he'd be there, as in be president, if it weren't for social media.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: I have a tremendous platform. I think I have 125 million people between Twitter and Instagram and all of them and Facebook.

DOMONOSKE: So right now he's back to more than 80 million followers on Twitter. Again, he hasn't tweeted this morning, but people are replying to his old tweets. And now that he's on one platform, it'll probably be easier for others to reinstate him. I mean, take Facebook - they only suspended him for two years and that will expire in January.

RASCOE: In the about 30 seconds we have left, just to go back to Elon Musk, he said he did it because of the poll. But do you know why he really is doing this?

DOMONOSKE: I mean, the list of possible explanations is long - politics, principle, self-interest, distraction from the turmoil at Twitter, pure impulse. It really depends on how you feel about Elon Musk which one you believe.

RASCOE: That's NPR's Camila Domonoske. Thank you so much, Camila.

DOMONOSKE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.

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