When the world’s richest man bought Twitter on Monday for $44 billion, the rest of us (sadly) wondered the same stupid thing: When will Donald Trump start tweeting again?
The former president was suspended from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. After linking a number of his tweets to the violent protests, Twitter deemed Trump’s messages harmful and warned of “the risk of further incitement of violence.”
Before his suspension, though, Trump used Twitter specifically as a tool to spread his crackpot opinions, misinformation, and divisive messaging to a massive user base.
Musk was one of the only major tech personas to take issue with Twitter’s decision to ban Trump. It’s a notion that aligns with Musk’s statement included in Monday’s press release: “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.”
Then, Musk tweeted: “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”
Furthermore, a source told Fox News on Monday that Trump and Musk have a “very good relationship and are friendly,” citing the moment Trump came to Musk’s defense in 2018 after Musk tweeted a weed joke about taking Tesla private, resulting in him paying the SEC $20 million.
All this would seem to light a clear path toward Musk deciding on the return of a Trumpy Twitter. That is, of course, if Trump himself wanted to get back on his once favorite social platform.
Which he doesn’t -- or at least that’s what he told Fox News.
“I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on TRUTH,” Trump said on Monday. “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.”
Truth being Truth Social, Trump’s failing right-wing Twitter-adjacent social enterprise that he’s only posted to once. Though he mentioned that he will begin “Truthing” over the next week.
In classic Trump fashion, he claimed that Truth Social is “taking in millions of people,” and that “the response on Truth is much better than being on Twitter,” in relation to Twitter’s issues with bots and fake accounts.
However, mobile analytics firm Sensor Tower estimates that the Truth Social app has only been downloaded around 1.2 million times total, and is down 93% in downloads from its initial launch in February, according to what Sensor Tower mobile insights strategist Stephanie Chan told Yahoo.
“Truth is a platform for my voice and for my supporters,” Trump told Fox. “But I want everybody to come over to Truth—conservatives, liberals, whatever.”
But while it’s mighty hard to believe Truth Social will become a successful and/or popular platform even among conservatives, it’s even harder to believe Trump will actually abstain from rejoining Twitter if Musk allowed it.
Before being banned, no platform catapulted Trump’s power more than Twitter. And there’s no platform he was more addicted to.
According to the Trump Twitter Archive, which documented his tweets for years, the former president has posted almost 57,000 tweets, tweeting and retweeting around 3,500 times in 2018, 7,700 times in 2019 and over 12,000 in 2020.
With a big election year approaching, will Trump really reject Musk’s likely invitation to reach his previous 33 million followers?
But whether or not Trump reclaims Twitter as his own, advertisers might harbor the same reactions to Musk’s insistence on “free speech” amid Monday’s deal.
While Twitter relies on ad sales––$1.41 billion reported in the most recent quarter––decreased content moderation could send marketers to other social platforms, where their ads aren’t jeopardized by potentially harmful or offensive messaging.
No matter what Twitter becomes under the reign of Musk, a reality wholly unknowable at this stage in the game, pushing deregulation and “free speech” may actually help the ad revenues of the major competing platforms.