After using a Twitter poll to decide whether to reinstate a former US president who used the platform to spread election misinformation and support his followers while some of them attacked the Capitol on January 6, Elon Musk has restored Donald Trump's Twitter account.
However, as Musk attempts to lure Trump back in with memes, a number of people have noticed that some of Trump's tweets have mysteriously vanished – perhaps a sign that Musk's Twitter will have some (if more lenient) red lines after all.
At the beginning of 2020, social media companies learned the hard way how to manage a president who had lost an election using their platforms to claim that he had actually won. After trying a number of methods – including labeling Trump's tweets as misinformation, and deleting posts that broke the platform's rules – Trump's favorite platform took the final step of removing his account, writing that "the President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence".
Other social media platforms followed suit, including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and knitting site Ravelry. Until he had joined his new platform Truth Social, he was basically left with no option to reach out to his followers directly, other than maybe spelling out "MAGA" in Farmville corn. The social media giants were clear, they did not want Trump using their platform spreading misinformation or potentially inciting violence such as that seen on January 6.
Until Musk took over. Then, that complex decision – with implications for democracy in general, as well as whether advertisers still want to spend money on the site – was left up to a Twitter poll.
Trump's account has been reinstated, though he remains inactive on the platform so far. One reason could be that Trump is obliged to post his thoughts to his platform Truth Social for six hours before he can post them to any other social media site.
Another could be that Trump and Musk are not known to have the best of relationships, with Trump once posting "when Elon Musk came to the White House asking me for help on all of his many subsidized projects, whether it's electric cars that don't drive long enough, driverless cars that crash, or rocketships to nowhere, without which subsidies he'd be worthless, and telling me how he was a big Trump fan and Republican, I could have said 'drop to your knees and beg,' and he would have done it".
Nevertheless, Musk has attempted to goad him into returning to the site using memes.
Since the return of the account, for now without a user behind it, people have noticed that a number of Trump's tweets are missing.
Classic Dril-esque tweets ("the Coca Cola company is not happy with me--that's okay, I'll still keep drinking that garbage") still remain, with the deleted tweets being posted on the day of the capitol riots.
"Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts," Trump tweeted on January 6, as his followers chanted "hang Mike Pence" and set up gallows, "not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify."
That tweet is no longer displayed among his January 6 tweets, and neither is one referring to blaming the attack on election fraud.
"These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long," the tweet read. "Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"
Though Musk has made a number of changes to the platform's safety policies – reinstating Kanye West's account a week after he made a number of antisemitic remarks on the platform, as well as Jordan Peterson and the Babylon Bee who both violated the platform's hateful conduct policy towards transgender people – the deleted tweets have been taken by some to mean that Musk's platform does still have red lines around election misinformation and incitement of violence.
Until Trump is back on the platform, we won't know for sure precisely where these lines fall.