Less than a month after officially buying Twitter, Elon Musk made good on one of his long-standing pledges: He un-banned Donald Trump from the social media platform.
Musk left the decision to an online poll he posted on Twitter. “The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated,” Musk tweeted Saturday night. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei.”
As of Monday morning, Trump’s Twitter handle – @realdonaldtrump – was back on the service, along with his 87.4 million followers.
Which puts the ball now firmly in Trump’s court.
And, not surprisingly, Trump is giving mixed signals about whether he will return to Twitter.
Take his message from over the weekend, when he urged his supporters on Truth Social, a copycat version of Twitter that Trump started after his presidency, to vote with “positivity” in Musk’s Twitter poll on whether the former president should be reinstated. In the next sentence, Trump told his followers that “we aren’t going anywhere. Truth Social is special!”
Which, well, weird. Especially when you consider that Truth Social is arguably at its weakest point since it launched earlier this year.
It’s a little complicated but stay with me here. Trump’s plan has been to take Truth Social public by merging its parent company, Trump Media & Technology Group, with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Digital World Acquisition Corp.
There are several problems there, however.
1) Shares of DWAC have plunged, down nearly 30% over the past three months as of Monday, in part because of Musk buying Twitter. And they are down more than 60% this year.
2) DWAC has been besieged by legal and regulatory troubles, including a whistleblower complaint filed in August.
3) A shareholder meeting is set for Tuesday at which there is supposed to be a vote on delaying the merger of Truth Social and DWAC by roughly a year. The vote has repeatedly been delayed. There is some suggestion that if the delay is not approved Tuesday, DWAC will simply liquidate itself.
While Twitter is not exactly on solid ground these days, it looks positively calm compared to Truth Social.
And business aside, Trump has nearly 90 million followers on Twitter compared to just 4.6 million followers on Truth Social. Which makes for a MUCH broader level of influence for Trump – particularly as he begins his 2024 presidential run.
Given everything we know about Truth Social, that would suggest that Trump would want to come back to Twitter ASAP.
The only counter is that Trump has a major financial interest in Truth Social. Back in April 2022, Forbes estimated that Truth Social had helped to increase Trump’s net worth by nearly $500 million. That, of course, was when DWAC’s shares were trading at over $50. This morning, the stock was at $20. And it was before Truth Social began facing legal problems and Musk’s purchase of Twitter officially went through. Trump also has certain contractual obligations with Truth Social, including posting there first, that could tie his hands with Twitter.
Despite that slippage, Trump still has much more to lose in leaving Truth Social than he does in coming back to Twitter. But remember that, at root, Trump is motivated by his desire for attention and influence. And there is no question that he gets more of both on Twitter.
Watch the shareholder vote on Tuesday. If the merger isn’t delayed, this debate could be moot as DWAC could well cease to exist.