San Francisco: The road ahead for Twitter remained as murky as ever after new owner Elon Musk said Wednesday that it could take weeks to reinstate banned accounts — such as that of former US president Donald Trump.
Twitter users have been watching closely to see whether Musk will reinstate Trump, banned for inciting last year's attack on the Capitol by a mob seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and other deplatformed users.
The potential reinstatement of such accounts banned for violating the site's content moderation rules in the past has been seen as a bellwether of where Musk, a self-described "free speech absolutist," wants to take the site he describes as a global town square.
But on Wednesday the South African billionaire said the wait will have to continue a little while longer.
"Twitter will not allow anyone who was de-platformed for violating Twitter rules back on platform until we have a clear process for doing so, which will take at least a few more weeks," he tweeted.
That would delay a return of Trump until after crucial November 8 midterm elections in the United States, which will determine control of Congress.
Trump, once a prolific tweeter, retains a powerful hold on his Republican Party, and has reopened his 2020 playbook by questioning the integrity of the upcoming election.
Since Musk took Twitter private last week, Trump has suggested he would be happier sticking with his own Truth Social messaging platform.
But the former president's network has financial issues and many political strategists believe he would find it hard to resist the influence offered by Twitter, where he was once one of the site's biggest global draws.
The financial fate of Truth Social could be determined at a crucial meeting expected on Thursday that could see one of the site's key backers dissolved.
The announcement comes only days after the world's wealthiest man took sole control of the social media giant in a contentious $44 billion deal, vowing to dial back content moderation.
But the huge sum paid for Twitter has heaped pressure on Musk to keep advertisers on board and keep a lid on offensive content.
Musk in his tweet on Wednesday also said he had talked to civil society leaders "about how Twitter will continue to combat hate & harassment & enforce its election integrity policies."
This followed his reassurance over the weekend that the site would not become a "free-for-all hellscape," and announced the formation of a content moderation council.
However on Sunday, Musk himself tweeted an anti-LGBT conspiracy theory about what happened the night US Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband was attacked, then hours later deleted the post.
In a sign that the approach to content moderation was a key concern, Musk praised the site for its handling of a White House tweet that users said exaggerated a claim that Biden had increased retirement benefits.
The White House deleted the tweet after Twitter users flagged the post as lacking context.
"Our goal is to make Twitter the most accurate source of information on Earth, without regard to political affiliation," Musk said.
US conservatives complain of censorship on the major social networks and Musk staunchly defends looser moderation of content on Twitter in the name of free speech.
Twitter's finances also remain a mystery going forward, with Musk on the hook to make huge loan repayments after his buyout.
Musk on Tuesday said the site will charge $8 per month to verify users' accounts, arguing the plan would solve the platform's issues with bots and trolls while creating a new revenue stream for the company.
Some users warned that they would simply leave the site if they were made to pay.