"Fascinating to watch Twitter Trump poll!" Elon Musk tweeted

San Francisco (AFP) - Elon Musk expressed excitement Saturday as he watched votes pour in on a Twitter poll he has posted on whether to readmit Donald Trump to the messaging platform.

“Reinstate former President Trump,” the billionaire Twitter owner posted Friday, with a chance to vote either yes or no.

As of 2200 GMT Saturday, 51.8 percent of the more than 14 million responses were in favor of a return of the former president, who was banned from Twitter for his role in last year’s attack on the US Capitol by a mob of his followers seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Musk said the poll was drawing one million answers per hour.

“Fascinating to watch Twitter Trump poll!” Musk said Saturday morning in a blast of tweets from the controversial and hard-charging new owner of the one-to-many messaging platform.

There was no indication that the mercurial boss of Space-X and Tesla would adhere to the results of the ad hoc poll.

But on Friday, Musk also posted a Latin adage suggesting that the decision would be up to Twitter users: “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” (“The voice of the people is the voice of God”).

He has done similar polls in the past, asking followers last year if he should sell stock in his electric car company Tesla. Following that poll, he sold more than $1 billion in shares.

Trump, who reveled in using Twitter as a mouthpiece, was followed by more than 88 million users.

He has said he will not return to the popular platform but would instead remain on his own network, Truth Social, launched after he was banned from Twitter.

Appearing via video Saturday at a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, Trump said he welcomed Musk’s poll, and was a fan of the man himself, but appeared to reject any return.

“I do like him… you know, he’s a character and again, I like characters,” he said.

“He did put up a poll and it was very overwhelming… but I have something called… Truth Social.”

As to whether he would return to the platform, he said: “I don’t see it because I don’t see any reason for it.”

Musk, also the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has come under fire for radical changes at California-based Twitter, which he bought less than a month ago for $44 billion.

Since then, he fired half of Twitter’s 7,500 staff, scrapped a work-from-home policy and imposed long hours, all while his attempts to overhaul the company faced backlash and delays.

His stumbling attempts to revamp user verification with a controversial subscription service led to a slew of fake accounts and pranks, and prompted major advertisers to step away from the platform.

On Friday, Musk appeared to be pressing on with his plans and reinstated previously banned accounts, including that of comedian Kathy Griffin, which had been taken down after she impersonated him on the site.

The company’s offices were locked down Friday and hundreds of employees quit rather than yield to Musk’s demands that they resign themselves to working long, grueling days at the new Twitter.