Throughout Elon Musk's months-long ordeal to take control of Twitter and its internal workings, there was speculation that former President Donald Trump's account could be reinstated. After Musk entered Twitter HQ and began firing the old guard of censor-happy leaders, including the c-suite executive who spearheaded the Trump ban, that talk escalated until it culminated with Elon Musk putting the decision on Trump's Twitter fate in the hands of the platform's users.
That poll saw a majority of the millions who chimed in on Musk's Twitter poll vote to reinstate @realDonaldTrump, and indeed his profile is back on the site with all its years-old tweets available to peruse again.
But even before his account was reinstated last week, Trump insisted on his own platform, Truth Social, that he wasn't going anywhere and would remain active away from Twitter.
A lot of the talk about Trump's potential return to Twitter, however, has glossed over some of the legalese that was included when the 45th president's Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG) merged with Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWAC). TMTG, as an SEC filing concerning the merger explains, has a "royalty-free license agreement with President Trump and DTTM Operations, LLC, an entity that licenses President Trump’s name and regulates his personal media assets."
That agreement gives TMTG "a royalty-free license to use 'Trump Media & Technology Group Corp.' as our name and certain specified domain names. In addition, TMTG has a royalty-free license to use the name and likeness of President Trump, subject to certain limitations."
However, this license also — as explained in the same SEC filing — includes some limits on Trump's ability to post anywhere other than Truth Social:
From December 22, 2021, until the expiration of 18 months thereafter, (the “TMTG Social Media Exclusivity Term”), President Trump has agreed to first channel any and all social media communications and posts coming from his personal profile to the TruthSocial platform before posting that same social media communication and/or post to any other social media platform that is not TruthSocial (collectively, “Non-TMTG Social Media”) until the expiration of “DJT/TMTG Social Media 6-Hour Exclusive” which means the period commencing when DJT posts any social media communication onto the Truth Social Platform and ending six (6) hours thereafter; provided that he may post social media communications from his personal profile that specifically relates to political messaging, political fundraising or get-out-the vote efforts at any time on any Non-TMTG social media platforms. Unless notice is given, the TMTG Social Media Exclusivity Term extends in perpetuity for additional 180-day terms. In the event of a force majeure as described in the License Agreement that lasts longer than 30 days, President Trump shall have the right to invoke the suspension of the “DJT/TMTG Social Media 6-Hour Exclusive.” If the Social Media Exclusivity Term were to expire but the License Agreement remained in effect, President Trump would be required to post contemporaneously to TruthSocial and Non-TMTG Social Media.
The first section of that license agreement makes it sound like Trump wouldn't be able to post anything to Twitter until at least six hours after the same "social media communications and posts" were shared to Truth Social. And while Trump has signaled his loyalty to Truth Social, his follower count there — slightly more than 4.6 million — pales in comparison to his Twitter profile which has more than 87 million followers. There's definitely a reason to post to Twitter, purely if for the number of people Trump would reach.
But the second section of the license agreement seems to give Trump significant leeway in posting to other-than-Truth platforms under a set of what appears to be very generous conditions. As it explains, Trump "may post social media communications from his personal profile that specifically relates to political messaging, political fundraising or get-out-the vote efforts at any time on any Non-TMTG social media platforms," which would include Twitter.
A review of Trump's recent Truth Social posts suggests that most of what he posts could likely be categorized under the "political messaging" exception to the TMTG Social Media Exclusivity Term, yet Trump has remained silent on Twitter since getting his account back.
Whether it's because he really is all-in on his "special!" Truth Social or because of the social media exclusivity that's part of his license agreement with TMTG, Trump has not raced back to Twitter as others who've recently had their accounts reinstated under Musk's new era at the company.