When Mr. Musk began buying up shares of Twitter this year, he started voicing more of his thoughts about the service and free speech, including in exchanges with Mr. Dorsey. In March, Mr. Musk asked his followers if Twitter was failing to adhere to free speech principles.

How Elon Musk’s Twitter Deal UnfoldedCard 1 of 6

A blockbuster deal. Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, capped what seemed an improbable attempt by the famously mercurial billionaire to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion. Here’s how the deal unfolded:

The initial offer. Mr. Musk made an unsolicited bid worth more than $40 billion for the influential social network, saying that he wanted to make Twitter a private company and that he wanted people to be able to speak more freely on the service.

Will the deal go through? For the purchase to be completed, shareholders have to vote and regulators have to review the offer first. Scrutiny is likely to be intense and questions remain about Mr. Musk’s plans for the company, especially after he suggested the deal might be “temporarily on hold” as he gathered information about the volume of spam and fake accounts on Twitter. (He later said he was “still committed” to the acquisition.)

“Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” he asked.

At another point, Mr. Musk wondered, “Is a new platform needed?”

After Mr. Musk inked the deal to buy Twitter last month, he reiterated his free speech stance and said he would take the company private to improve the service. He added that he hoped to increase trust by making Twitter’s technology more transparent, defeating the bots that spam people on the platform and “authenticating all humans.” He also said he hoped his worst critics would remain on Twitter, because “that is what free speech means.”

On Tuesday, he became more specific. “Permanent bans should be extremely rare,” Mr. Musk said, adding that they should be reserved “for accounts that are bots or spam” and “where there’s just no legitimacy to the account at all.”

But he also said that “doesn’t mean that somebody gets to say whatever they want to say.” Mr. Musk said he was in favor of temporary suspensions of accounts “if they say something that is illegal or otherwise just, you know, destructive to the world.” He also raised the idea that a particular tweet could be “made invisible or have very limited traction.”

Apart from Mr. Trump, others who have been indefinitely barred from Twitter for violating its policies include Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, the far-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos, and celebrities like Tila Tequila. Twitter also labels tweets that are factually inaccurate or that might incite violence.

Inside Twitter on Tuesday, some employees worried that Mr. Musk’s changes would unwind years of work on the company’s policies and unravel millions of dollars of investment in content moderation to stem abuse on the platform, four current and former employees said. Some said they hoped Mr. Musk would lose interest in the site, while others have begun reaching out to recruiters and friends at other tech companies for new opportunities.


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