10:25 GMT26 February 2021
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    Social media giants including Twitter, Facebook, Google and Apple moved to ban the president on their various platforms last month, ostensibly in response to his alleged "incitement" of violent protesters at the Capitol in Washington, DC on 6 January. Trump denied any wrongdoing, and called his ban an "unprecedented assault on free speech."

    Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has suggested that former President Donald Trump should probably be allowed back on social media, notwithstanding what he said were his "corrosive" theories about fraud in the 2020 election.

    "I think at some point he probably will be allowed back on and probably should be allowed back on," Gates said, speaking to CNBC on Thursday.

    "It's weird when you're saying that the election was stolen without any facts there and how corrosive that is, but I'll bet they'll find a way to let him back on. His stuff may be labelled as false in a lot of cases. You know in a way people's interest in what he says may go down quite a bit. That'll be interesting to watch," the tech billionaire added.

    Gates attacked Trump repeatedly during his presidency, with his criticisms focused mostly on viruses and vaccinations. Even before the coronavirus, Gates said that he told Trump at a meeting in 2018 not to set up a commission on possible ill effects of vaccines, calling the idea a "dead end" and a "bad thing." Over the past year, the billionaire attacked the president over his administration's "slow" and "chaotic" response to the pandemic, and slammed him for cutting US funding to the World Health Organization, with the funding halt leaving the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as the WHO's largest single donor (and ethical concerns associated with that fact).

    The Microsoft co-founder retired from day-to-day operations at the company in 2008, and stepped down from its board in 2020. He has gone on to promote a range of philanthropic initiatives mostly related to health. His foundation has invested heavily in the development of most major vaccines developed in Western countries, including jabs by Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and others. The wealth of the foundation and Gates' personal wealth have gone up considerably amid the pandemic due to fortuitous investments.

    Trump Remains Heavy Favourite Among Republicans

    Gates' suggestion that public interest in Trump will go down with time is up for debate, with the former president remaining the favourite among some 54 percent of Republicans, according to a recent poll. Congressional GOP leaders have made an effort to placate Trump supporters to prevent a rout of Republicans in the 2022 midterms amid rumours that the real estate mogul is considering the creation of a third party.

    The Senate acquitted Trump in his second impeachment trial on Saturday, with Senators voting 57-43 to convict - not enough for the two-thirds majority required to bar him from ever again running for public office. After weeks of silence since leaving office on 20 January, Trump returned to the media space this week in interviews with Fox News and Newsmax on Wednesday. The 74-year-old told the latter network that while it was "too early to say" whether he would run again in 2024, he has seen "a lot of great polls out there." He also repeated his long-running claim that the election was "stolen" from him.

    Commenting on his Twitter ban, Trump said the platform "is not the same" as it used to be. "I understand it has become very boring and millions of people are leaving it...We are negotiating with other people and there is also the option of building your own site," he said.

    During his time as a private citizen, in the 2016 campaign and for most of his presidency, Trump's Twitter was treated by media and his followers as the go-to to figure out what he was thinking about or doing. The billionaire treated the platform as a means to bypass the media filter and speak directly to the public, and occassionally, to world leaders. In 2020, after he began making claims about systemic election fraud, the platform started attaching warning labels about the veracity of his tweets, and eventually banned him completely after the 6 January Capitol riots. Other tech giants followed suit.

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