Luxembourgh Times
Free Speech

Twitter suspends journalists who Musk says imperiled his safety

Musk took the reins under banner of free-speech absolutism and eliminating censorship

Musk followed up with a poll among his followers

Musk followed up with a poll among his followers © Photo credit: AFP

Source: Bloomberg

Twitter Inc. suspended the accounts of several prominent journalists covering the social network’s billionaire owner Elon Musk, who alleged they were endangering his family.

Late Thursday, reporters from publications including the Washington Post, the New York Times, Mashable and CNN were listed as blocked and their tweets were no longer visible. Musk said the suspended profiles, which included sports and political commentator Keith Olbermann, were of people who had posted his real-time location, describing the information as “basically assassination coordinates.”

“I was given no warning. I have no email or communication from the company about the reason for suspension,” New York Times reporter Ryan Mac tweeted from a new account. He posted a screen grab from the app saying he’s been permanently suspended. “I report on Twitter, Elon Musk and his companies. And I will continue to do so.”

The mercurial owner of the service followed up with a poll among his followers as to when he should remove the suspensions. The vote concluded he should remove the bans, and he issued a new poll with fewer options where voting again leans toward lifting the restrictions. The standard ban period for disclosing personal location information — also known as doxxing — on the service is seven days, he said.

“You doxx, you get suspended, end of story, that’s it,” Musk said in a journalist-hosted Twitter Spaces session shortly after his first poll. Participants in the Spaces audio session included the Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, who, alongside other banned reporters, was still able to participate in the network’s live audio service.

Twitter earlier cut off the feed of competing social network Mastodon, which had posted a link on its Twitter page to an account on its own service that uses publicly available flight data to track Musk’s private jet. Musk argued that pointing or linking to any source that might reveal his jet’s whereabouts was tantamount to posting his real-time location. On Wednesday, Twitter had suspended multiple profiles that tracked private jet locations, including his.

Twitter’s owner, who took the reins under the banner of free-speech absolutism and eliminating censorship, tweeted that “doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else.” He pinned a tweet to his profile explaining his reasoning and that he believed the offending Twitter profiles had threatened his family.

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California © Photo credit: AFP

“This is management as dark performance art,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, in an email. “The one thing for which we can all thank Musk is that he’s demonstrating, day by day, how dangerous (and self-destructive) it is for so much corporate power to be concentrated in the hands of a few Silicon Valley moguls.”

CNN, whose reporter was swept up in the rash of suspensions, responded by saying “the impulsive and unjustified suspension of a number of reporters, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, is concerning but not surprising. Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern for everyone who uses the platform. We have asked Twitter for an explanation, and we will reevaluate our relationship based on that response.”

An email to Twitter seeking comment on the journalists’ suspensions wasn’t immediately returned.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.