The accounts of several high-profile US journalists have been suspended by Elon Musk’s Twitter, with the billionaire suggesting they fell foul of a recently created policy on sharing location information.
At least seven prominent reporters who cover Musk and his company were removed from the platform on Thursday. They include Ryan Mac of the New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan of CNN and Drew Harwell of the Washington Post.
The New York Times called the ban “questionable and unfortunate”, while CNN said Twitter’s “increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern for everyone who uses the platform”.
The suspensions followed controversy over the deletion of ElonJet, an account set up by Jack Sweeney, a 20-year-old US student, that was sharing publicly available data on the whereabouts of Musk’s private jet.
After removing the ElonJet account, Musk on Wednesday announced a policy change on Twitter to prohibit any disclosure of users’ “live” locations. He said the ElonJet account had put his family at risk, referencing what he said was an altercation involving his son and a “crazy stalker”. Musk said he planned to take legal action against Sweeney.
Some of the suspended journalists, through their reporting, had made reference to a new ElonJet account set up by Sweeney on Mastodon, an emerging rival to Twitter.
On Friday, EU and UK politicians expressed concern over the suspensions, suggesting new laws to police online content and due to come into force in the coming years could be used to sanction Twitter in future.
“News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying,” Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s vice-president for values and transparency, wrote in a tweet. “EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our #MediaFreedomAct. @elonmusk should be aware of that. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon.”
Downing Street said under its proposed online safety bill, “large platforms like Twitter will be prohibited from banning or suspending users where they have not breached their terms of service”.
The Twitter account of the non-profit company that develops the Mastodon platform was also suspended on Thursday. Many Twitter users attempting to share links to their own Mastodon profiles were prevented from doing so, with the site flagging the posts as “potentially harmful”.
“Same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else,” Musk wrote on Twitter after the bans. “Doxxing” refers to the act of publishing previously private information about a person, such as a home address.
Musk added: “Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not.”
He later wrote the journalists’ accounts were receiving a seven-day suspension, though a Twitter poll he set up showed 43 per cent of users felt the suspensions should be immediately lifted and 38 per cent wanted a longer ban.
Musk had previously said the existence of the ElonJet account was evidence of his commitment to free speech on Twitter.
The billionaire also joined a public audio stream on Twitter Spaces attended by journalists to defend the move and said: “There is not going to be any distinction in the future between journalists and regular people, everyone is going to be treated the same. You’re not special because you’re a journalist. You’re a citizen. So no special treatment.”
Musk could not be reached for further comment. Twitter no longer has a public relations team.
Additional reporting by Jim Pickard in London
Musk suspends US journalists’ Twitter accounts Republished from Source https://www.ft.com/content/650c7999-7f11-4201-9c0f-751e86e901df via https://www.ft.com/companies/technology?format=rss