Reuters, Dec. 15 – On Thursday, Twitter suspended the accounts of numerous notable journalists for articles they published recently about the company’s new owner, Elon Musk. Musk, a billionaire, tweeted that the rules prohibiting the publication of personal information apply to everyone, including journalists.
Musk, who has portrayed himself as a free speech absolutist, responded to a Tweet about the suspensions by tweeting, “Same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else.” This was a reference to Twitter’s rules prohibiting the publishing of personal information, known as doxxing.
Musk tweeted about the shutdown of @elonjet on Twitter on Wednesday, which tracked his private jet in real time using public data. Accusing his son of being the target of a “crazy stalker,” Musk threatened legal action against the account’s operator.
It was not immediately obvious if all of the suspended journalists had used @elonjet to discuss or distribute news. Criticizing Musk all day long is acceptable, but doxxing his real-time whereabouts and putting his family in risk is not, he tweeted on Thursday.
Last month, he tweeted that he would “even to not block the account following my plane, even though that is a clear personal safety risk,” showing his dedication to free expression. On Thursday, he announced through Twitter that doxxing will result in an automatic seven-day ban, and then he conducted a poll asking Twitter users to determine whether or not the accounts should be restored immediately.
When the poll results showed that the greatest percentage of respondents (43%) wanted the accounts reinstated immediately, he said he had provided too many choices and would rerun the poll. When asked for comment, Twitter did not get back to us right away.
Similar chaotic activities have occurred at Twitter after Musk took over, including the swift sacking of senior management and thousands of staff, price fluctuations for Twitter’s premium service, Twitter Blue, and the reactivation of banned accounts, including that of former President Donald Trump.
Twitter’s new head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, told Reuters last month that the company now relies mainly on technology to censor content, eliminating some manual checks and favouring restrictions on dissemination rather than banning particular speech altogether.
‘QUESTIONABLE AND UNFORTUNATE’
For posting links to “publicly available, legally acquired data,” Washington Post reporter Drew Harwell’s (@drewharwell) Mastodon account was suspended along with that of other journalists on Thursday. Mastodon, a popular alternative to Twitter, also had its official account on Twitter suspended (@joinmastodon).
In the short term, it was impossible to get a response from Mastodon. The Post’s executive editor, Sally Buzbee, argued that Musk’s statements that he planned to manage Twitter as a free speech platform were contradicted by Harwell’s suspension.
Late on Thursday night, Harwell was allowed to join a Twitter discussion with other journalists, including Musk, who made a brief appearance. “If you dox, you will be expelled. This is the final chapter “Musk stated in the discussion as Harwell denied revealing Musk’s real-time position, claiming instead that he had only written about @elonjet.
On Wednesday, Twitter announced a new policy that will prevent users from “lively” disclosing their whereabouts. Independent U.S. politics and policy writer Aaron Rupar’s (@atrupar) account was suspended, along with those of Times reporter Ryan Mac (@rmac18), CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan (@donie), and Mashable reporter Matt Binder (@MattBinder).
Jack Sweeney, the 20-year-old behind the @elonjet Twitter account, was recently interviewed by Mac, who also posted multiple threads about the account’s suspension. The New York Times issued a statement calling the suspensions “doubtful and disconcerting.
The Times and Ryan have heard no explanation for this. All of the journalists’ accounts should be restored, and Twitter should offer an adequate justification for their suspension.” According to a CNN statement, the network has contacted Twitter for an explanation of the bans and will to reconsider its partnership with the social media site once it receives it.
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