Twitter on Thursday evening banned the accounts of several high-profile journalists from major news organizations without explanation, apparently signaling a significant attempt by new owner Elon Musk to unilaterally wield his power over the platform.
Accounts belonging to CNN’s Donnie O’Sullivan, The New York Times’ Ryan Mack, The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, and other journalists who have covered Musk aggressively in recent weeks, have all been abruptly suspended permanently. Progressive freelance journalist Arun Ropar’s account was also banned.
Neither Musk nor Twitter responded to a request for comment Thursday evening, and the platform did not specifically explain why the journalists were being banished from the platform.
Musk falsely claimed that journalists violated his new “surveillance” policy by sharing his live location, which amounted to what he described as “assassination coordinates.” CNN’s Donnie O’Sullivan did not share the billionaire’s live location.
Shortly before his suspension, O’Sullivan reported on Twitter that the social media company had suspended the account of an emerging competitive social media service, Mastodon, which allowed ElonJet, an account publishing Musk’s updated website, to continue. Jet.
Other reporters who were suspended Thursday wrote about the account recently.
Doxxing refers to the practice of sharing someone’s home address or other personal information over the Internet. Instead, the banned account used publicly available flight data, which remains online and accessible, to track Musk’s plane.
The ban raises a number of questions about the future of the platform, which has been referred to as the digital city square. It also raised serious questions about Musk’s supposed commitment to free speech.
Musk has said repeatedly that he would like to allow all legal speech on the platform. In April, the same day he announced he was buying Twitter, he had tweeted: “I hope my worst critics stay on Twitter, because that’s what freedom of speech is all about.”
A CNN spokesperson said the company has asked Twitter for an explanation, and will “reassess our relationship based on this response.”
“The hasty and unwarranted comment by a number of reporters, including CNN’s Donnie O’Sullivan, is troubling but not surprising. The increasing instability and volatility of Twitter should be a major concern for everyone who uses Twitter,” the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for The New York Times called the mass ban “questionable and unfortunate”, adding: “Neither the Times nor Ryan have received any explanation as to why this happened. We hope that all journalists’ accounts will be restored and that Twitter will provide a satisfactory explanation for this action.”
“Elon says he’s a free speech advocate, and he bans journalists for exercising free speech,” Harwell told CNN on Thursday. “I think that calls into question his commitment.”
Robar, too, said he hadn’t heard “anything” from Twitter about the suspension.
Several organizations condemned Twitter’s decision, with the president of the American Civil Liberties Union saying, “It is impossible to reconcile Twitter’s aspirations for freedom of expression with the purge of accounts of critical journalists.”
The head of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) said in a statement that he was “concerned” about the suspensions, and that the move “affects all journalists.”
The @ElonJet account, which has amassed more than 500,000 followers, was permanently suspended Wednesday after Twitter introduced a set of new policies banning accounts that track people’s live locations. Musk also banned any account associated with Such information. Previously, there were no restrictions related to sharing location on Twitter.
The changes came after Musk reinstated previous rule-breaking work on Twitter and stopped enforcing the platform’s policies prohibiting misinformation about Covid-19.
“I think this is very important for the potentially apocalyptic effect this could have on freelance journalists and journalists around the world, particularly those who cover other Elon Musk companies, like Tesla and SpaceX,” O’Sullivan told CNN Thursday after his account. It was broken.
As outrage spreads over the account’s suspension, some Twitter users reported that the platform began to interfere when they tried to post links to their profiles on alternative social networks, including Mastodon.
Those reports were confirmed Thursday night by a CNN reporter who was banned from sharing the URL of a Mastodon profile and given an automated error message saying that Twitter or its partners had identified the site as “potentially malicious.”
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