Twitter on Thursday suspended the accounts of several prominent journalists who recently wrote about its new owner Elon Musk, with the billionaire tweeting that rules banning the publishing of personal information applied to all, including journalists.
Responding to a Tweet on the account suspensions, Musk tweeted: “Same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else,” a reference to Twitter rules banning the sharing of personal information, called doxxing.
Same doxxing rules apply to “journalists” as to everyone else
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 16, 2022
On Wednesday, Twitter suspended @elonjet, an account tracking Musk’s private jet in real-time using data available in the public domain. Musk had threatened legal action against the account’s operator, saying his son had been mistakenly followed by a “crazy stalker”.
Musk added on Thursday: “Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not.”
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Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The suspensions come after Musk has repeatedly vowed to uphold absolute free speech on the platform he bought for $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3.6 lakh crore) in October. He reinstated the account of former President Donald Trump, who had been suspended from Twitter over his actions surrounding the January 6, 2021, siege of the US Capitol.
“I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means,” Musk had tweeted in April.
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I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2022
After firing thousands of employees after Musk’s $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3.6 lakh crore) takeover in October, Twitter is operating with much-diminished staff. It is now leaning heavily on automation to moderate content, doing away with certain manual reviews and favouring restrictions on distribution rather than removing certain speech outright, its new head of trust and safety Ella Irwin told Reuters this month.
Twitter on Thursday showed “account suspended” notices for a clutch of journalists’ accounts. It also suspended the official account of the social media company Mastodon (@joinmastodon), which has emerged as an alternative to Twitter since Musk bought it.
Mastodon could not immediately be reached for comment.
The accounts of Times reporter Ryan Mac (@rmac18), Post reporter Drew Harwell (@drewharwell), CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan (@donie), and Mashable reporter Matt Binder @MattBinder were suspended. The account of independent journalist Aaron Rupar (@atrupar), who covers U.S. policy and politics, was also suspended.
A spokesperson for The New York Times said: “Tonight’s suspension of the Twitter accounts of a number of prominent journalists, including The New York Times’s Ryan Mac, is questionable and unfortunate. Neither The Times nor Ryan have received any explanation about why this occurred. We hope that all of the journalists’ accounts are reinstated and that Twitter provides a satisfying explanation for this action.”
CNN said “the impulsive and unjustified” suspensions were concerning but not surprising. The network said it had asked Twitter for an explanation and would reevaluate its relationship with the platform based on that response.
The other reporters could not immediately be reached for comment.