Twitter suspended the accounts of over a half dozen journalists who cover Elon Musk for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other prominent outlets, prompting an immediate backlash from politicians and public figures across the political spectrum.
After suspending the journalists’ accounts without warning on Thursday, Musk told reporters in a Twitter Spaces interview that the accounts were banned because they shared real-time location information, a clear reference to accounts that track the planes of celebrities like Musk.
Democratic Massachusetts lawmaker Lori Trahan, who serves on the House committee that deals with the internet and electronic communications, has expressed concern over the bans.
Trahan announced on Thursday that his team had spoken with Twitter representatives earlier that day. They assured us that no journalists or academics working independently would face any consequences for publishing criticisms of the platform.
“It has been less than 12 hours, but already several technology reporters have been put on indefinite administrative leave. The world needs to know, @elonmusk.” she elaborated
New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has 13.4 million Twitter followers and has spoken out about death threats, has been vocal in her opposition to the suspension of media outlets’ accounts.
“You have significant visibility in the media. A highly divisive and influential argument, “This is what Ocasio-Cortez has said. Feeling unsafe is understandable, but resorting to power abuse and randomly banning journalists will only make things tenser.
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Famous journalists like Ryan Mac of the New York Times and Drew Harwell of the Washington Post were among those banned from Twitter late last night.
The journalists’ accounts were suspended ostensibly because of their coverage of @ElonJet, an account run by 20-year-old Jack Sweeney that published the publicized location of Elon Musk’s private jet. Before this week, after an apparently unrelated alleged stalking incident, Musk had said that his commitment to free speech would prevent him from ever suspending or banning @ElonJet.
Musk tweeted last night that the suspended accounts “posted my exact real-time location, basically assassination coordinates,” implying that the jet tracker or the journalists who were discussing it had put his life in danger.
Twitter changed its policy on doxxing on Wednesday to include “real-time location info.” Katie Notopoulos, a reporter for BuzzFeed, hosted a live audio chat in which he made a brief appearance. At one point in that conversation, he accused Harwell, one of the suspended journalists, of tweeting out his home address.
Harwell, who was able to take part in the Space despite his suspension—possibly due to a technical glitch—denied this, saying that he had only linked to @ElonJet while discussing it in a journalistic capacity and had never mentioned Musk’s address. (If it weren’t a journalist and a well-known billionaire having this discussion, it would be a dull argument about moderation.)
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Musk tweeted, “Same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as it does to everyone else.” This was in reference to the restrictions on reporters.
He elaborated, “Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not.”
Doxxing is the practice of revealing someone else’s private information, such as their name, address, phone number, or other identifying information, online without their consent.
After the publication of fair reporting about Musk, technology reporter Drew Harwell “was banished without warning, process, or explanation,” according to the Washington Post’s executive editor, Sally Buzbee.
In a statement, CNN expressed concern over the “impulsive and unjustified suspension of a number of reporters, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, but not much surprise.”
The statement went on to say that Twitter users should be “extremely concerned” about the platform’s “increasing instability and volatility.
Matt Binder, a journalist for the technology news site Mashable who was also banned, said he was banned on Thursday night after sharing a screenshot of a post by O’Sullivan, who had previously been banned.
The LAPD sent a statement about its communication with Musk’s representatives regarding the alleged stalking incident to multiple media outlets on Thursday morning, including the AP, as shown in the screenshot.
A brief appearance by the billionaire in a Twitter Spaces audio chat hosted by journalists quickly devolved into a contentious debate over whether or not the suspended journalists had actually exposed Musk’s real-time location in violation of the policy.
“You will be expelled from school if you do. There is no further development in this plot “What Musk kept saying in response to the same question. When someone’s private information is made public, it is called “doxing,” and the motivation behind it is usually malicious.
One of the suspended journalists who were able to participate in the audio chat, Drew Harwell of the Washington Post, denied rumors that he had revealed Musk’s or his family’s precise location by sharing an ElonJet link. BuzzFeed’s Katie Notopoulos, who moderated the Spaces chat, tweeted soon after that the audio had been cut off unexpectedly and the recording was unavailable.