Yesterday, Twitter banned several accounts that tracked the locations of private jets – including that belonging to owner and CEO Elon Musk – and updated its Private Information Policy. Now, the popular micro-blogging site has controversially suspended accounts of several noted journalists who reported on Twitter and Musk without any explanation or warning whatsoever.
The latest ban on accounts in the Musk “Free Speech” era includes Ryan Mac of The New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan of CNN, American sports and political commentator Keith Olbermann, The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, The Intercept’s Micha Lee, Mashable’s Matt Binder, as well as independent journalists Aaron Rupar and Tony Webster. Several of these journalists have been known to cover Musk, and the last tweets/stores of several of these accounts were on Twitter’s suspension of accounts that tracked private jets using publicly available flight data.
Ryan Mac later tweeted from a new account that he had received no warning from the company prior to the suspension of his account, as well as no reason why his account had earned a permanent suspension. Rupar’s words echoed similar tones, and he added that he had posted a tweet (before he was suspended) that “the ElonJet account that was suspended from Twitter was still active on Facebook, with a link to the Facebook page.” Matt Binder found himself suspended after he doubted Musk’s claim of a “crazy stalker.”
The suspension of the accounts closely follows Twitter’s move to suspend the Twitter account of Mastodon, an open-source software that offers Twitter-like microblogging features and which has been soaring in popularity ever since Musk took over. The ban against Mastodon’s Twitter account came after it tweeted a link to @ElonJet on its own service, and Twitter followed that by marking links to Mastodon as “potentially harmful.” One of Harwell’s last posts prior to his suspension had been about the suspension of Mastodon’s Twitter account.
This was The Washington Post's @drewharwell's post before he was suspended from Twitter, outlining how Twitter suspended the account of its competitor Mastodon earlier today. pic.twitter.com/Vc8QuwHXZE
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) December 16, 2022
“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,” said Charlie Stadtlander, a spokesperson for the New York Times, in a statement. “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.”
“The impulsive and unjustified suspensions of a number of reporters, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, is concerning but not surprising,” CNN said in a statement that was posted on Twitter. “Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern to everyone who uses the platform. We have asked Twitter for an explanation.” It added that it would re-evaluate its relationship with the social media major based on its response.
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) December 16, 2022
“Without commenting on any specific accounts, I can confirm that we will suspend any accounts that violate our privacy policies and put other users at risk,” said Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of trust and safety. “We don’t make exceptions to this policy for journalists or any other accounts.” Musk further indicated that the suspended accounts violated Twitter’s doxxing rules, which “apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else.”
so far, i’ve been able to confirm about half the accounts suspended posted links to the jet tracker thing in violation of the new doxx’ing policy. unclear just yet about the rest, but i think it’s safe to say the rule is for real. https://t.co/8MDCG19kNO
— Mike Solana (@micsolana) December 16, 2022
Is this Musk’s vision of free speech on the platform, where he suspends the accounts of those who cover developments related to the billionaire and his actions with Twitter? Musk had earlier indicated that he would leave the @ElonJet account be as he turned Twitter into a hub for “healthy, functioning” free speech – and now follows it up by silencing his critics and journalists who report on Twitter and Elon “free speech absolutist” Musk alike. If being critical of the billionaire or reporting on him as a journalist earns an individual the boot from Twitter, then it is an instance of Musk’s interesting interpretation of what free speech is.