Elon Musk Reopens Twitter Accounts of Suspended Journalists

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THIRD UPDATE Saturday, 6 :23 AM PT Elon Musk a few of the journalists has been reinstated Twitter All activities were suspended on Thursday

“The people have spoken. Accounts who doxxed my location will have their suspension lifted now,” Musk wrote on Twitter. Some of the reporters, including Drew Harwell of The Washington Post, have pointed out that they were not “doxxing” Musk but reporting on an ongoing dispute between the Twitter owner and the author of @ElonJet, which shared information about the movements of Musk’s private jet based in publicly available FAA data.

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Others were not reporting on this story, or linking to an @ElonJet Twitter account that was set up at Mastodon. Linette Lopez a columnist at Business Insider who has been critical of Musk’s business. On MSNBC on Friday, Lopez said that she believes she was suspended because she has reported on a lawsuit in which Musk was accused of “doxxing” someone and “Elon didn’t want people to see him as a hypocrite.”

In announcing the reinstatement, Musk cited the results of an online poll he took asking whether to reinstate the accounts “now” or “in 7 days.”

Among the accounts restored were those of Harwell, CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, The New York Times’ Ryan Mac. Voice of America’s Steve Herman and journalist Aaron Rupar. The accounts of Keith Olbermann Lopez.

On MSNBC, Lopez said, “Elon has always been this way. He was always doingxxing people. He was always silencing his critics.”

SECOND UPDATE: Friday, 06:50 PT: An official at the EU has weighed in on Elon Musk’s move to suspend journalists who have covered him and Twitter.

Vera Jourova is vice president for values and transparency at EU. She warned against sanctions.

She wrote on Twitter, “News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying. EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is further reinforced by our #MediaFreedomAct. @elonmusk You should be aware. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon.”

Melissa Fleming, who leads global communications for the United Nations, wrote, “Deeply disturbed by reports of journalists being arbitrarily suspended from Twitter. Media freedom isn’t a luxury. A free press is the cornerstone of democratic societies and a key tool in the fight against harmful disinformation.”

Musk asserts that sharing personal tracking data for his private jet was a threat to his safety and that of his family. Some of the journalists suspended had covered Musk’s move to suspend the account @ElonJet and that of the author, who used publicly available flight data.

Names of other journalists have been removed from their accounts, along with those of outlets such as CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. Steve Herman was the chief national correspondent at Voice of America, a U.S. government-funded news source. His account was also taken down. He has been known for his straightforward news updates and had posted the group Accountable Tech’s critical reaction to Musk’s decision.

FIRST UPDATE: Thursday, 9:30 PM PST: Elon Musk weighed in on Twitter’s suspension of journalists who reported on his dispute with a user who covered his private jet travel, claiming that the reporters posted “my exact real-time location, basically assassination coordinates.”

“You doxx, you get suspended, end of story,” Musk said in a Twitter Spaces conversation with journalists on Thursday.

But one of the journalists who was suspended, Drew Harwell of The Washington Post, told Musk, “You are suggesting that we’re sharing your address, which is not true.” He said that they posted a link to @ElonJet, the account that had used publicly available data to report on movement of Musk’s private aircraft. He also noted that @ElonJet was now blocked on Twitter.

“We have to acknowledge you are using the same exact link-blocking technique that you have criticized as part of the Hunter Biden-New York Post story in 2020,” Harwell said.

“You doxx, you get suspended,” Musk said, before then leaving the conversation.

Musk has recently implemented a policy that restricts accounts that post real time tracking data. This was in response to his anger with @ElonJet. Musk had previously suggested that he would allow it to continue on the platform as he was a free-speech absolutist.

Journalist Aaron Rupar, who got a note that his account was permanently suspended, wrote in a Substack post that he had “no idea what rules I purportedly broke.” He said that he published a newsletter on Wednesday featuring an article about Musk’s “reactionary populism” and also tweeted that Musk himself “seemed to violate Twitter’s policy against posting footage of someone without their consent.”

Twitter’s action drew a chorus of criticism, not just CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post, which employ some of the suspended journalists, but from lawmakers.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) wrote directly to Musk on Twitter, “You’re a public figure. A controversial and powerful one. Although I feel unsafe, descending into abuse and banning journalists only adds to the anxiety. Let’s take a break from proto-fascism. Maybe try putting down your phone.”

Musk posted a poll asking users when they should suspend their accounts. When the respond “Now” was the top choice, Musk then wrote, “Sorry too many options. Will redo poll.”

PREVIOUSLY, 6:15 PM: Twitter suspended accounts of many journalists, including those from CNN, Washington Post and New York Times. Keith Olbermann was also suspended. All had previously covered Elon Musk.

The news began percolating this evening as the Twitter accounts of the journalists got the “Account Suspended” treatment on their feeds.

The following people have had their access blocked to social media sites: Washington Post‘s Drew Harwell, the New York Times‘ Ryan Mac, CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, The Intercept’s Micha Lee, Mashable’s Matt Binder and independent journalists Tony Webster and Aaron Rupar. Olbermann’s account was also suspended, with his last tweet captured by other Twitter users showing him working to support Rupar and other reporters.

Tonight, the Twitter account of Mastodon, a rival social media platform, was also suspended.

According to the Washington PostHarwell is a technology journalist at ET. Around 7:30 p.m., the accounts went offline. ET. The Post said most of the journalists impacted had recently covered Musk’s dispute with a Twitter user who tracked Musk’s private jet travel.

@ElonJet, run by Florida college student Jack Sweeney, used publicly available flight tracking to inform followers of the location of Musk’s Gulfstream jet. Sweeney stated that @ElonJet was suspended on Wednesday by Twitter and that his own account was followed today.

The above info was reported among others by the now-suspended O’Sullivan, a CNN correspondent covering the intersection of politics and technology.

“The impulsive and unjustified suspension of a number of reporters, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, is concerning but not surprising,” a CNN spokesperson said tonight. “Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern for everyone who uses Twitter. We have asked Twitter for an explanation, and we will reevaluate our relationship based on that response.”

Added the New York Times‘ external communications director Charlie Stadtlander: “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. Ryan and The Times did not receive any explanation about the circumstances. We hope that all of the journalists’ accounts are reinstated and that Twitter provides a satisfying explanation for this action.”

Sally Buzbee, the executive editor of The Washington Post, said, “The suspension of Drew Harwell’s Twitter account directly undermines Elon Musk’s claim that he intends to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech. Following the publication of his accurate reporting regarding Musk, Harwell was removed from Twitter without any explanation, process, or warning. Our journalist should be reinstated immediately.”

Rupar confirmed the suspension tonight on his Substack pageHe also included a screenshot of Twitter showing that his account was permanently suspended. “I have no idea what rules I purportedly broke,” he wrote. “I haven’t heard anything from Twitter at all.”

In a response to a tweet critical of the suspensions, Musk wrote, “Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not.”

The trending topic “Thursday Night Massacre” emerged as the suspensions came to light. Musk has not commented directly on the matter on his Twitter account.

At a D.C. event of FCC commissioners and telecom professionals, Commissioner Brendan Carr, who has been outspoken about free speech on platforms, said that he was not familiar with the circumstances of the suspensions, but told Deadline, “One person should not get to decide who participates in the digital town square.”

Carr was critical of Twitter’s past decisions to sanction Donald Trump and other voices on the right, but he tweeted just on Wednesday, “There is no single person that should have carte blanche to determine the ideas that can be discussed in the digital town square. That is why Congress should pass pro-speech reforms that prohibit discrimination by Big Tech based on political, religious, or scientific viewpoints.”

Erik Pedersen contributed to the report.

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