Musk lifts suspensions of journalists’ Twitter accounts

Episode 6 of the Twitter Files dropped yesterday, adding to the growing mountain of evidence that the FBI has been an active partner (if not a supervisor) of the social media platform for a number of years. But it happened in the middle of an ongoing firestorm that erupted after Elon Musk suspended the accounts of multiple journalists who linked to the account of a Florida college student who tracks the movements of Musk’s private jet. He asserted that not only the student, but the reporters tweeting links to the account were doxxing Musk and his family. 

The ongoing drama and the obvious disconnect between silencing reporters while claiming to be a champion of free speech had engulfed the news cycle for multiple days. 

Last night, Musk appeared to think better of his decision and lifted the suspensions.

Musk lifted the suspensions imposed on several journalists’ accounts on the platform earlier this week after participants in a poll he posted called for the accounts to be restored immediately.

“The people have spoken. Accounts who doxxed my location will have their suspension lifted now,” Musk tweeted early Saturday morning. 

The results of the poll showed about 59 percent of users who voted favored lifting the suspensions “now,” while about 41 percent said they should be lifted in seven days.

Most of the suspended accounts had been unlocked as of Saturday morning, but accounts for Keith Olbermann and Insider’s Linette Lopez were still suspended.

The lifting of the suspensions came after Musk received widespread backlash from commentators on both sides of the political aisle, some politicians and journalists over the accounts being blocked. 

Musk has emphasized that he aims to protect “free speech” on the platform, but some critics slammed him for hypocrisy after the journalists were suspended. 

Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) tweeted on Thursday that Musk had just told her team that the platform would not retaliate against journalists who published criticism of him on Twitter, shortly before the accounts were suspended. 

Musk has claimed that the journalists were providing personal information about his location that amounted to “assassination coordinates.” The reporters and commentators have said they were covering Twitter’s suspension of another account that tracked the location of Musk’s private jet using publicly available information. 

Musk had previously said he would not suspend that account shortly after he acquired Twitter. 

He said doxing and giving real-time information on someone’s location should not be considered protected free speech. But conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who has been mostly supportive of the changes Musk has made to the platform, said the suspended account was not doing those things. 

Shapiro tweeted that he is sympathetic to Musk wanting to stop doxing on Twitter, but doxing is generally giving someone’s specific current location, not speculating based on flight information available to the public.

Musk is apparently sticking with his previous theme of Vox populi, vox Dei when making such decisions. But the very public spat had already raised new questions about the direction he is taking the company in, even among some of his most staunch supporters.

On Thursday night, Musk briefly joined a Twitter Spaces call hosted by BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos. A number of reporters attempted to ask him some questions about the reason for the suspensions. But reading through the transcript of the call, it’s not hard to see why some of the participants described him as sounding “incoherent.”

“And ban evasion, or trying to be clever about it… like, oh, I posted a link to the real-time information is obviously a… that is obviously simply trying to evade the meaning. That is… it’s no different from paste… from actually sharing real-time information,” Musk said.

Even more bizarrely, after Musk dropped out of the call, he shut down the entire Twitter Spaces feature for everyone. He did restore the feature the next day, but it clearly appeared to be a decision regarding the company’s services that was made in a fit of pique.

I’ve already pitched in my two cents on the doxxing claims that Musk has been making over the past few days. None of it makes any sense. The account of the student in question is only posting air traffic information that is widely available to the public through any number of flight tracking apps. No proof has been offered that the stalker who jumped on the car carrying Musk’s child had ever even heard of that account. Further, we later learned that the attack on the car took place far away from the nearest airport and a full day after the last time Musk’s plane had been in the air. So the attacker could not have received any “real-time location” information about the car’s whereabouts from that Twitter account.

While I have absolutely no evidence to back this up, I’m going to suggest the possibility that some of the rash decisions Elon Musk has been making lately, particularly late at night, have been the result of him imbibing some recreational substances. These erratic actions, followed by retractions the next morning would seem to fit into that sort of pattern. Let’s not forget that the billionaire Twitter owner has never made any secret of the fact that he likes to party sometimes. You probably remember when he seemingly fired up a blunt on Joe Rogan’s show.

None of this adds up to the end of the world or even the end of Twitter as far as I’m concerned. But it’s clearly not a good look. Elon Musk has tremendous responsibilities riding on his shoulders as he oversees his several corporations. But he’s taken on an even more historic role with his attempts to expose government censorship and the suppression of free speech by the heavily biased Big Tech platforms. Acting out in this fashion makes Musk seem unserious and I hope he’ll buckle down now as we navigate these troubling waters.

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