Several prominent journalists suspended from Twitter

Twitter announced a new policy regarding accounts that track the movements of people in real time. This led to the suspension of an account that tracked the movements of Elon Musk’s personal jet. The decision was prompted by a scary incident in which a stranger in a mask jumped on a car transporting Musk’s young son. Musk also threatened legal action against the college student who ran that account.

This evening a group of reporters had their accounts suspended. That group included some well known names.

Ryan Mac from The New York Times, Drew Harwell from The Washington Post, Donie O’Sullivan from CNN, Micah Lee from The Intercept, Matt Binder from Mashable, independent journalists Aaron Rupar and Tony Webster and political commentator Keith Olbermann all appear to have had their accounts suspended.

The series of suspensions came on the heels of Twitter’s decision to suspend Mastodon’s official account. The social media platform has arisen as a potential alternative Twitter in the wake of Musk’s chaotic takeover of the company.

Several of the suspended journalists had recently covered Musk’s dispute with Jack Sweeney, who ran a Twitter account that tracked the movements of the billionaire’s jet. That account was suspended on Tuesday, despite Musk’s vows not to ban it just weeks before. Sweeney’s personal account was also suspended.

In response to several tweets about the suspensions, Musk suggested that the journalists were removed for violating the platform’s rules against doxxing.

“Same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else,” he said, adding in a separate tweet, “Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not.”

The Times’s spokesman Charlie Stadtlander said in a statement that the suspension of Mac and the other journalists was “questionable and unfortunate.”

“Neither The Times nor Ryan have received any explanation about why this occurred,” Stadtlander said. “We hope that all of the journalists’ accounts are reinstated and that Twitter provides a satisfying explanation for this action.”

CNN said in a statement that the “impulsive and unjustified suspension” was “concerning but not surprising.”

“Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern for everyone who uses the platform,” the outlet said. “We have asked Twitter for an explanation, and we will reevaluate our relationship based on that response.”

Sally Buzbee, the Post’s executive editor, said the decision to suspend the paper’s technology reporter “directly undermines Elon Musk’s claim that he intends to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech.”

“Harwell was banished from Twitter without warning, process or explanation, following the publication of his accurate reporting about Musk,” Buzbee said in a statement. “Our journalist should be reinstated immediately.”

Musk, who acquired Twitter in late October for $44 billion, has previously described himself as a “free-speech absolutist” and pledged to return “free speech” to the platform by reining in the previous leadership’s content moderation policies. The billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla made a point to reinstate several previously banned accounts, including that of former President Trump, in his first few weeks atop the company.

So did all of these journalists actually do that? It’s impossible to tell at this point because their accounts are gone. Lord knows I won’t miss Keith Olberman or Matt Binder but they deserve an explanation for what led to this ban. Otherwise it looks like new Twitter is just making things up, no different than the previous version of Twitter. I’d like to see the specific tweet that got each account in trouble. That doesn’t seem too much to ask, especially when the accounts belong to journalists.

Of course it’s true that Twitter is a private company and Elon can do whatever he wants with it, including banning accounts that piss him off. But Musk’s whole rationale for buying Twitter in the first place to preserve free speech. We just went through five parts of the Twitter Files focused on the idea that free speech wasn’t happening at Twitter because the owners were shadowbanning accounts, etc.

I’m not sure what happened here so I’m not going to draw any final conclusions until we know more. But my reaction based on what we know so far is that these accounts probably deserve as much of a 2nd chance as many of the ones Musk brought back a few weeks ago.

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