Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, caused protests on Friday for having suspended the accounts of several American journalists and is threatened with sanctions by the European Union, while the UN denounced “a dangerous precedent”.
The United Nations has vigorously denounced the suspension of these Twitter accounts by Elon Musk, who, however, is a self-proclaimed defender of freedom of expression.
“The decision sets a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists everywhere face censorship, physical threats and worse,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova recalled there were “red lines” not to be crossed, threatening Elon Musk “with sanctions, soon” in a tweet.
A dozen American journalists were suspended from the social network. Among them are media workers such as CNN (Donie O’Sullivan), the New York Times (Ryan Mac), the Washington Post (Drew Harwell) and independent journalists.
Some tweeted about Twitter’s decision on Wednesday to suspend the account that automatically reported Elon Musk’s private jet trips.
The latter accused them of putting his safety and that of his family at risk. He claimed in a tweet on Wednesday that a vehicle with one of his children aboard was tracked in Los Angeles by “a crazed stalker”, appearing to create a causal link with the real-time positioning of his jet.
The organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called for the accounts of the journalists concerned to be reinstated, considering that “the arbitrariness of the major platforms” represented a “great danger to democracy”.
– “Temporary Suspension” –
Twitter did not say why those accounts were suspended. The owner of the social network, the source of many controversies since he bought it in October, nevertheless gave some indications.
“Everyone will be treated equally,” he said in an audio conversation hosted live on Twitter on Friday, indicating that there would be no privileges for journalists. Relaunched on the matter, Musk left the discussion. He then disabled the Twitter Spaces audio chat service, citing a “technical issue”.
In a tweet posted overnight Thursday to Friday, Musk announced a temporary 7-day suspension for “accounts involved in doxing”.
The term “doxing” means publicly disclosing personal information about an individual on the Internet without their consent.
“They posted my exact location in real time, literally the coordinates of an assassination, in direct (and obvious) violation of Twitter’s terms of service,” Musk said.
Mastodon’s Twitter account, a competitor to the social network, was also suspended.
“The impulsive and unwarranted suspension of several reporters such as CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan is disturbing but not surprising,” CNN said in a statement.
“We have asked Twitter for an explanation and will re-evaluate our relationship based on this response,” CNN added.
“We hope that the accounts of all these journalists will be restored and that Twitter will provide a satisfactory explanation,” said New York Times spokesman Charlie Stadtlander.
– “Stalker” –
After the tracked vehicle incident, which included his son, Mr. Musk announced in this tweet that he would be suing the person behind the now-suspended @ElonJet account.
Created by a student and followed by around 500,000 people, @ElonJet used public data to automatically indicate when and where the SpaceX and Tesla boss’s device took off and landed.
Twitter later communicated that its policy now banned most tweets that showed someone’s real-time location.
When he reached the top of Twitter, Elon Musk had promised not to mess with the @ElonJet account.
Since taking over the platform for $44 billion, the billionaire has sent mixed messages about what is and isn’t allowed on it.
A fervent defender of great freedom of expression – as long as the lines respect the law – he restored accounts previously banned by the social network, including that of Donald Trump.