Musk suspends journalists on Twitter and causes uproar

A self-proclaimed defender of freedom of expression, controversial billionaire Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, sparked protests on Friday and is threatened with EU sanctions for suspending the accounts of several American journalists.

Qualifying this decision as “worrying”, the vice president of the European Commission, Vera Jourova, recalled that there are “red lines” not to be crossed, threatening Elon Musk in a tweet “of sanctions, soon”.

“Freedom of the press should not be turned on and off at will,” the German Foreign Ministry denounced in a tweet on Friday, adding that “for this reason we have a problem with Twitter”.

For its part, 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”, calling for the “recovery of control before ( . . .) It’s not too late”.

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.

“Temporary Suspension”

Twitter did not say why those accounts were suspended or how long they 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 organized live on Twitter, 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 real-time location, literally the coordinates of the murder, 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.

“Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility is of particular concern to anyone using the platform. We have asked Twitter for an explanation and will re-evaluate our relationship based on that 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”

Earlier in this story, Elon Musk tweeted on Wednesday that a car in Los Angeles with one of his children had been followed by “a crazy stalker”, and it seemed to point to the tracking of his private jet as being the only one.

He 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 reached out to announce 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.

But it also suspended that of Kanye West after the publication of several messages considered anti-Semitic and refused the return to the platform of the far-right conspirator, Alex Jones.


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