Elon Musk’s decision to suddenly ban prominent tech journalists from Twitter has sparked a fierce backlash from lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Europe, the German Foreign Office tweeted expressed concerns about the impact Musk’s moves could have on press freedom, while a senior EU official said Twitter must abide by the bloc’s rules or face possible sanctions.
Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s Vice-President for Values and Transparency, said the “arbitrary suspension” of journalists was “worrying” and indicated that the company could face sanctions as a result.
“The EU Digital Services Act requires respect for media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced by our #MediaFreedomAct,” Jourová said in a post on Twitteradding that Musk “should be aware of that.”
“There are red lines,” she continued. “And soon sanctions.”
A United Nations spokesperson said it was “deeply alarmed by the arbitrary suspension” of journalist accounts on Twitter, warning that the company’s actions have set “a dangerous precedent” amid growing threats to press freedom around the world .
Jodie Ginsberg, chair of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the organization is “deeply troubled” by the move and called on Twitter for “immediate restoration of these reporters’ accounts”.
And numerous Democratic legislators across the United States held Musk accountable after his company Thursday evening suspended the accounts of several journalists who covered him, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, the New York Times’ Ryan Mac and independent journalist Aaron Rupar. .
New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she understood Musk’s feelings of vulnerability as a public figure, “but drifting into abuse of power + unpredictably banning journalists only increases the intensity around you.”
“Take a beat and fire proto-fascism,” she tweeted.
Massachusetts delegate Lori Trahan suggested that the suspensions directly contradicted assurances Twitter had given to its staff just hours earlier. “My team met @Twitter today,” Trahan tweeted Thursday night. “They told us that they will not retaliate against independent journalists or researchers who publish criticisms of the platform. Less than 12 hours later, multiple technology reporters have been suspended. What’s going on, @elonmusk?”
Thursday’s meeting with Twitter’s government affairs representative had been previously scheduled, Francis Grubar, a Trahan spokesman, said in response to concerns over academic researchers’ continued access to Twitter following layoffs at the company. The suspensions later that day “caught our attention right away,” Grubar told CNN in a statement.
Neither Musk nor Twitter responded to a request for comment Thursday evening, and the platform did not explain exactly why the journalists were banned from the platform.
Musk falsely claimed that the journalists violated his new “doxxing” policy by sharing his live location, which amounted to what he described as “killing coordinates”. CNN’s O’Sullivan did not share the billionaire’s live location.
Shortly before his suspension, O’Sullivan reported on Twitter that the social media company had suspended the account of an up-and-coming rival social media service, Mastodon, allowing the posting of @ElonJet, an account that posts the location of Musk’s private jet. .
Other reporters suspended Thursday had also recently written about the account.
European leaders previously said they were looking at how Musk’s acquisition of Twitter would affect the platform. Thierry Breton, a top EU official, warned Musk in late November that the social media platform must take important steps to comply with the bloc’s content moderation laws.
“Twitter will need to implement transparent user policies, significantly strengthen content moderation and protect free speech, take a firm stand on disinformation and limit targeted advertising,” Breton said at the time. “All this requires sufficient AI and human resources, both in terms of volume and skills. I look forward to progress in all of these areas and we will be on site to assess Twitter’s readiness.”
Musk did have some Democratic defenders. California Representative Ted Lieu suggested it was inappropriate for Congress to hold hearings on Musk’s handling of the suspended accounts because “it’s not the government’s role to tell Twitter who to ban, who to suspend, or who to should be promoted.” The First Amendment prevents Congress from regulating private company speech, he added.
But California Representative Ro Khanna, who has praised Musk for criticizing Twitter’s decision to suppress the New York Post’s 2020 Hunter Biden laptop story, told CNN: “It’s one thing to say you the first amendment, but when you’re one of the world’s leading innovators, you also have a certain responsibility, and I just don’t think it’s right for him. And I would tell him personally.”
– Chris Liakos, Oliver Darcy, Eve Brennan and Nadine Schmidt contributed reporting.