Twitter suspends journalists who have reported on Elon Musk and the company

Twitter on Thursday evening suddenly suspended several high-profile journalists covering the platform and Elon Musk, one of the richest people in the world, who took over the company just a few months ago.

Hours after the suspensions went into effect, Musk took on one of the journalists he had suspended in a Twitter Space audio discussion to an audience of more than 30,000 listeners. The suspended journalist, along with several others, found a back door to the platform through the website’s audio function.

“You doxx, you will be suspended. End of story. That’s it,” Musk said, explaining his latest policy to the group, before leaving minutes after joining the discussion.

Musk was referring to Twitter’s latest rule change about accounts following private jets, including one owned by Musk himself, which went into effect Wednesday.

The reports from Ryan Mac of The New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan of CNN, Drew Harwell of The Washington Post, Matt Binder of Mashable, Micah Lee of The Intercept, Voice of America’s Steve Herman and independent journalists Aaron Rupar, Keith Olbermann and Tony Webster were all suspended from Thursday evening.

Mastodon’s Twitter account, a platform billed as a Twitter alternative, was also suspended early Thursday evening. Twitter accounts controlled by NBC News journalists were unable to tweet links to Mastodon pages. However, Mastodon was trending on Twitter.

Musk said the suspensions were a result of the platform’s new rules banning private jet trackers, responding to a tweet from Mike Solana, a vice president of venture capital firm Founders Fund, who noted that the suspended accounts had links to jet placed trackers on other websites.

“Criticizing me all day is fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not,” he said in another tweet.

Musk tweeted that the accounts banned Thursday posted “my exact real-time location, in fact murder coordinates, in (clear) direct violation of Twitter’s terms of service.” NBC News was unable to verify that claim.

Musk added later that the suspensions would last seven days.

In early November, shortly after he took control of Twitter, Musk tweeted that he wouldn’t ban the account that tracked his jet.

The latest news about Elon Musk and Twitter

Rupar wrote on Substack that his account was permanently suspended, but he had no other information.

“I haven’t heard from Twitter at all,” he wrote.

He noted that on Wednesday he tweeted a link to a Facebook page tracking Musk’s jet.

Binder, a technical reporter at Mashable, said he was suspended after tweeting a screenshot from another suspended reporter, CNN’s O’Sullivan, of a statement from the Los Angeles Police Department.

“I’ve been at it since 2008. I’ve never had a tap on my wrist because I always play by the rules,” said Binder. “It’s not hard to do if you know the rules.”

Binder said his account had informed him that he was permanently suspended.

“These are exactly the things he criticized last Twitter for,” Binder said of Musk.

Binder seemed to find a loophole in Twitter’s suspension and took part in an audio discussion on Twitter’s Spaces feature with other journalists Thursday night. Harwell later joined as well.

“I am breaking the law in ways that have never been broken before,” Binder joked.

Jack Sweeney, a 20-year-old Florida student who created the Twitter account used to track Musk’s jet, was also able to participate in the discussion despite his account being suspended.

Musk joined the discussion later, but briefly – he outlined his talking points and then abruptly left. He had previously set up a poll with several options, asking if and when he should restore the journalists’ accounts. When a multitude of respondents voted to restore the accounts immediately, he deleted the poll and started a new one with fewer options.

O’Sullivan said on Thursday that all those journalists who were suspended along with him are people reporting on Musk.

“As we saw with the jet tracker last night, it seems Musk is just deleting accounts he doesn’t like,” O’Sullivan said on CNN.

A spokesperson for the network said the suspensions were “impulsive and unjustified,” but not surprising.

“Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern to anyone using Twitter,” the network said in a statement. “We have asked Twitter for an explanation and we will re-evaluate our relationship based on that response.”

Sally Buzbee, the executive editor of The Washington Post, said Harwell’s suspension “directly undermines Elon Musk’s claim that he intends to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech.”

Harwell was “banned from Twitter without warning, trial or explanation, following the publication of his accurate reporting on Musk” and should be immediately reinstated, Buzbee said in a statement Thursday night.

A spokesman for The New York Times, who called the suspensions questionable and unfortunate, said no explanation had been given to Mac or the newspaper about the ban.

Representative Lori Trahan, D-Mass., tweeted that on Thursday she met with Twitter representatives, who said the company would not take action against journalists critical of the platform.

“Less than 12 hours later, multiple technology reporters have been suspended. What’s the deal, @Elon MuskTrahan added.

Musk has gone back on his promise that he would run Twitter as a free-speech absolutist, reinstating accounts associated with the QAnon movement and other far-right groups while banning others.

Internally, he has removed critics of his policies from the company.

The suspensions add to what has been a tumultuous few days for Twitter after it first suspended the account tracking Musk’s jet.

Musk appeared to be threatening legal action against Sweeney, the creator of the @ElonJet account, after he claimed a “stalker” confronted a car carrying his child in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Musk provided no evidence that Sweeney or his account was involved. He did not provide a time or location in the sprawling metropolitan area where he claimed the incident took place.

Sweeney told NBC News on Wednesday that he hasn’t received any notice of legal action and that the last time his bot tweeted anything was Monday, “which isn’t last night, so I don’t see how that relates.”

The Los Angeles Police Department said Thursday that no police reports had been filed.

“The LAPD’s Threat Management Unit is aware of the situation and Elon Musk’s tweet and is in contact with his representatives and security team. No crime reports have been filed yet,” Officer Lizeth Lomeli, a police spokesman, said in a statement Thursday evening.

Other law enforcement divisions also cover parts of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

CORRECTION (Friday, December 16, 12:30 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of a Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson. She is Lizeth Lomeli, not Loeni.

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