Dec. 15 (Reuters) – Twitter on Thursday suspended the accounts of several prominent journalists who recently wrote about new owner Elon Musk, with the billionaire tweeting that rules prohibiting the publishing of personal information apply to everyone, including journalists.
Musk, who describes himself as a free-speech absolutist, responded to a tweet about the account suspensions: “The same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as they do to everyone else,” a reference to Twitter rules prohibiting the sharing of personal information . called doxxing.
Musk’s tweet referenced Twitter’s Wednesday suspension of @elonjet, an account that tracks his private jet in real time using data available in the public domain. Musk had threatened legal action against the operator of the account, saying his son had been accidentally followed by a “mad stalker”.
It was unclear whether all journalists whose accounts were suspended had commented on or shared news about @elonjet.
“Criticizing me all day is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not,” Musk tweeted Thursday.
He had tweeted last month that his commitment to free speech extended “even to not banning the account that tracks my plane, even though that is an immediate personal security risk.”
He tweeted on Thursday that there would be a seven-day suspension for doxxing, followed by a poll asking Twitter users to vote on when to restore doxxed accounts.
He then said he offered too many options in the poll and would do it again, after the results showed that about 43% voted to fix the bills “now” – the largest share for any option.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The suspensions reflect chaotic actions at Twitter since Musk took over, including quickly firing top management and thousands of employees, wobbling back and forth over how much to charge for Twitter’s subscription service Twitter Blue, and reinstating banned accounts, including those of former presidents. Donald Trump.
Twitter is now relying heavily on automation to moderate content, doing away with certain manual reviews and favoring restrictions on distribution rather than removing certain speech outright, its new head of trust and security, Ella Irwin, told this month Reuters.
‘DOUBTFUL AND UNHAPPY’
Among the journalist accounts suspended Thursday was that of Washington Post reporter Drew Harwell (@drewharwell), who wrote on the social media platform Mastodon that he had recently written about Musk and posted links to “publicly available, legally obtained data.”
Twitter has also suspended the official account of Mastodon (@joinmastodon), which has emerged as an alternative to Twitter. Mastodon was not immediately available for comment.
Sally Buzbee, the Post’s editor-in-chief, said Harwell’s suspension undermined Musk’s claims he intended to run Twitter as a free speech platform.
However, Harwell was able to speak late Thursday night in a conversation on Twitter spaces with fellow journalists, a conversation that Musk himself briefly dropped by.
“You dox, you get suspended. End of story,” Musk said in the chat as Harwell dismissed claims he revealed Musk’s real-time location, saying he just posted about @elonjet.
Twitter on Wednesday updated its policy prohibiting the sharing of “live location information.”
The accounts of Times reporter Ryan Mac (@rmac18), CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan (@donie) and Mashable reporter Matt Binder @MattBinder were also suspended, as were independent journalist Aaron Rupar (@atrupar), who reports from the US. policy and politics.
Mac recently posted a number of Twitter threads about @elonjet’s suspension and interviewed Jack Sweeney, the account’s 20-year-old administrator.
A spokesperson for The New York Times called the suspensions “questionable and unfortunate. Neither The Times nor Ryan have received any explanation as to why this happened. We hope that all of the journalists’ accounts are reinstated and that Twitter provides a satisfactory explanation for this action . .”
CNN said it had asked Twitter for an explanation of the suspensions and would reevaluate its relationship with the platform based on that response.
The other reporters were not immediately available for comment.
Reporting by Sheila Dang, Greg Bensinger, Katie Paul, Paresh Dave, Hyunjoo Jin, Costas Pitas, Maria Ponnezhath, Rhea Binoy, Abinaya V; Written by Sayantani Ghosh; Edited by William Mallard
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