Twitter has suspended the accounts of several prominent journalists, who report on the social media platform and its new owner Elon Musk. The entrepreneur later joined a Twitter Space discussion on the suspensions, where he sought to explain that accounts would get suspended for doxxing – a practice where private or identifying information is searched for and then published online, typically with malicious intent.
Musk was pointing to the new rule change at Twitter that bars the sharing of personal information, including accounts tracking his private jet in real time using data available in the public domain.
It all started with the suspension of the account @elonjet which tracks Musk’s private jet, prompting Twitter to suspend the account with Musk threatening legal action against the account’s operator. Several journalists then had their accounts suspended too. The accounts of CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, Ryan Mac of the New York Times, Drew Harwell of The Washington Post, Steve Herman of Voice of America and several prominent independent journalists including Aaron Rupar were all suspended on Thursday with Musk seeking to defend the moves in this Twitter Spaces discussion.
“As I’m sure everyone who has been doxxed would agree, you know, sharing real time information about somebody’s location is inappropriate, and I think everyone on this call would not like that to be done to them. And there is not going to be any distinction in the future between journalists, local journalists and regular people. Everyone is going to be treated the same. They’re not special because they’re a journalist. You’re a tweeter, you’re a citizen. So no special treatment. You doxx, you get suspended -end of story,” Musk stated on the Twitter Spaces chat.
Same doxxing rules apply to “journalists” as to everyone else
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 16, 2022
Musk, who describes himself as a free-speech absolutist, earlier tweeted that these journalists posted his exact real-time location, referring to them as “assassination co-ordinates” in direct violation of Twitter’s terms of service. The claim could not be independently verified.
Suspended Journo Drew Harwell was also on the Spaces chat in with Musk.
The suspensions are part of a broader chaotic few months with Musk at the Twitter helm which has seen scores of employees depart the social media company, the reinstatement of banned accounts and a confusing rollout of its subscription service Twitter Blue.
Managing Director of Wedbush Securities, Daniel Ives, criticises the manner in which Elon Musk is managing Twitter.
“The problem is that Musk is trying to handle Twitter the way he has SpaceX and Tesla, and it’s a much different animal: social media, long established history, culturally within San Francisco. I think Musk is definitely not doing any candlelight dinners and ping pong in the Twitter cafeteria and that’s a big problem, because employee morale suffers and you need engineers and developers to ultimately maintain the Twitter platform,” comments Ives who concludes by saying there are some dark days ahead for Musk.
The suspended journalists have argued that they posted links to publicly available, legally acquired data. The New York Times referred to the suspensions as questionable and unfortunate while CNN said it had asked Twitter for an explanation and would re-evaluate its relationship with the platform based on that response.