Twitter has suspended the accounts of several high-profile journalists, many of whom reported on Elon Musk’s controversial takeover of the company.
Journalists who have been suspended so far include CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, New York Times’ Ryan Mac, Mashable’s Matt Binder and The Intercept’s Micah Lee. The sudden purge of journalists appears to contradict Musk’s stated commitment to protecting free speech on Twitter.
“I was very puzzled. I thought people were trolling,” freelance journalist and former Vox reporter Aaron Rupar said, recounting when he started receiving messages from other reporters telling him he had been suspended. Overnight, Rupar lost access to its 790,000 subscribers. He said he received no warning before being expelled. “You basically have to conform to the day-to-day changing whims of the platform owner, that seems pretty unsustainable. It almost seems a little mean.
Several of the journalists who posted were suspended, including Rupar, had recently posted about the debate on Elonjet – a Twitter account that tracked the whereabouts of Musk’s private plane using publicly available flight data. Musk argued that the account endangered his physical safety and changed Twitter rules to prohibit the sharing of “live location information” in order to suspend the account. The 20-year-old Elonjet account owner argued that information about Elon Musk’s jets was already public – “If someone wanted to do something, they could do it without me”, said- he told the New York Times. Some journalists, like Rupar, had recently tweeted links to Muskjet’s alternative Facebook account.
Ella Irwin, Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter says Alex Heath of The Verge that Twitter “will suspend any accounts that violate our privacy policies and put other users at risk”, and that “we do not make exceptions to this policy for journalists or any other account”.
On Thursday night, Elon Musk responded to a tweet about former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann’s suspension and said he had given reporters a “7-day suspension for doxxing. A little time away from Twitter is good. for the soul Doxxing is a term used to describe when people post private information about other people online.
Musk recently tweeted that a “crazy stalker” followed a car carrying his young child, X, and jumped on the car’s hood. Musk said he was taking legal action against the 20-year-old Elonjet account owner for allegedly endangering his family’s safety.
Many journalists on Thursday night expressed concern over Twitter’s decisions. The move could prompt more journalists or the outlets they work for to quit Twitter and try using other platforms, such as Mastodon, Discord and Post.
“It’s very fishy,” said Washington Post tech columnist Taylor Lorenz, who said her account was not suspended in the wave, despite concerns from some of her followers. “I don’t understand how news outlets are going to continue to use this platform if they censor journalists.”
Both CNN and The New York Times sent statements to Recode condemning Twitter’s suspension of their journalist accounts and said they were demanding an explanation from the company.
“The impulsive and unjustified suspension of a number of journalists, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, is concerning but not surprising,” a CNN spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Twitter’s growing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern to anyone who uses Twitter. We have asked Twitter for an explanation and will reassess our relationship based on that response.
“Tonight’s suspension of the Twitter accounts of a number of prominent journalists, including Ryan Mac of The New York Times, is questionable and unfortunate. Neither The Times nor Ryan have received an explanation as to why this happened,” a New York Times spokesperson said in a written statement. “We hope that all journalists’ accounts will be restored and that Twitter will provide a satisfactory explanation for this action.”
Rupar said he tried to appeal his suspension from Twitter using the platform’s automated system to do so, but the link was broken.
“I think it’s a lesson in caution here for individual media and journalists. It’s good to branch out into other platforms. It will have a chilling effect on anyone who criticizes Elon.
Peter Kafka contributed reporting for this story.