Twitter has suspended the accounts of several high-profile journalists, many of whom reported on the controversial acquisition of the company by Elon Musk.
Journalists suspended so far include CNN’s Donny O’Sullivan, The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, The New York Times’ Ryan Mack, Mashable’s Matt Binder and The Intercept’s Micary Lee. The sudden purge of journalists seems to contradict Musk’s pledge to protect free speech on Twitter.
“I was so perplexed,” freelance journalist and former Vox reporter Aaron Ruper said when he began receiving messages from other journalists saying he had been suspended. Having lost access to his 790,000 followers, he said he received no warning before being kicked out: “Basically, you have to follow the ever-changing whims of the platform’s owners. It seems pretty unsustainable, it almost seems mean.
Several of the suspended journalists, including Ruper, recently posted about the debate over ElonJet, a Twitter account that used publicly available flight data to track the whereabouts of Musk’s private aircraft. Musk changed his Twitter rules to prohibit sharing “live location” to suspend the account, claiming the account was a threat to his physical safety. His 20-year-old account holder for Elonjet claimed that information about Elon Musk’s jet had already been made public. Some journalists, such as Rupar, recently tweeted Muskjet’s link to another of his Facebook accounts.
On Thursday night, Elon Musk responded to former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann’s tweet about his suspension, writing, “We have given the reporter a seven-day suspension for doxing. It’s good for people.” Doxing is a term used to describe posting someone else’s personal information online.
Musk recently tweeted that a “crazy stalker” chased a car carrying young child X and jumped on the hood of the car. Musk said he was taking legal action against his 20-year-old owner of the Elonjet account for endangering the safety of his family.
On Thursday night, a number of journalists expressed concern over Twitter’s decision. The move may encourage more reporters and media to leave Twitter and try to use other platforms such as Mastodon, Discord or Post.
As Washington Post tech columnist Taylor Lorenz puts it: “If the press censors journalists, I don’t understand how they continue to use this platform.”
Both CNN and The New York Times have sent statements to Recode, accusing Twitter of suspending the reporter’s account and demanding an explanation from the company.
“The impulsive and unjustified suspensions of many reporters, including CNN’s Donnie O’Sullivan, are worrying but not surprising,” a CNN spokesperson said in an email. “Twitter’s increased instability and volatility are of great concern to everyone who uses Twitter. We have sought clarification from Twitter and will reassess our relationship based on their response.
“It is suspicious and unfortunate that the Twitter accounts of a number of high-profile journalists, including Ryan Mack of The New York Times, have been suspended tonight. Neither the Times nor Ryan have received any explanation as to why this happened. “We hope that all journalists’ accounts will be reinstated and that Twitter will provide a satisfactory explanation for this behavior,” a New York Times spokesperson said in a statement.
Rupar said he tried to use the platform’s automated system to appeal Twitter’s suspension, but the link was broken.
“I think that’s the lesson here for outlets and individual journalists.
Peter Kafka contributed reporting for this article.