Elon Musk shut down the Twitter accounts of several journalists who covered the company

Elon Musk’s vaunted commitment to freedom of expression on Twitter appears to be crumbling after he suspended the accounts of several journalists who had written extensively about the tech company.

Mr Musk had accused journalists of revealing his “real-time location”. But the reporters – from news outlets like CNN and the New York Times – have denied the allegation.

Now the European Union and the United Nations have stepped in, warning Mr Musk against the “arbitrary” suspension of journalists with Twitter warnings he could face unspecified sanctions.

BBC Technology Editor Zoe Kleinman said the suspensions question how committed Mr Musk is to the idea of ​​free speech.

“Basically, Elon Musk has ignited his much-vaunted commitment to ‘free speech’.

“Freedom of speech, as long as it doesn’t upset him personally, seems to be the message,” she said.

Mr Musk bought Twitter for $66 billion ($44 billion) in October.

His latest Twitter drama began on Wednesday when an account called @ElonJet was suspended.

The account, created by Florida teenager Jack Sweeney, used publicly available information to tweet when Mr. Musk’s private jet was airborne. There was no information as to whether Mr Musk was on any of the flights.

Mr Sweeney’s account has been suspended, as have a number of other accounts tracking private jets owned by prominent figures.

Twitter then hastily changed its terms of service to state that it would ban users who shared live location information of others, apparently to justify the account bans retrospectively.

As CEO and owner of Twitter, Mr. Musk can decide who is on Twitter and who is not.

But the suspension appears to contradict various statements Mr Musk has made about free speech and Twitter.

In fact, he said in November his “commitment to freedom of expression extends even to not suspending the account that follows my plane, despite the fact that doing so poses a direct personal security risk.”

That feeling has changed.

People who want to know where Mr. Musk’s or other jets are can still do so – just on other websites and social media platforms. So the suspension of Twitter hasn’t prevented the location of Mr Musk’s jet from being available.

Musk mortal fear

Mr Musk has regularly said he fears for his life. In early December, he claimed the risk of his assassination was “quite substantial”.

“It’s not that hard to kill someone if you wanted to, so hopefully they don’t do it. There is definitely some risk there.”

On Wednesday, Mr Musk posted video of a man in a car in Los Angeles asking, “Does anyone recognize this person or this car?”

He claimed his son X was being stalked by a “crazy stalker (thinks it’s me)”. Mr Musk then referred to Mr Sweeney, but there was no evidence the person allegedly following the car with their child in the car had looked at the @ElonJet account.

Then Twitter suspended Donie O’Sullivan’s accounts from CNN. The New York Times‘ Ryan Mac ducks The Washington Post‘s Drew Harwell, among others, after reporting on the private jet Brouhaha.

On Thursday night, Mr Musk unexpectedly popped into an online Twitter Spaces forum where journalists were questioning him about the suspensions.

“Showing real-time information about someone’s location is inappropriate… you doxx, you’re going to be banned. End of the story.”

However, none of the suspended reporters had revealed the real-time location of Mr Musk or his jet. But they included links to the now-defunct @ElonJet account, and some articles included links to an aircraft tracking website.

After being pushed to further explain why he chose these journalists for the suspension, who have all written extensively about Mr. Musk and Twitter, the CEO left the chat and shortly thereafter the entire forum was deleted.

Mr Musk has since tweeted asking his followers when he should again ban “accounts that have doxxed my precise location in real-time.” Therefore, it seems likely that they will be reinstated.

Some have noted that Mr Musk seems to have different standards when it comes to his privacy and security and others.

For example, he appeared to have no qualms about sharing a picture of the man in the car, who he claimed is following his son, including personal information like the car’s license plate. Information that could be used to locate and target him.

However, the site Insider reported that Mr Musk had not filed a police report into the alleged stalking incident.

And over the weekend, Mr Musk highlighted a tweet about academic research by Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, which found some connection app users are underage.

Mr Roth has now said that following Mr Musk’s tweet and the release of files from his time at the company, he was forced to flee his home after receiving multiple threats, including baseless allegations that he was sympathetic to paedophilia.

EU, UN warn Musk

In a statement, CNN said: “The impulsive and unwarranted suspension of a number of reporters, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, is worrying but not surprising.

“Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of tremendous concern to anyone who uses Twitter.”

That Washington Post‘s Drew Harwell, one of the suspended journalists, said: “Elon says he is an advocate of free speech and forbids journalists from exercising free speech.

“I think that calls into question his commitment.”

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications Melissa Fleming said she was “deeply concerned” by the suspensions.

“Media freedom is not a toy. A free press is the cornerstone of democratic societies and a key tool in the fight against harmful disinformation.”

EU Values ​​and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova tweeted on Friday that Mr Musk could break the bloc’s rules.

“The EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect for media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced by our Freedom of the Media Act.

“Elon Musk should be aware of that. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon.”

Originally posted when Elon Musk warned Twitter could face sanctions after suspending journalists

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