SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter suspended the accounts of about half a dozen prominent journalists on Thursday, the social media service’s latest change under its new owner Elon Musk.
Accounts suspended included Ryan Mac of The New York Times; Washington Post’s Drew Harwell; Aaron Rupar, an independent journalist; CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan; Mashable’s Matt Binder; Tony Webster, an independent journalist; Micah Lee from The Intercept; and political journalist Keith Olbermann. It was unclear what the suspensions had in common; Each user’s Twitter page contained a message stating that accounts “violating the Twitter Rules” were being banned.
The moves came a day after Twitter suspended more than 25 accounts tracking government agency planes, billionaires and high-profile individuals, including Mr Musk’s. Many of the accounts were run by Jack Sweeney, a 20-year-old college student and flight-tracking enthusiast who had used Twitter to share updates on the whereabouts of Mr. Musk’s private plane with publicly available information.
Last month Mr. Musk had said he would allow the account tracking his private plane to remain on Twitter, although he said it posed a security threat. “My commitment to freedom of expression extends even to not suspending the account after my plane, even though it poses a direct personal security risk,” he tweeted at the time.
But he changed his mind this week after claiming a car one of his sons was traveling in was approached by a “crazy stalker”. On Wednesday Mr. musk tweeted Any account that has posted “someone’s real-time location information” will be banned as a physical security breach. This includes posting links to websites with real-time location information.”
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Some of the journalists whose accounts were suspended had written about or tweeted about the accounts tracking the private planes. Some have also written articles promoting Mr. Musk and his ownership of Twitter. Many of them had tens of thousands of followers on the platform.
Mister. Musk didn’t respond to a request for comment, and Twitter didn’t respond to an email requesting comment. In a tweet, Mr. Musk said the Twitter rules on “doxxing” — which refers to the sharing of an individual’s personal documents, including information such as their address — “apply to ‘journalists’ as well as anyone else.” He didn’t elaborate.
“Today’s suspension of the Twitter accounts of a number of prominent journalists, including Ryan Mac of The New York Times, is questionable and unfortunate,” said Times spokesman Charlie Stadtlander. “Neither The Times nor Ryan have been given an explanation as to why this happened. We hope that all journalists’ accounts will be recovered and that Twitter will provide a satisfactory explanation for this action.”
A representative for The Post did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Kristine Coratti Kelly, a CNN spokeswoman, said the lockdowns are “worrying but not surprising” and that “Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern to anyone who uses it.” In an appearance on CNN after his account was suspended, Mr. O’Sullivan said Twitter’s actions could intimidate journalists covering companies that Mr. Musk.
“I was disappointed to see that I was suspended from Twitter without explanation,” Mr. Webster, whose account was suspended, said in an emailed comment. He added that he tweeted via the Twitter account that had Mr. Musk’s private plane before his suspension.
Mister. Binder, the Mashable journalist, said he did not break Mr. Musk’s listed policies.
Following his suspension from Twitter, Mr. Sweeney has turned to Mastodon, an alternative social network. After Mastodon used Twitter to get Mr. Sweeney’s new account on Thursday, Twitter suspended Mastodon’s account. When some journalists shared the news of Mastodon’s suspension, their own accounts were suspended.
Mister. Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion in October, had said his acquisition would expand freedom of expression on the platform and allow more people to participate in public conversations. In recent weeks, he has allowed some suspended users to return to the platform, including former President Donald J. Trump, who was banned from his account after January 19. February 6, 2021, riots on Capitol Hill.
Mister. Musk said in October that he would form a council to advise him on policy matters before making changes to the company’s content moderation policy. The council did not take place. This week Mr. Musk disbanded a trust and safety advisory group that had advised Twitter on sensitive issues such as child molestation and exploitation.
“I hope even my worst critics stay on Twitter because that means freedom of speech,” Mr Musk tweeted in April, shortly after announcing his intention to buy the company.