WAR ON FREE WORDS: Twitter ban decisions are “arbitrary and capricious,” says digital rights advocate

Elon Musk’s recent behavior, such as banning an account tracking his private jet, shows that decisions behind Twitter bans are “entirely arbitrary and capricious,” a digital rights attorney told Fox News.

“My first reaction is that I think this is completely consistent with what we’ve seen over the last few weeks, which is that suspension and ban decisions are completely arbitrary and capricious,” said Corynne McSherry, the Electronic Frontier’s legal director Foundation, a digital rights group, told Fox News.

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On Wednesday, Musk suspended @ElonJet — a Twitter account that was tracking the CEO’s private jet — and the personal account of operator Jack Sweeney, a University of Central Florida student. Musk had previously said he would keep the account active to promote freedom of speech, but ultimately claimed it posed a threat to him and his family as it shared his real-time location.

Bans will “definitely keep happening,” McSherry said on Wednesday. Several journalists were suspended as of Thursday night, including CNN correspondent Donie O’Sullivan and New York Times reporter Ryan Mac.

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Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion in October, tweeted that the @ElonJet account was putting his son at risk and announced he would take legal action against Sweeney and other organizations supporting harm to his family.

“Elon Musk claims it’s about personal security, but I don’t find that claim credible because it’s publicly available data,” McSherry said.

Twitter is suspending several journalists after the platform suspended the @ElonJet account that Musk claims was removed due to personal security risks.
(Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto, Carina Johansen/NTB/AFP)

Musk defended his decision to ban the reporters during a Twitter Spaces chat Thursday night with several journalists, including suspended Washington Post reporter Drew Harrell. The Twitter boss left the chat after being asked if the platform was using the same tools he accused previous company executives of suppressing Hunter Biden’s laptop story.

“On the one hand, he and the company are exercising their First Amendment rights, which they are permitted to do,” McSherry said between the @elonjet and journalist suspensions. “On the other hand, I think it doesn’t square with some of the statements he made where he was very critical of content moderation.”

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Twitter and other social media platforms need to be clear “of what their standards for violence, harassment and safety are, and then follow those standards,” McSherry told Fox News.

“What this really highlights for everyone is something we’ve been concerned about for some time, which is that there is tremendous power over online speech concentrated in relatively few hands,” continued McSherry. “I think that’s dangerous for general language because it means they have so much power to shape language.”

According to McSherry, content moderation is very difficult, but social media platforms need to do better by establishing clearer and more consistent policies.

According to McSherry, content moderation is very difficult, but social media platforms need to do better by establishing clearer and more consistent policies.
(Getty Images)

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Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

To hear more from McSherry about the power social media executives have over online speaking, click here.

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