Twitter on Thursday suspended the accounts of more than half a dozen journalists who had written about the company and its new owner, Elon Musk.
Silencing journalists on Twitter while he claims to be a free speech advocate is the latest controversy Musk has provoked since he took over the company, which has seen employees eviscerate and advertisers dwindle.
Some of the journalists had tweeted about the platform shutting down an @ElonJet account tracking flights of billionaire Musk’s private jet and versions of that account hosted on other social networks.
Twitter did not say why the reporters’ accounts were suspended.
“Nothing says freedom of speech like the suspension of journalists covering you,” said Sarah Reese Jones of news commentary website PoliticusUSA in a tweeted response to posts about the suspensions.
Checks on Twitter showed account suspensions, including reporters from CNN, the New York Times, Spirit The Washington Post as well as independent journalists.
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“The impulsive and unwarranted suspension of a number of reporters, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, is worrying but not surprising,” the news organization said in a tweet.
“Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern to anyone using the platform.”
CNN said it asked Twitter for an explanation of the suspension.
In a statement, The New York Times said it also wanted responses from Twitter regarding the “questionable” suspension of journalists.
“I have no idea what rules I allegedly broke,” independent journalist Aaron Rupar, whose account was suspended, wrote in a Substack post.
“I haven’t heard from Twitter at all.”
In a tweet late Thursday, Musk appeared to allude to the suspension of reporters’ accounts: “If anyone posted real-time locations and addresses of NYT reporters, the FBI would investigate, there would be hearings on Capitol Hill & Biden would give speeches about the end of democracy!”
Musk tweeted Wednesday that a Los Angeles car carrying one of his children was being followed by “a maniac stalker” and appeared to blame the pursuit of his jet for the alleged incident. In the tweet, he said legal action would be taken against the person running ElonJet.
The Twitter account that tracked flights from Musk’s private jet was shut down on Wednesday, despite the billionaire’s testimony that he was an outspoken supporter of free speech.
Twitter later said it had updated its policy to ban tweets from revealing a person’s real-time location in most cases.
Musk had gone public and said he would not touch @ElonJet after buying Twitter in a $44 billion deal as part of his commitment to freedom of expression on the platform.
Twitter has stumbled from one controversy to the next since Musk took control in late October.
The billionaire’s talk of free speech deterred major advertisers and caught the attention of regulators.
Musk has restored former US President Donald Trump’s account and fiercely campaigned against outgoing key adviser on the US response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Anthony Fauci, who is a frequent target of irritation in right-wing media.
CNN has reported that Twitter’s former head of trust and safety has fled his home following baseless attacks on the platform’s Musk-backed content moderation.
Meanwhile, a Musk-initiated purge at Twitter has left more than half of its 7,500 employees on the sidelines, and many of them are now taking the SpaceX and Tesla tycoon to court.
Musk once signaled he was going to war with Apple over the App Store, only to later tweet that it was a “misunderstanding.”
Market tracker Insider Intelligence predicts that Twitter will see an exodus of users.
“There will not be a catastrophic event that will end Twitter,” said Jasmine Enberg, an analyst at Insider Intelligence.
“Instead, users will abandon the platform over the next year as they become frustrated with technical issues and the proliferation of hateful or other objectionable content.”
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