A number of eminent journalists who reported on Twitter and its new chief executive, Elon Musk, appear to have been suspended or banned from the platform.
In a series of evening tweets, Musk wrote that sharing his real-time location on Twitter was banned and accused reporters he said had shared information about his location of posting “assassination coordinates”.
The accounts of technical reporters from CNN, The Washington Post, Mashable and The New York Times were suspended in quick succession Thursday night. All had recently posted about Musk’s suspension of a Twitter account that had shared publicly available data about the movements of his private jet. Each of those posts had highlighted the tension between Musk’s stated commitment to “free speech” and his choice to ban an account he personally disliked.
The Twitter account of rival social media company Mastodon – which some Twitter users migrated to after Musk took over Twitter – also appeared have been suspended.
Links to individual Mastodon accounts also appeared to be prohibited. An error message notified some users that links to Mastodon had been “identified” as “potentially harmful” by Twitter or its partners.
Ryan Mac, a tech reporter for The New York Times, wrote on a new Twitter account that he had received “no warnings” before his account was suspended and that he had not received any communication from the company about the why his account was “permanently suspended”.
The Washington Post said in a press release that the suspension of their technology journalist, Drew Harnell, “undermines Elon Musk’s claim that he intends to make Twitter a platform dedicated to free speech”.
CNN said in its statement, “Twitter’s growing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern to anyone using the platform.”
“Musk just seems to delete accounts he doesn’t like,” Donie O’Sullivan, one of the reporters whose account was abruptly suspended, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said that if the individual bans were upheld as retaliation for the work of journalists, it would be a “serious violation of the right of journalists to report without fear of reprisal”.
In a series of late-night tweets on Thursday, Musk said, “Putting me down all day is totally fine, but doxxing my location in real time and putting my family at risk is not.”
He added that “the same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as everyone else” and wrote: “They posted my exact location in real time, basically the coordinates of the assassination, in direct violation (obvious) from Twitter’s Terms of Service.”
Musk did not specify how he believed the suspended reporters shared his “exact real-time location.” Press articles about Musk that several journalists had published before their accounts were suspended did not include any real-time whereabouts information, or the whereabouts of any of his family members. The articles focused on ElonJet, an account that had posted the location of the billionaire’s private jet as it traveled to different cities.
During an event on Twitter Spaces, Musk was asked about the bans by some of the journalists whose accounts were suspended. Musk said reporters weren’t treated any differently than other citizens and “if you doxx, you get suspended. That’s it. End of story.”
While reporters had reported the suspensions were permanent, in several tweets Musk said the suspensions would only be for seven days.
“A little time away from Twitter is good for the soul…” Musk tweeted. He then tweeted out a poll asking people if the ban should be lifted now, tomorrow, in seven days or more.
The poll came out in favor of removing users immediately, with 43% of the more than half a million votes for “now”. Musk then tweeted that he would do the poll again because there were too many options, narrowing it down to now or seven days from now.
It’s similar to the poll started by Musk that got former US President Donald Trump banned from the platform.
At least two of the journalists whose accounts were suspended allegedly tweeted about a public statement from the Los Angeles Police Department, responding to an allegation Musk had made about an incident in Los Angeles in which he said that a stalker had targeted a car, believing it was his.
Donie O’Sullivan, the CNN reporter whose account was suspended, is one of the nation’s leading reporters on conspiracy theories and disinformation, and had shared an LAPD commentary on Musk shortly before his suspension. Matt Binder, the Mashable reporter whose account was suspended, “was tweeting about O’Sullivan’s suspension when his account also went black,” The Washington Post reported.
Twitter, which recently disbanded the majority of its news service, did not immediately respond to request for comment.
But Twitter’s head of trust and safety told The Verge, “Without commenting on any specific account, I can confirm that we will suspend any accounts that violate our privacy policies and put other users at risk.”