Elon Musk’s suspension of journalists from Twitter provokes a global reaction

Dec 16 (Reuters) – Twitter’s unprecedented suspension of at least five journalists over claims they revealed the real-time location of owner Elon Musk sparked a swift reaction from government officials, advocacy groups and news organizations around the world on friday.

In a subsequent 24-hour poll by Musk on Twitter about whether to restore journalists’ accounts, 58.7% of the vote was in favor of restoring them immediately.

The accounts were still suspended about 15 minutes after the poll closed, a Reuters check showed.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The suspensions Thursday night drew criticism from government officials, advocacy groups and news organizations around the world, with some saying the microblogging platform was endangering press freedom.

Officials from France, Germany, Britain and the European Union condemned the suspensions.

The episode, dubbed a “Thursday Night Massacre” by a well-known security researcher, is being hailed by critics as new evidence from the billionaire, who considers himself a “free speech absolutist,” removing the speech and users who personally do not like.

Shares in Tesla (TSLA.O)An electric carmaker led by Musk, plunged 4.7% on Friday and posted its worst weekly loss since March 2020, with investors increasingly worried about its distraction and a slowdown in the global economy.

Roland Lescure, the French industry minister, tweeted on Friday that, following Musk’s suspension of journalists, he would suspend his own activity on Twitter.

Melissa Fleming, the United Nations chief of communications, tweeted that she was “deeply disturbed” by the suspensions and that “press freedom is not a toy.”

The German Foreign Ministry warned on Twitter that the ministry had a problem with measures that endangered press freedom.


The suspensions stemmed from a disagreement over a Twitter account called ElonJet, which tracked Musk’s private plane using publicly available information.

On Wednesday, Twitter suspended the account and others that tracked private jets, despite Musk’s earlier tweet that he would not suspend ElonJet in the name of free speech.

Shortly after, Twitter changed its privacy policy to prohibit the sharing of “live location information.”

Then, on Thursday night, several journalists, including those from the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post, were suspended from Twitter without notice.

In an email to Reuters overnight, Twitter’s head of trust and security, Ella Irwin, said the team manually reviewed “each and every account” that violated the new privacy policy by posting direct links. to the ElonJet account.

“I understand the focus seems to be primarily on journalists’ accounts, but today we are applying the policy equally to journalists’ and non-journalists’ accounts,” Irwin said in the email.

The Society for the Advancement of Business Writing and Publishing said in a statement Friday that Twitter’s actions “violate the spirit of the First Amendment and the principle that social media platforms shall allow the unfiltered distribution of information that is already It’s in the public square.”

Musk accused the journalists of publishing his real-time location, which is “basically the coordinates of the murder” of his family.

The billionaire appeared briefly in a Twitter Spaces audio chat hosted by journalists, which quickly escalated into a contentious discussion about whether the suspended reporters had actually exposed Musk’s real-time location in violation of policy.

“If you dox, you get suspended. End of story,” Musk said repeatedly in response to questions. “Dox” is a term for posting private information about someone, usually with malicious intent.

The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, one of the reporters who had been suspended but was nonetheless able to join the audio chat, dismissed the idea that he had exposed the exact location of Musk or his family by posting a link to ElonJet.

Shortly after, BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos, who hosted the Spaces chat, tweeted that the audio session was abruptly cut off and the recording was unavailable.

In a tweet explaining what happened, Musk said: “We’re fixing a legacy bug. Should be up and running tomorrow.”

Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco, Eva Mathews, Rhea Binoy and Sneha Bhowmik in Bengaluru; Edited by Nick Zieminski, Jonathan Oatis, and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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