Twitter’s suspension of journalists sets a ‘dangerous precedent’, UN warns | Twitter

United Nations is “very disturbed” by the abrupt suspension of Twitter by a group of american journalistsa spokesperson has said, warning that the move sets a “dangerous precedent” as the EU said the social media platform could breach upcoming digital regulations.

Stéphane Dujarric said on Friday that the UN was “very concerned” about the ban on prominent tech reporters in news organizations, including CNNthe Washington Post and the New York Times who have written about Musk and the tech company he owns.

Dujarric said that the voices of the media should not be silenced on a platform that professes to be a haven for free expression. “The move sets a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists around the world face censorship, physical threats and even worse,” he told reporters.

Germany’s government said press freedom should not be “turned on and off on a whim” and Downing Street also raised concerns about the suspensions.

The EU warning came from Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s vice-president for values ​​and transparency, who tweeted that “news about the arbitrary suspension of journalists in Twitter it is worrying” and said the economic bloc’s Digital Services Law (DSA) required platforms to respect press freedom. Its provisions include the requirement that when users and content are sanctioned, it must be in a “diligent and proportionate manner, with due respect for fundamental rights.”

“This is reinforced under our Freedom of the Media Act. Elon Musk you should be aware of that. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon,” she said. Violations of the DSA, which will go into effect for large tech companies next year, carry the threat of fines of up to 6% of global turnover or temporary suspension in extreme cases. The European Law on Freedom of the Media, which also addresses the operation of technology platforms, is currently in draft form.

The official spokesman for the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said that technology companies must “balance protecting their users while defending freedom of expression.” The German government tweeted screenshots of the affected accounts and said it had a “problem” with the suspensions. The German Foreign Office tweeted: “Freedom of the press cannot be turned on and off on a whim. The journalists below can no longer follow us, comment on us or criticize us. We have a problem with that, @Twitter.”

#Pressefreiheit darf nicht nach Belieben ein- und ausgeschaltet werden. Unten stehende Journalisten können auch uns ab heute nicht mehr folgen, kommentieren und kritisieren. Damit haben wir ein Problem @Twitter.

— Auswärtiges Amt (@AuswaertigesAmt) December 16, 2022


Sunak’s spokesperson added that the UK’s upcoming online safety bill would bar big platforms like Twitter from suspending users if they had not breached the company’s terms of service, thus preventing “arbitrary” decisions on freedom expression online.

However, Musk’s suspension from the group of tech journalists on Thursday was for breaking a new user guideline on disclosing people’s locations, which had been created the day before.

He claimed they had violated the rule, which prohibits users from posting “live location information” that would “reveal a person’s location, regardless of whether this information is publicly available.” The journalists had recently published articles about Musk’s suspension from a Twitter account that had shared publicly available data. about the movements of his private jet. News articles that several reporters had published before their accounts were suspended did not include information about their real-time location, or the location of any of their family members.

The Guardian has contacted Twitter for comment.

Campaign groups also condemned the suspensions. The Center to Counter Digital Hate said Musk “does not understand the difference between the public interest and his own interests” and was seeking to expel journalists who criticized him rather than tackle dangerous hate speech, while the Open Rights Group urged journalists to create accounts. in rival platform Mastodon.

The first amendment campaign group Pen America said that since Musk bought the business in October he had treated Twitter “more like a personal fiefdom than a global public square.”

CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times criticized the suspensions of journalists, with CNN calling the moves of “incredible concern” to anyone using the platform.

At a Twitter Spaces event held after the suspensions were announced, Musk was questioned about the bans by some of the journalists whose accounts were suspended. He said that journalists were not being treated any differently from other citizens. Using the term for sharing someone’s private personal information online without permission, he said: “If you do xx, you get suspended. That is all. End of story.” Twitter then removed The Space altogether, and the host’s connection was cut off mid-sentence.

Meanwhile, as Musk’s team tried to avoid further discussion of his private plane’s movements, the bans skyrocketed. First, Mastodon’s Twitter account was banned after he posted a link to a mirror of ElonJet, the now-banned account at the center of the flurry of bans. Links to individual Mastodon users were later blocked after they shared details of Musk’s private plane.

Links to entire Mastodon servers were then banned, starting with the largest versions of the “federated” social network, including mastodon.socialand then extending to encompass smaller and smaller instances, such as infosec.exchangefor cybersecurity professionals, and magazine.hosta media-only server.

A few hours later, Twitter began blocking users from adding their Mastodon usernames to their profiles. Users who attempted to post links to those sites were presented with a warning that the link “has been identified by Twitter or our partners as potentially harmful.”

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