Tech

Twitter suspends journalists from the New York Times, CNN and Washington Post.

Twitter blocked the accounts of several high-profile journalists, many of whom wrote about the scandalous takeover of the company by Elon Musk.

Reporters currently suspended include CNN’s Doni O’Sullivan, The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, The New York Times’ Ryan Mack, Mashable’s Matt Binder and The Intercept’s Mika Lee. The sudden purge of journalists appears to be at odds with Musk’s commitment to protecting free speech on Twitter.

“I was very puzzled. I thought people were trolling,” freelance journalist and former Vox reporter Aaron Rupar said, recalling how he started getting messages from other journalists saying he had been suspended from his job. Overnight, Rupar lost access to his 790,000 followers. He said he didn’t get any warning before downloading. “Basically you have to submit to the whims that change from day to day of the platform owner, which seems pretty unsustainable. It almost looks evil.”

Several of the journalists who posted the messages have been suspended, including Rupar, who recently published on the Elonjet debate A Twitter account that tracked the location of Musk’s private jet using publicly available flight data. Musk claimed the account threatened his physical security and changed Twitter’s policies to prohibit the sharing of “real-time location information” in order to suspend the account. The 20-year-old owner of the Elonjet account claimed that information about Elon Musk’s planes was already publicly available: “If someone wanted to do something, they could do it without me.” he told The New York Times. Some journalists, such as Rupar, have recently tweeted links to Muskjet’s alternate Facebook account.

Twitter Head of Trust and Safety Ella Irvine said Alex Heath of The Verge that Twitter “will suspend any account that violates our privacy policy and puts other users at risk” and that “we make no exceptions to this policy for journalists or any other accounts.”

On Thursday night, Elon Musk responded to a tweet about the suspension of former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann and said he had given reporters a “7-day suspension for doxing. Some time away from Twitter is good for the soul.” Doxxing is a term used to describe when people post personal information about others online.

Musk lately tweeted that “crazy stalker” followed the car in which his young child X was and jumped on the hood of the car. Musk has said he is suing the 20-year-old Elonjet account owner for allegedly compromising the safety of his family.

Many journalists on Thursday evening expressed concern about Twitter’s decisions. The move could encourage more reporters or the media they work for to leave Twitter and try alternative platforms like Mastodon, Discord and Post.

“It’s highly questionable,” said Washington Post tech columnist Taylor Lorenz, who said her account was not banned in that wave despite concerns from some of her followers that it might have been. “I don’t understand how news organizations will continue to use this platform if they are censoring journalists.”

CNN and The New York Times sent statements to Recode condemning Twitter’s suspension of their journalist accounts and said they were asking the company for an explanation.

“The impulsive and unwarranted suspension of a number of reporters, including CNN’s Doni O’Sullivan, is troubling but not surprising,” a CNN spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “The growing instability and volatility of Twitter should be an incredible concern for anyone using Twitter. We have asked Twitter for an explanation and will reconsider our relationship based on this response.”

“Today’s Twitter suspension of a number of well-known journalists, including Ryan Mack of The New York Times, is both questionable and regrettable. Neither The Times nor Ryan have received any explanation as to why this happened,” a spokesman for The New York Times said in a written statement. “We hope that all journalist accounts will be restored and that Twitter will provide a satisfactory explanation for this action.”

Rupar said he tried to appeal the suspension on Twitter using the platform’s automated system, but the link didn’t work.

“I think this is an instructive lesson for the media and individual journalists. Good to diversify to other platforms. This will have a chilling effect on anyone who criticizes Elon.”

Peter Kafka wrote a report for this story.




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