Twitter suspends accounts of several journalists who had reported on Elon Musk. Source: The Guardian

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Twitter suspends accounts of several journalists who had reported on Elon Musk

Many at CNN, Washington Post and the New York Times who had written critically of the new owner found their handles suspended

Photo illustration shows a cellphone displaying a photo of Elon Musk placed on a computer monitor filled with Twitter logos

The move to suspend the accounts of prominent journalists comes after Twitter banned an account known for posting movements of Elon Musk’s private jet. Photograph: Samuel Corum/AFP/Getty Images

Kari Paul, Lois Beckett and Josh TaylorFri 16 Dec 2022 03.02 GMT First published on Fri 16 Dec 2022 02.01 GMT

A number of prominentjournalists who have 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 forbidden, and accused journalists who he alleged had been sharing information about his location of posting “assassination coordinates”.

<img src="https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/bb08c2a7aa00a043d9b5d0835f02d184b27115e5/0_143_3500_2101/master/3500.jpg?width=460&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=19b574d48b79c88ba3554a489593271b" alt="FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows Elon Musk image on smartphone and printed Twitter logos

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Accounts of tech journalists at CNN, the Washington Post, Mashable and the New York Times were suspended in quick succession on Thursday evening. All had recently published articles about Musk’s suspension of a Twitter account that had shared publicly available data about the movements of his private jet. Each of these articles had highlighted the tension between Musk’s stated commitment to “free speech” and his choice to ban an account that he personally disliked.

The Twitter account for rival social media company, Mastodon – which some Twitter users have migrated to after Musk’s takeover of Twitter – also appeared to have been suspended.

Links to individual Mastodon accounts also appeared to be banned. An error message notified some users that links to Mastodon had been “identified” as “potentially harmful” by Twitter or its partners.

Ryan Mac, a New York Times tech reporter, wrote on a new Twitter account that he was given “no warning” before his account was suspended and that he had received no communication from the company about the reason his account was “permanently suspended”.

Some folks have asked so will try to answer here:
-This is the notification on my account.
-I was given no warning.
-I have no email or communication from the company about the reason for suspension.
-I report on Twitter, Elon Musk and his companies. And I will continue to do so. pic.twitter.com/Fz14nStH7U— Silenced Ryan Mac (@MacSilenced) December 16, 2022

The Washington Post said in a statement that the suspension of their technology reporter, Drew Harwell, “undermines Elon Musk’s claim that he intends to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech”.

CNN said in its statement: “Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern to everyone who uses the platform.”

“Musk just seems to be stamping out accounts that he doesn’t like,” Donie O’Sullivan, one of the journalists whose account was abruptly suspended, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said that if individual’s bans were confirmed as retaliation for journalists’ work, it would be a “serious violation of journalists’ right to report the news without fear of reprisal”.

In a series of late-night tweets on Thursday, Musk said: “Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not.”

He added that the “same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else” and wrote: “They posted my exact real-time location, basically assassination coordinates, in (obvious) direct violation of Twitter terms of service.”

Musk did not clarify in what way he believed the reporters who were suspended had shared his “exact real-time location”. The news articles about Musk that several reporters had published before their accounts were suspended did not include any information about his real-time location, or the location of any of his family members. The articles were focused on ElonJet, an account that had posted the location of the billionaire’s private jet as it travelled to different cities.

In a Twitter spaces event, Musk was questioned about the bans by some of the journalists who had their accounts suspended. Musk said journalists were not being treated differently to other citizens, and “if you doxx, you get suspended. That’s it. End of story.”

While the journalists had reported that the suspensions were permanent, in multiple tweets Musk said the suspensions would be for only seven days.

“Some time away from Twitter is good for the soul …” Musk tweeted. He subsequently tweeted a poll asking people whether the ban should be lifted now, tomorrow, in seven days or longer.

The poll went in favour of immediately unbanning the users, with 43% of the over half a million votes going with “now”. Musk then tweeted that he would redo the poll because there were too many options, narrowing it to now or in seven days.

It is similar to the poll launched by Musk that resulted in former US president Donald Trump being unbanned from the platform.

At least two of the reporters whose accounts were suspended had reportedly tweeted about a public statement from the Los Angeles police department, responding to an allegation Musk had made about an incident in LA in which he said a stalker had targeted a car, believing it was his.

Donie O’Sullivan, the CNN reporter whose account was suspended, is one of the country’s leading reporters on conspiracy theories and disinformation, and had shared a comment from the LAPD about Musk shortly before he was suspended. Matt Binder, the Mashable reporter whose account was suspended, “was tweeting about O’Sullivan’s suspension when his account also went dark”, the Washington Post reported.

Twitter, which recently dissolved the majority of its press department, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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But Twitter’s head of trust and safety told the Verge: “Without commenting on any specific accounts, I can confirm that we will suspend any accounts that violate our privacy policies and put other users at risk.”

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