We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Elon Musk. Alamy Stock Photo

Musk restores some suspended Twitter accounts of journalists

Musk’s move to suspend the accounts drew sharp criticism from media organisations, the EU and the UN.

LAST UPDATE | 17 Dec 2022

THE TWITTER ACCOUNTS of several journalists suspended after Elon Musk accused them of endangering his family have been reinstated – but some said the billionaire owner offered full use of the platform only if they deleted posts about tracking his location.

Musk had drawn anger and warnings from the European Union and United Nations after suspending the accounts of more than a half-dozen prominent journalists from The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post and other outlets.

“The people have spoken. Accounts who doxxed my location will have their suspension lifted now,” the Twitter owner tweeted late last night.

Doxxing generally means publishing private information on the Internet to harass or embarrass someone.

Musk carried out a Twitter poll asking whether he should restore the suspended accounts now or in a week’s time. Nearly 59 percent of the 3.69 million who took part said he should restore the accounts now.

Some of the suspended accounts were reactivated, with former Vox journalist Aaron Rupar, Mashable reporter Matt Binder and freelancer Tony Webster tweeting again today.

Kerryman Donie O’Sullivan, who has reported at length on Musk for CNN, said that while his suspended account became viewable today, Twitter has imposed a condition for him to be able to tweet again.

“Right now, unless I agree to remove that tweet at the behest of the billionaire, I won’t be allowed to tweet on the platform,” O’Sullivan told CNN.

Speaking on MSNBC, Rupar warned that Twitter’s crackdown, even if temporary, would have a “chilling effect on coverage of Elon Musk” and make reporters think twice about running afoul of the company’s new owner.

The accounts of some other journalists remained suspended early Saturday, including those of Business Insider’s Linette Lopez and former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann.

He said Twitter demanded he remove a post that it says violates its rules against posting private information.

The latest controversy began on Wednesday when Musk suspended @elonjet, an account that tracked flights of his private plane.

Musk said the move was necessary after a car in Los Angeles carrying one of his children was followed by “a crazy stalker”; he seemed to blame the jet tracking for the incident.

Some of the suspended journalists had reported on the affair, including tweets linking to the suspended @elonjet account, which Musk said amounted to offering “assassination coordinates” against him and his family.

In a chat hosted live on Twitter, Musk provided no evidence for his claim but told suspended reporters that on Twitter “everyone’s going to be treated the same … they’re not special because you’re a journalist.”

Pressed further on his allegations, Musk ended the conversation. Twitter Spaces, the feature where the chat took place, was then suspended. The live audio service was back up yesterday, with Musk saying the platform had been fixing a bug.

As of today, the Musk plane-tracking account remained suspended.

Musk’s deactivations have drawn sharp criticism from media organisations, the EU and the UN.

UN rights chief Volker Turk welcomed Musk’s decision to reinstate the accounts, “but serious concerns remain,” he posted on Twitter.

He also urged Musk to “commit to making decisions based on publicly-available policies that respect rights, including free speech. Nothing less.”

Earlier, the spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres called the suspensions a “dangerous precedent at a time when journalists all over the world are facing censorship, physical threats and even worse.”

The EU had warned that Twitter could face fines through European laws.

“News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying,” EU commissioner Vera Jourova tweeted after the move.

Twitter has lurched from one controversy to the next since Musk took control of the company in October.

The billionaire’s talk of unfettered speech, coupled with the instability surrounding the company, has scared off major advertisers and caught the attention of regulators.

Musk has reinstated the account of former US president Donald Trump and lashed out against the outgoing key US advisor on Covid-19, Anthony Fauci, a frequent target of vitriol in right-wing media.

CNN has reported that Twitter’s former head of trust and safety fled his home after baseless attacks on Twitter content moderation, endorsed by Musk.

Meanwhile, a purge initiated by Musk at Twitter left more than half of its 7,500 employees out of work.

© AFP 2022

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel