After a daylong suspension in response to the controversy around the publication of public data regarding the billionaire’s plane, Elon Musk restored the Twitter accounts of many journalists. The extraordinary suspensions were met with harsh criticism from government officials, advocacy groups, and news organizations across the globe on Friday, with some claiming that the microblogging platform was endangering press freedom.
Musk later launched a Twitter poll that confirmed the vast majority of responders shared this sentiment, calling for the accounts to be reinstated without further delay. “People’s voices have been heard. There will be no more punishment for the accounts that doxxed my address” on Saturday, Musk tweeted.
Reuters’ request for comment was met with silence from Twitter. Reporters from the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post had their accounts temporarily locked for unknown reasons, but a check by Reuters has shown that they have been restored.
French, German, British, and EU officials had all previously spoken out against the bans. The incident, which was dubbed the “Thursday Night Massacre” by a prominent security researcher, is being seen by detractors as new proof of Musk, who calls himself a “free speech absolutist,” removing speech and people he personally hates.
Investors are getting increasingly worried about Musk’s distraction and the slowing global economy, which led to a 4.7% drop in Tesla (TSLA.O) shares on Friday and the company’s worst weekly loss since March 2020. French industry minister Roland Lescure said on Twitter on Friday that he would be taking a Twitter break in response to Musk’s decision to block journalists.
Unsuspend accounts who doxxed my exact location in real-time
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 16, 2022
UN spokesperson Melissa Fleming expressed her “very upset” and “media freedom is not a toy” tweets in response to the suspensions. German Foreign Ministry tweeted that it had a concern with tweets that could endanger press freedom. The Twitter account, ElonJet, which used publicly available data to follow Musk’s private plane, was at the center of the dispute that led to the suspensions.
Musk had previously tweeted that he would not suspend ElonJet in the name of free expression; nonetheless, Twitter suspended the account along with others that tracked private jets on Wednesday. Twitter’s privacy settings were soon revised to forbid the broadcast of “live location information.”
Everybody sticking around Twitter because they didn't want to cede the space should probably take account of this Thursday Night Massacre and move their main posting elsewhere.
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) December 16, 2022
Irwin wrote in the email, “I appreciate that the attention seems to be mostly on journalist accounts, but today we applied the policy equally to journalists and non-journalist accounts.”
The Society for the Promotion of Business Writing and Editing issued a statement on Friday saying that Twitter’s actions “violate the spirit of the First Amendment and the principle that social media platforms will allow the unfiltered distribution of information that is already in the public square.”
Musk said the media had published his live location, which he called “essentially assassination coordinates” for his loved ones. A brief appearance by the billionaire in a Twitter Spaces audio conversation sponsored by journalists swiftly devolved into a controversial debate over whether or not the suspended journalists had truly divulged Musk’s real-time position in violation of the guidelines.
— Roland Lescure (@RolandLescure) December 16, 2022
“When someone doxes, they get kicked out of school. The final chapter,” Musk said over and over again when asked follow-up questions. To “dox” someone is to publish private information about them, typically with malevolent intent.
During the audio exchange, suspended journalist Drew Harwell of the Washington Post denied rumors that he had revealed Musk’s or his family’s precise whereabouts by sharing a link to ElonJet.
Deeply disturbed by reports of journalists being arbitrarily suspended from Twitter.
Media freedom is not a toy. A free press is the cornerstone of democratic societies and a key tool in the fight against harmful disinformation.
— Melissa Fleming 🇺🇳 (@MelissaFleming) December 16, 2022
BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos, who hosted the Spaces discussion, tweeted shortly after that the audio had been cut off unexpectedly and the recording was unavailable. When asked to explain the situation in a tweet, Musk responded “The Legacy issue has been resolved. Hope to have tomorrow off.”
Elon Musk reinstated the Twitter accounts of numerous journalists after suspending them for an entire day in response to the uproar surrounding the release of public data pertaining to the billionaire’s plane.
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