On Thursday evening, Twitter banned a number of prominent journalists who were covering Elon Musk and his various businesses from the platform. The platform appears to have done so without warning or explanation.
Normally, before an account is banned, Twitter will send a few notifications or warnings, informing users of the policies they have violated, unless they have broken local laws. However, since Musk took over, Twitter has been banning specific accounts with no prior notice. Welcome to Elon Musk’s interpretation of free speech.
The journalists were barred after Twitter suspended the Twitter account of Mastodon, the open-source social media alternative that exploded in popularity following Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. Twitter took action against Mastodon after the account linked to the Mastodon page of @ElonJet, a student-created bot that tracks Musk’s private jet’s location.
A few of the suspended journalists and accounts had shared screenshots and articles about Mastodon’s suspension. Drew Harwell, a Washington Post reporter, tweeted about Mastodon being kicked off the platform shortly before his suspension.
Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, The New York Times’ Ryan Mac, CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, Mashable’s Matt Binder, and journalist Aaron Rupar are among the accounts that have been banned. All of the aforementioned names covered Musk on a regular basis and wrote extensively about Musk and his takeover of Twitter.
Rupar commented on his Substack suspension, noting that while he did not know why his account was suspended, he did share a link to ElonJet’s Facebook account while reporting on the subject. Mac shared the message he received from Twitter on an alternate account, noting that there was no warning before the permanent suspension.
Some of the suspended accounts shared the Twitter handles of Mastodon and ElonJet, as well as screenshots of the tweet that appears to have gotten the former account suspended.
Because Twitter’s human moderation teams have been reduced, automated systems enforcing Twitter’s new rules against accounts like @ElonJet were overzealous in this case. However, it’s just as likely that Musk is directing the moderation process.
Musk took to Twitter to explain his reasoning for the ban. He stated that the bans were deliberate, and that the same doxxing rules apply to “journalists” as they do to everyone else.
Musk stated that the suspensions would only be in effect for seven days. He later tweeted a poll asking his Twitter followers to vote on the fate of the banned journalists, who had previously been notified that their accounts had been suspended “permanently.” It should be noted that the journalists who were barred received no such notice.
Furthermore, it is standard practise at Twitter to notify users about posts and skim them to remove offensive or potentially harmful posts before they are banned. Furthermore, the policy that these accounts violated, which prohibited users from sharing “live location information,” is only 24 hours old, so they couldn’t have been notified and given enough time to act on it.
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