Twitter CEO Elon Musk has portrayed himself as a free speech absolutist, but it appears that a line has been drawn when it comes to alleged “doxxing” of people’s personal information, especially when such acts are targeted toward him and his family in a manner that makes them feel threatened and unsafe.
On Thursday, Twitter suspended the accounts of at least six media figures for purportedly violating the platform’s newly updated policies about the posting of “live location information” about an individual, Breitbart reported.
Those media figures, including at least five reporters and one ex-cable news host, likely received their suspensions after sharing screenshots of tracking information about Musk’s private jet from an account that had already been suspended for doing exactly that.
It is worth noting that flight tracking information is publicly available, even for most private jets, if not always particularly easy to find, and has previously been shared on Twitter by the suspended user and others.
Tracking Musk’s private jet in real-time
Apparently at issue here, per Breitbart’s report, is Musk’s problem with a stalker that threatened his young son on Wednesday that Musk linked to an account known as @ElonJet, created and run by an anti-Musk University of Central Florida student named Jack Sweeney, that does little more than criticize Musk and track his private jet’s travels in real-time.
That account was then suspended and Musk tweeted Wednesday night, “Any account doxxing real-time location info of anyone will be suspended, as it is a physical safety violation. This includes posting links to sites with real-time location info. Posting locations someone traveled to on a slightly delayed basis isn’t a safety problem, so is ok.”
That move by Twitter quite predictably sparked an uproar from a number of openly anti-Musk reporters, who then proceeded to either share screenshots from the banned @ElonJet account or links to the tracking site and summarily found their own accounts were also quickly suspended.
No exceptions for journalists
According to Breitbart, the six media figures to be banned — though there may be others — included New York Times tech reporter Ryan Mac, Washington Post reporter Drew Harrell, former Vox reporter Aaron Rupar, CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan, Mashable reporter Matt Binder, and former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann.
In response to the suspended reporters, Verge editor Alex Heath quoted Twitter’s new head of Trust and Safety, Ella Irwin, as saying, “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.”
Irwin further noted the updated policy against sharing “live location information,” referenced the incident with Musk’s son, and added, “We don’t make exceptions to this policy for journalists or any other accounts.”
Media outlets fire back
Of course, no explanation from Musk or Twitter would suffice to quell the outrage among left-leaning journalists who, for perhaps the first time ever, suddenly found themselves on the wrong end of the platform’s bans that they previously cheered and supported when used against conservative and independent accounts they don’t like or agree with.
CNN’s senior media reporter Oliver Darcy posted a lengthy thread of tweets on Thursday that shared quotes from some of the suspended reporters along with statements from some of their employers that demanded their immediate reinstatement on the platform.
“The impulsive and unjustified suspension of a number of reporters, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, is concerning but not surprising,” CNN said in a statement. “Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern for everyone who uses the platform. We have asked Twitter for an explanation, and we will reevaluate our relationship based on that response.”
“Tonight’s suspension of the Twitter accounts of a number of prominent journalists, including the New York Times’s Ryan Mac, is questionable and unfortunate,” a statement from the New York Times said. “Neither The Times nor Ryan have received any explanation about why this occurred. We hope that all of the journalists’ accounts are reinstated and that Twitter provides a satisfying explanation for its action.”
“The suspension of Drew Harrell’s Twitter account directly undermines Elon Musk’s claim that he intends to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech,” the Washington Post stated. “Harwell was banished from Twitter without warning, process or explanation, following the publication of his accurate reporting about Musk. Our journalist should be reinstated immediately.”