Twitter on Thursday suspended the accounts of journalists who cover the social media platform and its new owner Elon Musk, including journalists working for the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Voice of America and other publications.
The company did not explain to reporters why it deleted the accounts and made their past profiles and tweets disappear. But Musk took to Twitter on Thursday night to accuse reporters of sharing private information about his whereabouts which he described as “essentially assassination coordinates.” He provided no evidence to support this claim.
The sudden suspension of journalists follows Musk’s decision on Wednesday to permanently ban an account that automatically tracked his private jet flights using publicly available data. It also led to Twitter changing its rules for all users to prohibit sharing another person’s current location without their consent.
Several of the suspended reporters Thursday night had written about the new policy and Musk’s rationale for imposing it, which involved his allegations about a harassment incident he said affected his family Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
“The same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as everyone else,” Musk tweeted on Thursday.
“Doxxing” refers to the online disclosure of someone’s identity, address, or other personal information.
Washington Post editor Sally Buzbee has called for tech journalist Drew Harwell’s Twitter account to be reinstated immediately. The suspension “directly undermines Elon Musk’s assertion that he intends to make Twitter a platform dedicated to free speech,” Buzbee wrote. “Harwell was banned without warning, process or explanation, following the publication of his accurate reporting on Musk.”
CNN said in a statement that “the impulsive and unjustified suspension of a number of journalists, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, is concerning but not surprising.”
“Twitter’s growing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern to anyone who uses Twitter,” the CNN statement added. “We have requested an explanation from Twitter, and we will reassess our relationship based on that response.”
Another suspended reporter, Matt Binder of tech news outlet Mashable, said he was banned Thursday night immediately after sharing a screenshot O’Sullivan posted before the reporter was suspended from CNN.
The screenshot showed a statement from the Los Angeles Police Department sent earlier Thursday to multiple outlets, including the Associated Press, about how it was in contact with Musk’s representatives about the harassment incident. suspected, but that no crime report had yet been filed.
“I have not shared any location data, per Twitter’s new terms. Nor have I shared links to ElonJet or other location tracking accounts,” Binder said in an email. “I’ve been very critical of Musk, but I’ve never violated any of Twitter’s listed policies.”
Binder said a message he received while trying to access his Twitter account showed his suspension was permanent. But Musk later suggested the sanction would last for a week in response to a question about his suspension of former ESPN and MSNBC host Keith Olbermann.
Late Thursday, Musk briefly joined a Twitter Spaces conference chat hosted by Buzzfeed reporter Kate Notopoulos. He reiterated his claims that journalists banned by Twitter “doxxed” him when reporting the banning of aircraft tracking accounts.
“There’s no special treatment for journalists,” Musk said, after being asked by the Post’s Drew Harwell if he had a connection between the harassment incident and real-time news reporting.
“You dox, you’re suspended, end of story,” he added, before abruptly stepping away.
Another suspended reporter, Steve Herman of Voice of America, said he assumed he was banned “because I was tweeting about other journalists being suspended for tweeting about started accounts that were linked to the Elon Jet stream. “.
The suspensions come as Musk makes major changes to content moderation on Twitter. He attempted, through the publication of some company documents dubbed “The Twitter Files”, to claim that the platform had suppressed right-wing voices under its former leaders.
He promised to let free speech reign and reinstated high-profile accounts that previously violated Twitter’s rules against hateful behavior or harmful misinformation, but also said he would remove negativity and hate by depriving some “free access” accounts.
The nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists, which defends journalists around the world, said late Thursday that it was concerned about the suspensions.
“If this is upheld as retaliation for their work, it would be a serious violation of journalists’ rights to report the news without fear of reprisal,” the group said.