Twitter has banned the accounts of a number of well-known journalists who write about Elon Musk, including Ryan Mac of The New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan of CNN, Drew Harwell of The Washington Post, Micha Lee of The Intercept, Matt Binder, Aaron Rupar, and Tony Webster of Mashable. This evening, Musk logged into Twitter Space to explain why and ran a poll asking when the journalists should be unbanned. In both cases, things didn’t exactly go his way.
All of the reporters who have been banned seem to have tweeted recently about Elon Musk’s efforts to stop people from telling where his private jet is. But it appears that even accounts that can’t post can still join a live audio chat on Twitter Spaces. Musk tried to explain himself in a Space where Harwell, Binder, and the ElonJet account were.
“You dox, you get suspended. That’s the end of the story.”
Musk said that the reporters were “ban evaders” during that conversation. After Twitter banned the ElonJet account, its owner made new accounts on Facebook and Mastodon. He said the journalists were trying to get around his ban by linking these accounts.
Harwell from the Washington Post asked Musk how his decision to ban accounts linked to the other ElonJet sites and journalists who wrote about the incident was different from how Twitter handled a story from the New York Post about a laptop that had Hunter Biden’s personal information on it. In 2020, Twitter blocked links to a report in The New York Post.
With Musk’s approval, details about that decision to moderate were shared on Twitter earlier this month. In April, he said on Twitter that shutting down The New York Post’s account because of the story was “obviously incredibly wrong.” Musk even hinted when the information would be made public by tweeting “This will be awesome” and a popcorn emoji. During the release, Jack Dorsey, who helped start Twitter, had his email address made public.
Musk told Harwell, “If you do, you’ll get suspended. This is the end of the story.” He then walked away.
— Brennan Murphy (@brenonade) December 16, 2022
Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, sent an email to The Verge about a change the company made to its policy yesterday that makes it illegal to share “live location information,” which includes information posted directly on Twitter or links to URLs of travel routes posted by third parties.
Irwin said in the email, “Without saying anything about specific accounts, I can confirm that we will suspend any accounts that break our privacy rules and put other users at risk.” “We don’t change this rule for journalists or anyone else.”
“We don’t make any changes to this rule for journalists or anyone else.”
Musk said about the bans in a tweet earlier in the evening: “They posted my exact real-time location, which is basically a set of assassination coordinates, in clear violation of Twitter’s terms of service.” The ElonJet account in the links he didn’t like automatically shares information that is available to the public about Elon Musk’s private jet’s flight path. (It doesn’t list the list of passengers.)
Climate activists often use suspended accounts like ElonJet, CelebJet, and RUOligarchJets to show how bad the effects of private jets are on the environment.
Musk, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, and Taylor Swift have all been criticised this year for using private jets when they could have used other ways to get around that would be better for the environment.
Musk has always had a problem with people knowing where his private jet is at any given time. At one point, he even offered the person in charge of the @ElonJet account thousands of dollars to shut it down. In a tweet on Wednesday, he made it sound like a “crazy stalker” had used the account to find and climb on the hood of a car carrying one of his children. (It’s not clear how knowing where the plane was led to a car.) He then tweeted a video of the alleged stalker and his licence plate with the caption, “Does anyone recognise this person or car?”
On the same day, Twitter shut down the @ElonJet account, the account of its owner Jack Sweeney, and other accounts he managed that used publicly available data to track the locations of private jets. Today, journalists who tweeted about the situation were arrested for breaking the law.
Same doxxing rules apply to “journalists” as to everyone else
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 16, 2022
Musk also held a poll to find out when he should let the journalists back on the job who tweeted about “ElonJet.” “Now” got 43 percent of the votes, while “Longer” got 38.1 percent. Musk said that he would redo the poll because the first one had too many choices. He then put up a second poll that will be open for 24 hours. “Now” is still winning as of this writing.
Musk’s polls are said to affect how he decides to moderate. He has said in the past that he unbanned Trump and other accounts that had been banned because of poll results.
Also, it looks like Twitter doesn’t let people post links to some places on Mastodon, which is a competing decentralised social network. In particular, when we tried to tweet links to Mastodon.social, Mastodon.lol, Mastodon.xyz, Mastodon.au, Mastodon.ie, Mastodon.scot, Mastodonapp.uk, Mastodon.world, and others, we got an error message that said “we can’t complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful.” Earlier today, Mastodon’s Twitter account was taken down after it tweeted a link to the ElonJet Mastodon account.
Rupar, one of the reporters who was banned, told The Verge in an email, “I haven’t heard anything from Twitter other than a message at the top of my feed saying I’m permanently banned and can only read.” “I don’t know what might have caused this.” In a story on his Substack, he said that yesterday he posted a tweet “noting that the ElonJet account that had been banned from Twitter was still active on Facebook, with a link to the Facebook page.”
In a statement, Charlie Stadtlander, a spokesperson for The New York Times, said that “neither The Times nor Ryan have been told why this happened.” We hope that Twitter will restore all of the journalist’s accounts and give a good reason for doing this. CNN said in a statement that O’Sullivan’s suspension was “concerning but not surprising” and that it would “reevaluate” its relationship with Twitter based on why O’Sullivan was banned.
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) December 16, 2022
It doesn’t look like the suspensions only affect journalists. Keith Olbermann, a commentator, and the Twitter account for ADS-B Exchange, which calls itself “the world’s largest source of open, unblocked, unfiltered flight data for enthusiasts,” have both been suspended. A WayBack Machine archive shows that the account recently retweeted someone who was trying to track Musk’s jet.
Musk has said in the past that he would make Twitter a place for “free speech,” and he has pointed to the @ElonJet account as an example of something he would let on Twitter even though it could hurt him. “I’m so committed to free speech that I won’t even block the account that’s following my plane, even though it’s a direct threat to my safety,” he tweeted on November 6.
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Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.