Twitter suspends accounts of US journalists who criticised Elon Musk (updated)

NEW YORK, 16 Dec 2022:

The EU today threatened Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, with sanctions after the social media platform suddenly suspended the accounts of several journalists who had covered the magnate.

​”News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying,” the EU’s values and transparency commissioner tweeted.

“EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our Media Freedom Act. Elon musk should be aware of that. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon,” the commissioner added.

The EU’s new digital services bill, which could come into force by mid-2023, aims to regulate illegal content, transparent advertising, and disinformation online.

Under the new law, which is still under parliamentary debate, the EU could impose fines of up to 6% of the annual turnover of digital companies that are caught breaking the rules.

Twitter yesterday suspended the accounts of several journalists – including from The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN and Voice of America – who had recently covered its new owner, Elon Musk.

The microblogging site also took down their profiles and past tweets, various US media houses reported.

Some of the reporters, such as The New York Times’ technology reporter Ryan Mac, had recently written about the suspension of an account that used publicly available flight data to track the private jet of Elon Musk, who acquired Twitter at the end of October for US$44 billion.

Musk had tweeted on Nov 6 that he would not ban the @ElonJet account, saying his “commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk.”

However in a turnaround on Wednesday, Twitter changed its rules and prohibited the sharing of live location of other people.

Although Twitter has not yet made any official comment on the suspension of journalists, the new head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, told The Verge yesterday the company “will suspend any accounts that violate our privacy policies and put other users at risk.”

“We don’t make exceptions to this policy for journalists or any other accounts.”

In a tweet last night, Musk said, “criticising me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not.”

Another of the journalists whose account was suspended, CNN reporter Donnie O’Sullivan, had posted a tweet about Musk’s claim that a “crazy stalker” had chased a car in which his son was travelling in Los Angeles, California.

On Monday, the company dissolved its Trust and Safety Council, an advisory group set up to address hate speech, amid a controversy over Musk’s policy of “amnesty” for accounts previously suspended for violating the rules of the social media, including that of former US president Donald Trump (2017-2021).