Several high-profile journalists had their Twitter accounts suspended over claims that they “doxxed” the new social media CEO and put his family in danger. New York Times reporter Ryan Mac, CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, and Keith Olbermann were among those handed a suspension for what Elon Musk says were violations of the platform’s policy regarding sharing of an individual’s whereabouts in real time.
“They posted my exact real-time location, basically assassination coordinates, in (obvious) direct violation of Twitter terms of service,” Musk wrote. “If anyone posted real-time locations & addresses of NYT reporters, FBI would be investigating, there’d be hearings on Capitol Hill & Biden would give speeches about end of democracy!”
The seven-day bans came as the journalists in question posted material related to a suspended account that tracked Musk’s private jet. On Dec. 15, Musk posted that “Last night, car carrying lil X [Musk’s youngest child] in LA was followed by crazy stalker (thinking it was me), who later blocked car from moving & climbed onto hood.”
Media Denies Twitter Doxxing
Backlash over the suspensions was swift and damning from the outlets affected. “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. Continuing:
“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.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists criticized Musk’s decision, writing, “We are concerned about news reports that journalists who have covered recent developments involving Twitter and its owner, Elon Musk, have had their accounts on the platform suspended. If confirmed as retaliation for their work, this would be a serious violation of journalists’ right to report the news without fear of reprisal.”
In response to the temporary bans, impacted outlets argued that Musk’s flight information was publicly available data and, as such, could not be considered doxxing. However, the Twitter boss was quick to dispel this claim, saying that “My plane is actually not trackable without using non-public data.”
The new platform policy was outlined by Musk early yesterday morning:
“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.”
The suspended reporters seemed to put the rule to the test by sharing the account that tracked his jet. But the temporary ban may be shorter than first thought. Musk decided to continue his inclination for garnering public opinion by posting a poll to his more than 120 million followers. He asked users to weigh in on whether he should “Unsuspend accounts who doxxed my exact location in real-time” either “now” or in “7 days.” So far, almost 60% chose the “now” option.
A Free Speech Paradox?
Suspensions, bans, and shadow-bans have long been the hallmark of Twitter under its former leadership – but predominantly only for those on the political right. The recent Twitter Files published by journalists Bari Weiss and Matt Taibbi have received little attention in the left-leaning media; in fact, some have argued that the revelations have been entirely ignored by the Democrat-friendly Fourth Estate.
Now that reporters from the left have their accounts restricted, it is suddenly considered front-page news. One might wonder why the fire and fury, coupled with righteous indignation, have been hibernating for the last five years.
Musk once described himself as a “free speech absolutist.” How this latest move jibes with that portrayal will no doubt be the hot issue of the next week. The Tesla founder says that the rules are clear and that journalists “Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not.”
But, as the left was fond of saying during the mass shadow-banning of yesteryear, it’s a private company, and he can do as he wishes.
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