Twitter has suspended the accounts of several journalists covering Elon Musk

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Twitter on Thursday suspended the accounts of several journalists who spoke out about the microblogging platform’s suspension of an account publicizing the routes of Elon Musk’s private jet. The billionaire, new owner of the social network, justified the decision by saying that the rules prohibiting the disclosure of personal data applied to everyone, including journalists.

Journalists from the Washington Post, New York Times and CNN saw their accounts suspended by Twitter on Thursday, December 16. These journalists, who covered the social network as well as its new owner Elon Musk, tweeted about Twitter’s decision on Wednesday to suspend an account that publicized the routes of Elon Musk’s private jet.

The new boss of Twitter, presenting himself as a cantor of freedom of expression, defended the decision in a tweet: “The rules related to doxxing (disclosure of personal information on the Internet, editor’s note) are applies more to ‘journalists’ than to others.” The microblogging platform prohibits making public private information on the Net.

Twitter on Wednesday suspended the @ElonJet account, which tracks the movements of Elon Musk’s private jet in real time.

Screenshot of the suspended @ElonJet Twitter account on Wednesday. © Twitter

“Impulsive and unjust suspension”

“The impulsive and unwarranted suspension of a number of reporters like CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan is disturbing but not surprising,” CNN said in a statement.

“Twitter’s growing instability and volatility is of particular concern to anyone who uses the platform. We have asked Twitter for an explanation, and we will re-evaluate our relationship based on that response,” CNN added.

“No problem criticizing me all day,” Elon Musk tweeted on Thursday. “Revealing my whereabouts in real time and putting my family at risk is one.”

Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday that the car carrying his son had been followed in Los Angeles by a “crazy stalker.” The Twitter boss, pointing to the @ElonJet account, which tracks the location of his private jet, has announced that he will sue the person behind this account.

Created by a student and followed by about 500,000 people, @ElonJet used public data to automatically indicate when and where Elon Musk’s aircraft took off and landed.

Twitter subsequently reached out to announce that its policy now prohibits most tweets that reveal a person’s real-time location. “Posting someone’s location in real time violates the ‘doxing’ rules, but posting it offline is allowed,” Elon Musk tweeted on Wednesday.

Mixed messages

When he came to the head of Twitter, Elon Musk promised that he would not touch the @ElonJet account. But since acquiring the platform for $44 billion, the billionaire has sent mixed messages about what is and isn’t allowed on it.

Fervent defender of a great freedom of expression – as long as the sentences respect the law -, he brought back the accounts previously banned by the social network, including that of Donald Trump.

But he also suspended Kanye West’s after the publication of several messages deemed anti-Semitic and refused to return to the platform of the far-right conspiracy, Alex Jones.

“Dangerous Past”

After the suspension of journalists’ accounts, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday expressed its concern for press freedom. “Freedom of the press should not be turned on and off at will,” the ministry wrote on its Twitter account. “For this reason, we have a problem with Twitter,” added the German diplomat.

The United Nations strongly condemned on Friday the suspension of the owner of Twitter, Elon Musk, of several accounts of American journalists, judging that this decision creates a “dangerous precedent”.

“We are deeply troubled by the arbitrary suspension of journalists’ accounts seen on Twitter. Media voices should not be silenced on a platform that claims to be a space of freedom…The decision creates a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists everywhere face censorship, physical threats and worse,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Including AFP and Reuters

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