Elon Musk restores journalists’ Twitter accounts after lockdowns sparked backlash

DECEMBER 17 (Reuters) – Elon Musk restored the Twitter accounts of several journalists suspended for a day over a controversy over the release of public data on the billionaire’s plane.

The reinstatement came after Friday’s unprecedented suspensions drew sharp criticism from government officials, advocacy groups and journalistic organizations from different parts of the world, with some saying the microblogging platform is a threat to press freedom.

A Twitter poll Musk later conducted also found that a majority of respondents wanted accounts to be restored immediately.

“People have spoken. Accounts that doxxed my location will now be banned,” Musk said in a tweet on Saturday.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. A Reuters check found the suspended accounts, which included journalists from the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post, have been restored.

Officials from France, Germany, Britain and the European Union previously condemned the suspensions.

The episode, which a prominent security researcher dubbed the “Thursday Night Massacre,” is being seen by critics as new evidence that Musk, who considers himself a “free speech absolutist,” is eliminating speech and users he personally dislikes.

Shares in Tesla (TSLA.O), an electric carmaker led by Musk, slumped 4.7% on Friday, posting its worst weekly loss since March 2020, with investors growing concerned about its distraction and the slowing global economy.

Roland Lescure, France’s industry minister, tweeted on Friday that he would end his own activities on Twitter after Musk suspended journalists.

Melissa Fleming, UN communications chief, tweeted that she was “deeply concerned” by the suspensions and that “media freedom is not a toy”.

The Foreign Office warned on Twitter that the ministry had a problem with measures that endanger press freedom.


The suspensions stemmed from a disagreement over a Twitter account called ElonJet, which tracked Musk’s private plane using publicly available information.

On Wednesday, Twitter suspended the account and others tracking private jets, although Musk said in an earlier tweet he would not suspend ElonJet in the name of free speech.

Shortly thereafter, Twitter changed its privacy policy to prohibit the sharing of “live location information.”

Then on Thursday evening, several journalists, including those from the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post, were suspended from Twitter without notice.

In an email to Reuters overnight, Ella Irwin, head of trust and security at Twitter, said the team had manually reviewed “all accounts” that violated the new privacy policy by posting direct links to the ElonJet account.

“I understand the focus seems to be mostly on journalist accounts, but today we applied the policy to journalist and non-journalist accounts alike,” Irwin said in the email.

The Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing said in a statement Friday that Twitter’s actions “violated the spirit of the First Amendment and the principle that social media platforms allow the unfiltered dissemination of information already on the public domain.” are space”.

Musk accused journalists of posting his real-time location, which is “basically murder coordinates” for his family.

The billionaire appeared briefly in a journalist-moderated Twitter Spaces audio chat, which quickly turned into a controversy over whether the suspended reporters had in fact disclosed Musk’s real-time location in violation of the policy.

“If you dox, you will be suspended. End of story,” Musk repeatedly responded to questions. “Dox” is a term for the release of private information about someone, usually with malicious intent.

The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, one of the journalists who had been suspended but was still able to participate in the audio chat, fought back the notion that he had revealed Musk or the exact whereabouts of his family by posting a link to ElonJet.

Soon after, BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos, who was hosting the Spaces chat, tweeted that the audio session was abruptly cut off and the recording was unavailable.

In a tweet explaining what happened, Musk said, “We’re fixing a legacy bug. Should work tomorrow.”

Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas and Eva Mathews, Sneha Bhowmik and Rhea Binoy in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco, editing by Nick Zieminski, Jonathan Oatis and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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