Elon Musk takes away and Elon Musk gives.
Late Friday night, the moody mega-billionaire unilaterally announced he was removing the ban from journalists whose accounts had been banned a day earlier — which Musk claimed to have “doxxed” him by posting links to an account tracking his private jet . Up until this week, the CEO of Twitter, Tesla and SpaceX had agreed to keep the jet tracker on the social network he acquired for $44 billion.
“People have spoken,” Musk said tweeted just after midnight ET. “Accounts that doxxed my location will now be banned.” Musk was referring to a poll he published about when the accounts he banned should be restored. After almost 3.7 million votes, 59% of votes favored lifting the bans “now”, while the rest voted “in 7 days”. Musk also decided last month to restore Donald Trump’s account based on a straw poll after claiming he would form a “different viewpoint” council to weigh such issues.
The journalists who banned Musk have disputed his claim that they “doxxed” him. It seemed to some observers that the tech titan – as the sole decision-maker on Twitter – wanted to silence critics of his tenure at the company.
“To be clear, there was no ‘doxing’ – even when an impulsive, unaccountable oligarch said so,” Tony Webster, a journalist and photographer whose account was suspended December 16, tweeted Friday night. He quoted his last tweet prior to his suspension, which read: “If you’re not ready to admit that Elon Musk lied to you about his ‘Free Speech’ goals, just deny it at this point.”
Accounts were restored Friday night, including those of independent journalist Aaron Rupar (@atrupar), Ryan Mac of The New York Times (@RMac18), Drew Harwell of The Washington Post (@drewharwell), Donie O’Sullivan of CNN (@donie ), Matt Binder of Mashable (@MattBinder), Micah Lee of The Intercept (@micahflee) and Tony Webster (@webster).
Twitter also restored the account of Mastodon (@joinmastodon) on Friday, who had tweeted a link to the ElonJet account on its own service. At the time of going to press, political commentator Keith Olbermann’s report was still on hold.
Musk’s move – who claims he is a “free speech absolutist” – to ban the high-profile journalists’ accounts came after he suspended the @ElonJet account and other plane-tracking bots on Wednesday, citing the Need to ensure the safety of his family. Also on Wednesday, Twitter issued a brand new rule that prohibits accounts from sharing someone’s real-time location, even if the data information is otherwise publicly available. Several of the journalists’ suspended accounts had tweeted about the jet tracker, linking to his new account on rival social network Mastodon.
Last month, Musk said Twitter would grant “amnesty” to all suspended accounts and reinstate them (“provided they haven’t broken the law or engaged in egregious spam”). These included neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, founder of white supremacist site The Daily Stormer, who Twitter banned in 2013.
Rupar after his account is recovered, tweeted, “I would like to thank everyone for the support and kind words over the past day and for some changes. I was initially quite disappointed to be suspended, but quickly realized that it would be okay because I’m blessed to have an amazing online community. Seriously, I really appreciate it. Cheers.”
Rupar had previously told CNN that he hadn’t posted anything about @ElonJet on Twitter. He has criticized Musk in his tweets and coverage. For example, on Dec. 15, Rupar tweeted, “I can’t wait for Twitter to ban Elon Musk for violating the policy the company announced just hours ago,” citing a video clip Musk showed of a masked person in of a car that revealed its license plate and asked, “Does anyone recognize this person or this car?” Earlier, Musk said in a tweet that a car his 2-year-old son was driving in LA on Tuesday night “was being followed [a] crazy stalker (thinking it was me) who later stopped the car from moving and climbed onto the hood.”
Since insuring Twitter’s deal less than two months ago, Musk has thrown the company into massive disarray. Not only has he laid off 50% of Twitter employees, but he’s also attempting to monetize Twitter Blue by making the paid service the only way to get a “verified” blue tick going forward.