Elon Musk faces growing anger over Twitter ban on journalists
Elon Musk faced a growing backlash Friday from lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic, with threats of fines and sanctions, after Twitter suspended the accounts of at least eight journalists on Thursday without warning.
Accounts suspended included those belonging to Ryan Mac of the New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan of CNN and Drew Harwell of the Washington Post. We didn’t know what the suspensions had in common.
The silence of prominent voices could increase regulatory pressure on Twitter, and possibly on Mr. Musk’s other companies, including Tesla and SpaceX, which is a big recipient of government funding and projects. It could also hurt its efforts to bring reluctant advertisers back to the platform.
The action sparked a wave of protests. News outlets including The Times and CNN demanded that Mr. Musk explain his rationale. The journalists’ supporters argued on Twitter that the move was too punitive.
European Union lawmakers could go on the offensive. Vera Jourova, vice-president of the European Commission, said the move violated the EU’s Digital Services Act and its Media Freedom Act.
“There are red lines. And sanctions, soon,” she tweeted Friday morning.
The recently ratified Digital Services Act serves as something of a content moderation regulation for companies operating in the bloc. It will come into force next year and will result in a fine of 6% of global turnover for companies that break the rules.
Representative Lori Trahan, a Massachusetts Democrat and member of the House Electronic Communications and Internet Committee, also expressed dismay at Twitter’s decision. She tweeted on Thursday that she received assurances from the company this week that she has no intention of hitting back at independent journalists or researchers who critically cover Mr. Musk and Twitter.
“Less than 12 hours later, several tech reporters were suspended. What’s the problem, @elonmusk? » she wrote.
The measures came a day after Twitter suspended more than two dozen other accounts, including an account belonging to Jack Sweeney, the 20-year-old student behind @elonjet, who was tracking the movements of Mr. Musk. Each of the suspended journalists had written on the aircraft tracking account or tweeted about it.
The billionaire tech mogul, who has described himself as a free speech absolutist, introduced a new red line this week after claiming a car carrying one of his children was hit by a ” crazy stalker”. The rule: Any Twitter user who posts someone else’s live location or other personal information — an act known as doxxing — will be taken offline.
In a discussion on Twitter Spaces, Mr. Musk defended the decision to block journalists. “You doxx, you’re suspended, end of story,” he said, then abruptly left the call.
It’s unclear how long the suspensions will last. Friday, Mr. Musk interrogates his 121 million followers, asking them to vote on when accounts that shared his position should be reinstated. By 8:30 a.m. EST, nearly 60% had voted “now.” (The poll will last another 14 hours.)
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