Elon Musk’s decision to suddenly ban leading tech journalists of Twitter is drawing a backlash from lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Europe, the German Foreign Office tweeted his concern over the impact Musk’s measures could have on press freedom, while a senior EU official said Twitter must abide by bloc rules or face possible sanctions .
Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s vice-president for values and transparency, said the “arbitrary suspension” of journalists was “worrying”, and she said the company could face penalties as a result.
“The EU Digital Services Act requires respect for media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced by our #MediaFreedomAct,” Jourová said in a post on Twitteradding that Musk “should be aware of that.”
“There are red lines,” she continued. “And sanctions, soon.”
A United Nations spokesperson said he was “very disturbed by the arbitrary suspension” of journalists’ accounts on Twitter, warning that the company’s actions had set “a dangerous precedent” in the face of growing threats to the freedom of the press. press around the world.
Jodie Ginsberg, chair of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the organization was “deeply alarmed” by the decision and called on Twitter to “immediately restore the accounts of these journalists”.
And many Democratic lawmakers in the United States took Musk to task after his company suspended the accounts of several journalists who covered him Thursday night, including Donie O’Sullivan of CNN, Ryan Mac of The New York Times and freelance journalist Aaron. Rupar.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she understands Musk’s feelings of vulnerability as a public figure, “but falling into abuse of power + erratically banning journalists only increases the intensity around you”.
“Get a rhythm and end proto-fascism,” she tweeted.
Massachusetts Rep. Lori Trahan suggested the suspensions directly contradicted assurances Twitter had given its staff hours earlier. “My team met @Twitter today,” Trahan tweeted Thursday night. “They told us they would not retaliate against independent journalists or researchers who post reviews of the platform. Less than 12 hours later, several tech reporters were suspended. What’s the problem, @elonmusk? »
Thursday’s meeting with Twitter’s government affairs representative had been previously scheduled, Trahan’s spokesman Francis Grubar said, in response to doubts about academic researchers’ continued access to Twitter after layoffs at the company. The suspensions later in the day “immediately caught our attention,” Grubar told CNN in a statement.
Neither Musk nor Twitter responded to a request for comment late Thursday, and the platform did not explain specifically why the journalists were removed from the platform.
Musk falsely claimed that reporters violated his new “doxxing” policy by sharing his live location, which amounts to what he described as “assassination coordinates”. CNN’s O’Sullivan did not share the billionaire’s live location.
Shortly before his suspension, O’Sullivan reported on Twitter that the social media company had suspended the account of an emerging competitive social media service, Mastodon, which allowed the continued posting of @ElonJet, an account that displays the location of Musk’s private jet. .
Other journalists suspended Thursday had also recently written on the account.
European leaders have previously said they are monitoring the impact of Musk’s takeover of Twitter on the platform. Thierry Breton, a senior EU official, warned Musk late November that the social media platform must take significant steps to comply with the bloc’s content moderation laws.
“Twitter will need to implement transparent usage policies, significantly strengthen content moderation and protect freedom of expression, resolutely fight misinformation and limit targeted advertising,” Breton said at the time. “All of this requires sufficient AI and human resources, both in terms of volumes and skills. I look forward to making progress in all of these areas and we will be coming to assess Twitter’s readiness first hand.
Musk had Democratic defenders. California Rep. Ted Lieu suggested it was inappropriate for Congress to hold hearings into Musk’s handling of suspended accounts, because “it’s not the government’s job to tell Twitter who to ban, who to suspend. or who to promote”. The First Amendment prevents Congress from regulating private corporate speech, he added.
But California Rep. Ro Khanna, whom Musk praised for criticizing Twitter’s decision to remove the 2020 Hunter Biden laptop story from the New York Post, told CNN: “It’s one thing to say that you’re right about the first amendment, but when you’re one of the world’s greatest innovators, you also have some responsibility, and I don’t think that’s proper, that’s not a good look for him. And I’ll tell him in person.
— Chris Liakos, Oliver Darcy, Eve Brennan and Nadine Schmidt contributed reporting.