Elon Musk’s Twitter bans Aaron Rupar and CNN, NYT, WaPo journalists without explanation

New York

Twitter on Thursday night banned the accounts of several high-profile journalists from major news outlets without explanation, apparently marking a major attempt by new owner Elon Musk to exert his unilateral authority over the platform.

Accounts belonging to CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, New York Times’ Ryan Mac, Washington Post’s Drew Harwell and other journalists who have covered Musk aggressively in recent weeks have all been abruptly suspended permanently. The account of progressive freelance journalist Aaron Rupar was also banned.

Neither Musk nor Twitter responded to a request for comment Thursday evening, and the platform did not explain specifically why the journalists were exiled from the platform.

But he appeared to claim the sanctioned accounts had violated his new ‘doxxing’ policy and shared what he said amounted to ‘assassination coordinates’ on him, although many pointed out that the reporters had not disseminate this type of information.

O’Sullivan, Mac and Harwell had recently reported on the banning of @ElonJet, an account that posted real-time updates on the whereabouts of Musk’s private jet.

Doxxing generally refers to the practice of sharing someone’s home address or other personal information online. The banned account had instead used publicly available flight data, which remains online and accessible, to track Musk’s jet.

The bans have raised a number of questions about the future of the platform, which has been branded as a digital public square. It also seriously called into question Musk’s supposed commitment to free speech.

Musk has repeatedly said he would like to allow any legal speech on the platform; in April, the same day he announced he would buy Twitter, he tweeted, “I hope even my worst critics stay on Twitter because that’s what free speech means.”

A CNN spokesperson said the company has asked Twitter for an explanation and will “reevaluate our relationship based on that response.”

“The impulsive and unjustified suspension of a number of journalists, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, is concerning but not surprising. Twitter’s growing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern to anyone who uses Twitter,” the spokesperson said.

A New York Times spokesperson called the mass bans ‘questionable and unfortunate’, adding: ‘Neither the Times nor Ryan have received an explanation as to why this happened. We hope that all journalists’ accounts will be restored and that Twitter will provide a satisfactory explanation for this action.

“Elon says he’s a champion of free speech and he prohibits journalists from exercising free speech,” Harwell told CNN on Thursday. “I think that calls into question his commitment.”

Rupar also said he had heard “nothing” from Twitter about the suspension.

The @ElonJet account, which had more than 500,000 followers, was permanently suspended on Wednesday after Twitter introduced a set of new policies banning accounts that track people’s live locations. Musk has also blocked any accounts linked to such information. Previously, there were no location sharing restrictions on Twitter.

The changes came after Musk reinstated Twitter’s old rule breakers and stopped enforcing the platform’s policies prohibiting misinformation about Covid-19.

Other accounts were quickly criticized. Thursday, Twitter closed an account belonging to emerging competitor Mastodon, which had tweeted earlier today that people could follow @ElonJet on its platform with a link included.

Several of the journalists suspended Thursday had covered the @ElonJet ban, underscoring the irony of Musk’s purported mission to advance free speech.

“Free speech is when the second richest man in the world threatens legal action against a 20-year-old student for sharing publicly available data he doesn’t like,” Harwell tweeted before that his account be deleted, referring to Jack Sweeney, the student who runs @ElonJet.

CNN’s O’Sullivan had also covered the story, having interviewed Sweeney and her grandmother about it.

“I think it’s very important for the potential impact this can have on freelance journalists, freelance journalists around the world, especially those covering Elon Musk’s other companies, like Tesla and SpaceX,” he said. O’Sullivan told CNN on Thursday after his story. has been suspended.

As the furor over the account suspensions unfolded, some Twitter users reported that the platform began to intervene when they attempted to post links to their own profiles on alternative social networks, including Mastodon.

Those reports were confirmed late Thursday by a CNN reporter who was blocked from sharing a Mastodon profile URL and received an automated error message that Twitter or its partners had identified the site as “potentially dangerous.”

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