Elon Musk restores Twitter accounts of journalists after suspensions draw backlash

Dec 17 (Reuters) – Elon Musk has reinstated the Twitter accounts of several journalists suspended for a day over a controversy over the publication of public data on the billionaire’s plane.

The reinstatements came after the unprecedented suspensions drew scathing criticism from government officials, advocacy groups and journalism organizations in several parts of the world on Friday, with some saying the microblogging platform was jeopardizing the freedom of press.

A Twitter poll Musk conducted later also showed that a majority of respondents wanted the accounts restored immediately.

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

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

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

The episode, which a well-known security researcher called a “Thursday night massacre”, is seen by critics as further evidence of Musk, who considers himself a “free speech absolutist”, eliminating speech and users he personally dislikes.

Shares in Tesla (TSLA.O)an electric car maker led by Musk, fell 4.7% on Friday and posted its worst weekly loss since March 2020 as investors grew increasingly concerned about its distraction and a slowing global economy.

Roland Lescure, France’s industry minister, tweeted on Friday that following Musk’s suspension of journalists, he would suspend his own Twitter activity.

UN Communications Officer Melissa Fleming tweeted that she was “deeply disturbed” by the suspensions and that “media freedom is not a toy”.

The German Foreign Ministry has warned Twitter that the ministry has a problem with measures jeopardizing press freedom.

ELONJET

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 that track private jets, despite Musk’s earlier tweet saying he would not suspend ElonJet in the name of free speech.

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

Then on Thursday night, several reporters, including from The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post, were suspended from Twitter without notice.

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

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

The Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing said in a statement Friday that Twitter’s actions “violate the spirit of the First Amendment and the principle that social media platforms will allow the unfiltered distribution of information that is already on the public place”.

Musk accused reporters of publishing his location in real time, which is “essentially the coordinates of an assassination” for his family.

The billionaire briefly appeared in a Twitter Spaces audio chat hosted by reporters, which quickly turned into a contentious discussion about whether the suspended reporters had indeed exposed Musk’s real-time position in violation of the policy. .

“If you dox, you get suspended. End of story,” Musk said repeatedly in response to questions. “Dox” is a term for posting private information about someone, usually with malicious intent.

Drew Harwell of the Washington Post, one of the reporters who had been suspended but was able to join the audio chat nonetheless, pushed back against the idea that he had revealed the exact location of Musk or his family by posting a link to ElonJet.

Shortly after, BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos, who hosted the Spaces chat, tweeted that the audio session had ended abruptly and the recording was unavailable.

In a tweet explaining what happened, Musk said, “We’re fixing a Legacy bug. It 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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