Journalist suspensions widen rift between Twitter and media

Journalist suspensions widen rift between Twitter and media thumbnail

Elon Musk’s sudden suspension of several journalists covering Twitter has created a growing rift between the social network and media organizations that have used it to grow their audiences.

Individual reporters with The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Voice of America and other news agencies saw their accounts go dark Thursday.

Musk posted late Friday that the company would lift suspensions based on results from a poll. The poll revealed that 58.7% preferred to have accounts immediately suspended, compared to 41.3%, who preferred suspensions to be lifted within seven days.

The company has not provided any explanation as to why the accounts were removed. Musk took to Twitter to complain that journalists had shared private information about him, which he called “basically assassination coordinates.” However, he did not provide any evidence to support this claim.

Many advertisers have abandoned Twitter because of content moderation questions. He now faces a crisis with media organizations that are among the most active users of the platform.

Most accounts were back on Saturday with some exceptions, and at least one new suspension.

Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz confirmed in an email to The Associated Press that her Twitter account was suspended Saturday evening. Substack published her online newsletter. She stated that she was working on a Musk story and sought his comment through a tweet shortly before her account was suspended. Linette Lopez,

Business Insider, was also suspended Friday without explanation, she said to The Associated Press. Lopez published a series articles between 2018, 2021 that highlighted what she called dangerous Tesla manufacturing flaws.

She claimed that she had posted court documents to Twitter, which included a 2018 Musk address. This was shortly before she was suspended. Lopez claimed that the address is not current because Musk changes his email address every few weeks. “

On Tuesday, she posted a 2019 story about Tesla troubles, commenting, “Now, just like then, most of @elonmusk’s wounds are self inflicted.”

The same day, she cited reports that Musk was reneging on severance for laid-off Twitter employees, threatening workers who talk to the media and refusing to make rent payments. Lopez described his actions as “classic Elon-going-for-broke behavior.”

Steve Herman, a national correspondent for Voice of America, told The Associated Press that his suspended Twitter account still hadn’t been fully restored as of Saturday afternoon because of his refusal to delete three tweets that the company flagged for purportedly sharing Musk’s whereabouts. Although Herman’s timeline on Twitter is visible to most users, he stated that he cannot see it and can’t post anything new until he deletes tweets that violate the revised terms of service.

“I have entered a new level. “I don’t believe anything I tweeted violated any reasonable standard of any platform for social media. “

Alarm at the suspensions was extended beyond media circles and to the United Nations, who was reconsidering its participation in Twitter.

This move sets “a dangerous precedent” at a time when journalists around the world face censorship, physical threats, and even worse, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric stated.

The suspensions of reporters were in response to Musk’s Wednesday decision to ban an account that automatically tracked flights of his private plane using publicly available data. Twitter also changed its rules to prohibit users from sharing the current location of another person without their consent.

Several of the reporters who were suspended Thursday night were writing about the new policy.

The Mastodon official Twitter account was also removed. This is a decentralized alternative social networking where many Twitter users are fleeing. Although it had previously tweeted about the jet tracking account, the reason for its ban was not clear. Twitter began to block users from linking to Mastodon accounts and flagged them as malware in some cases.

“This is a bald-faced lying,” Brian Krebs, cybersecurity journalist, posted.

Explaining the reporter bans, Musk tweeted, “Same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else. “

He added, “Criticizing” me all day is fine. However, doxxing my family’s real-time location and putting my family at risk is not .”

” Doxxing is the act of disclosing an individual’s identity, address, or any other personal information that could cause harm and violate their privacy. Sally Buzbee (the Washington Post’s executive editor) stated that Drew Harwell, a technology reporter, was “banned without warning, process, or explanation” after the publication of accurate information about Musk.

CNN said in a statement that “the impulsive and unjustified suspension of a number of reporters, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, is concerning but not surprising.”

“Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern for everyone who uses Twitter,” the statement added.

Another suspended journalist from Mashable’s technology news outlet, Mashable, stated that he was banned on Thursday night after sharing a screenshot O’Sullivan had previously posted.

The screenshot contained a statement sent by the Los Angeles Police Department to multiple media outlets including the AP about how it was in touch about the alleged stalking incident.

Binder stated that he did not share any location information or any links to the account for jet-tracking or other location-tracking accounts.

” I have been highly critical about Musk, but never broke any Twitter’s listed policies,” Binder wrote in an email.

The suspensions are coming as Musk makes major changes in content moderation on Twitter. Musk has attempted to claim that the platform suppressed right-wing voices by releasing selected company documents, dubbed “The Twitter Files”.

He promised free speech and reinstated high-profile accounts who had violated Twitter’s rules against hateful behavior or harmful misinformation. He has also said he would suppress negativity and hate by depriving some accounts of “freedom of reach.”

Opinion columnist Bari Weiss, who tweeted out some of “The Twitter Files,” called for the suspended journalists to be reinstated.

“The old Twitter regime was governed by its own biases and it sure seems like the new one has the same problem,” she tweeted. .”

If the suspensions result in the exodus of high-activity media organizations on Twitter, the platform will be changed at the fundamental level, Lou Paskalis, a long-standing marketing and media executive and former head of global media at Bank of America, said that the suspensions would cause the exodus of these media organizations.

CBS temporarily stopped its activity on Twitter in November because of “uncertainty” over new management. However, most media organizations have remained on the platform.

” We all know that news breaks on Twitter… but to now go after journalists really saws the main tent pole of Twitter,” Paskalis stated. Paskalis stated that driving journalists off Twitter is the most self-inflicted wound .”

. Some advertisers had already cut their Twitter spending due to uncertainty about Musk’s direction.

“It’s an overt display of what advertisers fear most — retribution to an action that Elon disagrees with,” he said.

Twitter’s Spaces conference chat was shut down on Thursday night after Musk abruptly left a session that had been hosted by a journalist. He was being questioned about the firing of the journalists. Musk later tweeted that Spaces was being taken offline to address a “Legacy Bug.” Spaces returned late Friday.

Advertisers are also monitoring the potential loss of Twitter users. According to Insider Intelligence’s forecast, Twitter will lose 32 millions users in the next two-years. This was attributed to technical issues and the return accounts that were banned for posting offensive content.

Meanwhile, some Twitter alternatives are gaining momentum.

Mastodon had over 6 million users on Friday, almost double the 3.4million it had the day Musk bought Twitter. Administrators and users solicited donations from disaffected Twitter users to fund many of the confederated networks within the open-source Mastodon platform. Crowd-funded funding is used for many of the networks, also known as “instances”. The platform is ad-free.


Associated Press writers Kelvin Chan in London, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Frank Bajak in Boston and Hillel Italie and Edith Lederer in New York contributed to this report.

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