More than a half-dozen journalists from news outlets like CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post had their accounts on Twitter banned on Thursday without any justification.
Journalists’ Twitter accounts, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, The New York Times’ Ryan Mac, The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, and others who have aggressively covered the social media’s new owner Elon Musk in recent weeks, have been permanently suspended.
Silencing journalists at Twitter while claiming to be a champion of free speech is the latest controversy sparked by Musk since taking over the company, which has seen staffing cut and advertisers leave. Some of the journalists had been tweeting about Twitter shutting down the @ElonJet account, which tracked the flights of billionaire Musk’s private jet, as well as versions of that account hosted on other social networks.
Twitter did not explain why the accounts of the reporters were suspended.
“Suspending journalists who cover you says nothing about free speech,” Sarah Reese Jones of news commentary website PoliticusUSA tweeted in response to posts about the suspensions.
Account suspensions on Twitter included CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post reporters, as well as independent journalists.
“The rash and unjustified suspension of a number of reporters, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan,” the news organisation said in a tweet.
“Everyone who uses Twitter should be extremely concerned about the platform’s increasing instability and volatility.”
CNN stated that it has requested an explanation from Twitter regarding the suspension.
The New York Times said in a statement that it also wanted answers from Twitter about the “questionable” suspension of journalists.
Musk briefly joined a Twitter Spaces conference chat hosted by Buzzfeed journalist Kate Notopoulos late Thursday. He reiterated his claims that the journalists Twitter banned were “doxxing” him when they were reporting on the jet tracking accounts being banned.
“There is no special treatment for journalists,” Musk said when asked if there was a link between the stalking incident and the posting of real-time information by the Post’s Drew Harwell.
“You dox, you get suspended, end of story,” he added before signing out abruptly.
The suspensions come as Musk makes significant changes to Twitter’s content moderation. He has attempted to claim, through the release of selected company documents dubbed “The Twitter Files,” that the platform suppressed right-wing voices under previous leaders.
He has promised to allow free speech to flourish and has restored high-profile accounts that had previously violated Twitter’s rules against hateful behaviour or harmful misinformation, but he has also stated that he will suppress negativity and hate by denying some accounts “freedom of reach.”
The non-profit Committee to Protect Journalists, which defends journalists around the world, expressed concern about the suspensions on Thursday night.
“If confirmed as retaliation for their work, this would be a serious violation of journalists’ right to report the news freely,” the group said.