Mehul Reuben DasDec 16, 2022 11:36:42 IST
On Thursday evening, Twitter banned a bunch of notable journalists from the platform who were covering Elon Musk and his various companies. The platform apparently did so without any warning or explanation.
Normally, before an account is banned, Twitter will send a few notifications or warnings at least, warning users of the policies they have violated unless they have broken the laws local to the location of the user. However, since Musk took over, Twitter has been banning certain accounts without any such warning. Welcome to Elon Musk’s version of Freedom of Speech.
The situation followed the company’s decision to suspend the Twitter account of Mastodon, an open-source social media alternative that’s built momentum since Elon Musk took over at the company. Twitter took action against Mastodon after the account linked to the Mastodon page of @ElonJet, a student-made bot that tracks the whereabouts of Musk’s private jet.
At least some of the accounts suspended had shared screenshots and observations about Mastodon’s suspension. Just prior to his suspension, Washington Post reporter Drew Harwell tweeted about Mastodon being kicked off the platform.
The accounts that have been banned include former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, The New York Times’ Ryan Mac, CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, Mashable’s Matt Binder, and journalist Aaron Rupar. All of these aforementioned names regularly covered Musk, and wrote extensively on Musk and his takeover of Twitter.
Rupar weighed in on his suspension on Substack, observing that while he did not know why his account was deactivated, he did share a link to the ElonJet Facebook account in the course of reporting on the subject. Through an alternate account, Mac shared the message he received from Twitter and noted that there was no warning before the permanent suspension.
Some of the suspended accounts shared Mastodon and ElonJet’s Twitter handles as well as images of the tweet that appears to have gotten the former account suspended.
In light of Twitter’s reduced human moderation teams, it’s possible that automated systems enforcing Twitter’s brand new rules against accounts like @ElonJet were overzealous in this instance. But it’s at least as likely that this is a case of Musk directing the moderation process based on his own preferences.
Musk took to Twitter to explain his motives behind the ban. He said that these bans were intentional, and that same doxxing rules apply to “journalists” as to everyone else.
Same doxxing rules apply to “journalists” as to everyone else
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 16, 2022
Musk stated that the suspensions would only last seven days. He later tweeted a poll inviting his Twitter followers to decide the fate of the banned journalists, who were previously notified that the account suspension was “permanent.” It should be noted, that the journalists who were banned had not been served any such notice.
Furthermore, it is a standard practice at Twitter to notify users about posts and skiing them to take offensive or potentially harmful posts to be taken down, before they are banned. Moreover, the policy these accounts violated, which prohibited users from sharing “live location information,” is only 24 hours old, so they couldn’t have possibly been sent any notification and given enough time to act on it.