Technology

Elon Musk restores suspended Twitter accounts of journalists

Elon Musk

Following a debate over the reporting of publicly available information on the billionaire’s plane, Elon Musk has restored the Twitter accounts of many journalists who had been suspended.

Officials, advocacy groups, and journalism organisations voiced concerns that the extraordinary suspensions threatened press freedom.

Musk said on Thursday that the journalists who “doxed” (publicly disclosed private information) about his whereabouts were a direct cause for suspending the accounts because they threatened his family’s safety.

He then took to Twitter to poll followers on how long they thought the accounts should be locked. It later revealed that most respondents want prompt access to their accounts.

“The people have spoken. Accounts who doxxed my location will have their suspension lifted now,” Musk stated in a tweet on Saturday.

Journalists from The New York Times, CNN, and The Washington Post were among those suspended; they have since been restored.

Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” has been criticised by officials from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the European Union for the suspensions.

In response to Musk’s decision to block access to Twitter for journalists, French Minister of Industry Roland Lescure said on Friday that he, too, would be taking a Twitter break.

UN spokesperson Melissa Fleming expressed her “deeply disturbed” and “media freedom is not a toy” tweets in response to the suspensions.

The German Foreign Ministry warned Twitter about its concerns over actions that threaten press freedom.

Musk’s electric car business Tesla saw its stock drop by 4.7% on Friday, its worst weekly loss since March 2020, due to the news.

ElonJet, a Twitter account that used publicly available data to track Musk’s private plane, was at the centre of the dispute that led to the suspension of the accounts.

Musk has previously stated that he would not remove the account to protect free speech. However, on Wednesday, Twitter disabled it along with a few others that monitored private aircraft. Shortly after that, Twitter altered its privacy settings to forbid users from disclosing their “live location information.”

On Twitter, Musk stated, “the same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else” and added, “criticising me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not.”

Later, Musk claimed that journalists had violated Twitter’s rules by publishing what amounted to “basically assassination coordinates,” although he offered no proof of this accusation.

Donnie O’Sullivan, a CNN reporter, also suspended, claimed that he hadn’t told anyone where Musk’s plane was.

Private services like FlightAware and Flightradar24 routinely distribute online publicly available flight tracking data gathered by the United States Federal Aviation Administration.

Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, stated that her team had manually evaluated “any and all accounts” that had broken the new privacy policy by sharing links to ElonJet.

Irwin’s email states, “I understand that the focus seems to be mainly on journalist accounts.” Still, the policy was applied equally to journalistic and non-journalistic accounts that day.

Once he acquired Twitter in a $44 billion purchase in October, Musk immediately began cutting jobs, revamping the platform’s moderation procedures, and reactivating suspended accounts, including those of former US President Donald Trump.

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