On Thursday evening, Twitter banned many notable journalists from covering Elon Musk and his various companies. The venue did so without any warning or explanation.
Usually, 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 user’s location. However, since Musk took over, Twitter has banned certain accounts without warning. Welcome to Elon Musk’s version of Freedom of Speech.
The ban on journalists came about after Twitter suspended the Twitter account of Mastodon, the open-source social media alternative that became extremely popular after Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover. 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.
A few of the journalists and the accounts that were suspended had shared screenshots and articles about Mastodon’s suspension. Washington Post reporter Drew Harwell tweeted about Mastodon being kicked off the platform just before his suspension.
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 names above 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 suspended, he did share a link to the Facebook account of ElonJet while reporting on the subject. Through an alternate history, Mac shared the message from Twitter and noted that there was no warning before the permanent suspension.
Some of the suspended accounts shared Mastodon, ElonJet’s Twitter handles, and images of the tweet that appears to have gotten the former account suspended.
Because of Twitter’s reduced human moderation teams, automated systems enforcing Twitter’s 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 preferences.
Musk took to Twitter to explain his motives behind the ban. He said that these bans were intentional and that the same rules apply to “journalists” as everyone else.
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 excluded journalists 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.