West News Wire: The abrupt suspension of some journalists who cover Twitter by Elon Musk has widened a divide that has been developing between the social media platform and media outlets that have utilized it to boost their audiences.
On Thursday, specific reporters’ accounts with The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Voice of America, and other news organizations went black.
Musk announced in a tweet late on Friday that the suspensions would be lifted after the outcome of a user referendum on the website. According to the poll, 58.7% of participants preferred an action to immediately lift account suspensions over 41.3% who preferred to do so after seven days.
The company has not explained why the accounts were taken down. But Musk took to Twitter on Thursday night to accuse journalists of sharing private information about his whereabouts, which he described as “basically assassination coordinates.” He provided no evidence for that claim.
Many advertisers abandoned Twitter over content moderation questions after Musk acquired it in October, and he now risks a rupture with media organizations, which are among the most active on the platform.
Most of the accounts were back early Saturday. One exception was Business Insider’s Linette Lopez, who was suspended after the other journalists, also with no explanation, she told The Associated Press.
Lopez published a series of articles between 2018 and 2021 highlighting what she called dangerous Tesla manufacturing shortcomings.
Shortly before being suspended, she said she had posted court-related documents to Twitter that included a 2018 Musk email address. That address is not current, Lopez said, because “he changes his email 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.”
Alarm over the suspensions extended beyond media circles to the United Nations, which was reconsidering its involvement in Twitter.
The move sets “a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists all over the world are facing censorship, physical threats and even worse,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The reporters’ suspensions followed Musk’s decision Wednesday to permanently ban an account that automatically tracked the flights of his private jet using publicly available data. That also led Twitter to change its rules for all users to prohibit the sharing of another person’s current location without their consent.
Several of the reporters suspended Thursday night had been writing about the new policy and Musk’s rationale for imposing it, which involved his allegations about a stalking incident he said affected his family Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
The official Twitter account for Mastodon, a decentralized alternative social network where many Twitter users are fleeing, was also banned. The reason was unclear, though it had tweeted about the jet-tracking account. Twitter also began preventing users from posting links to Mastodon accounts, in some cases flagging them as potential malware.