Elon Musk reinstates journalists’ Twitter accounts after suspensions cause backlash

Dec 17 (Reuters) – Elon Musk has relaunched the Twitter accounts of several journalists who were suspended for a day amid controversy over their public disclosure of the billionaire’s flight.

After the unprecedented suspensions on Friday sparked sharp criticism from government officials, advocacy groups and press organizations from around the world, some said the microblogging platform was harming press freedom.

A Twitter poll later conducted by Musk also showed that a majority of respondents wanted the accounts restored immediately.

“The people have spoken. Accounts that doxed my location will now have their suspension lifted,” Musk said in a tweet on Saturday.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. A Reuters check showed that suspended accounts involving journalists from the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post had been reactivated.

Officials from France, Germany, Britain and the European Union earlier condemned the suspensions.

The episode, which one well-known security analyst labeled the “Thursday Night Massacre,” was seen by critics as fresh evidence of Musk, who considers himself a “free speech absolutist” who deletes speech and users he personally dislikes.

Shares in Tesla (TSLA.O)The electric car maker, led by Musk, fell 4.7% on Friday, posting its worst weekly loss since March 2020, as investors grew more concerned about his distraction and the slowing global economy.

Following Musk’s suspension of journalists, French Industry Minister Roland Lescoeur tweeted on Friday that he would suspend his own activity on Twitter.

Melissa Fleming, the United Nations communications chief, tweeted that she was “deeply disturbed” by the suspensions and that “media freedom is not a toy.”

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The German Foreign Office warned Twitter that the ministry had a problem with measures affecting press freedom.

Elon Jet

The suspension stemmed from a controversy over ElonJet’s Twitter account tracking Musk’s private jet using publicly available information.

On Wednesday, the Twitter account suspended tracking of other private jets, despite Musk’s earlier tweet saying it would not suspend ElonJet in the name of free speech.

Shortly thereafter, Twitter changed its privacy policy to prohibit the sharing of “live location information.”

Later Thursday evening, several journalists, including those from the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post, were suspended from Twitter without notice.

In an email to Reuters overnight, Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, said the team had manually reviewed “any and all accounts” that had violated the new privacy policy by posting direct links to the ElonJet account.

“I understand that the focus on journalist accounts seems important, but we applied the policy to journalist and non-journalist accounts equally today,” Irwin said in an email.

The Advancing Business Editing and Writing Society said in a statement Friday that Twitter’s actions “violate the spirit of the First Amendment and the principle that social media platforms allow the unfiltered distribution of information already in the public square.”

Journalists accused Musk of posting his real-time location as “basically assassination coordinates” for his family.

The billionaire appeared briefly in a Twitter Space audio chat held by reporters, which turned into a contentious debate over whether the suspended reporters actually violated policy and exposed Musk’s real-time location.

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“If you dox, you get suspended. End of story,” Musk repeated in response to questions. “Dox” is a term for publishing personal information about someone, usually with malicious intent.

The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, one of the journalists suspended but able to join the audio chat, posted a link to LongJet to push back on the idea that he had exposed the exact location of Musk or his family.

Soon after, BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos, who hosted the space chat, tweeted that the audio session had abruptly cut off and that the recording was no longer available.

In a tweet explaining what happened, Musk said “We’re fixing a legacy bug. Should be working tomorrow.”

Reporting by Sheila Tang in Dallas and Eva Mathews, Sneha Bhowmick and Rhea Binoy in Bangalore; Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco, Editing by Nick Zieminski, Jonathan Otis and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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