A slew of prominent journalists were suspended from Twitter on Thursday afternoon, adding onto an already controversial week of content moderation decisions by new platform owner Elon Musk.
New York Times reporter Ryan Mac, The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, Mashable’s Matt Binder, CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan, The Intercept’s Micah Lee, political commenter Keith Olbermann, and independent journalist Aaron Rupar were removed from the platform in a late afternoon purge. The removed accounts shared a common thread of critical coverage of Musk and his management and policy decisions following his October takeover of Twitter.
“I was banned on Thursday night immediately after sharing a screenshot from CNN’s Donnie O’Sullivan moments after he was suspended. The screenshot was an official LAPD statement regarding the incident Elon Musk was tweeting out about last night which led him to suspending ElonJet and its creator Jack Sweeney,” Binder told Rolling Stone. “I did not share any location data, as per Twitter’s new terms. Nor did I share any links to ElonJet or other location tracking accounts. I have been highly critical of Musk but never broke any of Twitter’s listed policies.”
Also removed from Twitter was an account run by freelance journalist Tony Webster, who shared on Mastodon, that he was booted from his account with no warning. “My Twitter account has been suspended,” he wrote with a screenshot of his suspended account. “I’ve received no explanation.”
The slew of bans comes on the heels of a controversial decision by Musk to ban software developer Jack Sweeney, who created various Twitter accounts that tracked the flights of private jets and celebrity aircraft via various twitter accounts under his stewardship.
In a retroactive change to Twitter’s content moderation policy, Musk announced that any instances of posting real time location data would be treated as a form of doxxing, and result in a suspension of the account. Musk attempted to link Sweeney’s flight tracking data project to an incident in which an individual followed a car carrying his son. No evidence has come to light that the individual was motivated by or gathered information from Sweeney’s account, nevertheless Musk threatened legal action against him.
As celebrities and every day users wave Twitter goodbye amid the drastic changes, Musk (whose reported affinity for booting accounts who annoy him is now a regular theme) suspended competitor Mastodon’s Twitter account. The move is in marked contrast to Musk’s stance as a “free speech absolutist” who has frequently tweeted like-minded catchphrases like “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” and “Transparency is the key to trust,” yet doesn’t share those same beliefs when it comes to his own decisions at Twitter.
In April, the Twitter CEO memorably posted, “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”
The tweet was followed by further clarification, with Musk doubling down on his commitment to free speech.
After receiving media backlash for banning journalists on Thursday, Musk responded on Twitter, writing, “Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not.”
This story is being updated.
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