Twitter suspends journalists who have been covering Elon Musk and the company

An image of new Twitter owner Elon Musk is seen surrounded by Twitter logos in this photo illustration in Warsaw, Poland on 08 November, 2022. 

STR | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Twitter suspended several high-profile journalists Thursday evening who have been covering the company and Elon Musk. Some messages indicated the accounts were “permanently suspended.”

The suspensions come a day after Twitter changed its policies around accounts that track private jets, including one owned by Elon Musk.

The accounts of Ryan Mac of The New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan of CNN, Drew Harwell of The Washington Post, Matt Binder of Mashable, Micah Lee of The Intercept, Steve Herman of Voice of America and independent journalists Aaron Rupar, Keith Olbermann and Tony Webster had all been suspended as of Thursday evening.

The Twitter account for Mastodon, a platform billed as an alternative, was also suspended early Thursday evening.

Musk indicated that the suspensions stemmed from the platform’s new rules banning private jet trackers, responding to a tweet from Mike Solana, vice president of venture capital firm Founders Fund, who noted that the suspended accounts had posted links to jet trackers on other websites.

“Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not,” he added in another tweet.

In early November, shortly after taking control of Twitter, Musk tweeted that he would not ban the account that tracked his jet.

It was not immediately clear why the accounts were suspended, though some had been tweeting about the suspension of the Twitter account that tracked Musk’s jet, @ElonJet, and its availability on Mastodon.

As of Thursday evening, Twitter accounts operated by NBC News journalists were unable to tweet any link to Mastodon pages.

A spokesperson for The New York Times who called the suspensions questionable and unfortunate said that no explanation was provided to Mac or the news organization about the ban.

“We hope that all of the journalists’ accounts are reinstated and that Twitter provides a satisfying explanation for this action,” said Charlie Stadtlander, communications director for the Times.

Lee said in a text message that before the suspension he had attempted to tweet out a link to the Mastodon account that tracked Musk’s jet but was unable to and instead tweeted a screenshot.

Rupar wrote on Substack that his account was permanently suspended but that he had no other information.

“I haven’t heard anything from Twitter at all,” he wrote.

He noted that he had tweeted a link Wednesday to a Facebook page that tracked Musk’s jet.

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A spokesperson for CNN said the suspensions were “impulsive and unjustified” — but not surprising.

“Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern for everyone who uses Twitter,” the network said in a statement. “We have asked Twitter for an explanation, and we will reevaluate our relationship based on that response.”

Binder, a tech reporter at Mashable, said he was suspended after tweeting a screenshot from another suspended reporter, CNN’s O’Sullivan, of an LAPD statement.

“I’ve been on it since 2008. I never got so much as a slap on the wrist because I always follow the rules,” Binder said. “It’s not hard to do when you know what the rules are.”

Binder said his account notified him that he is permanently suspended.

“This is the very stuff that he’s criticized the previous Twitter of doing,” Binder said of Musk.

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Musk tweeted Wednesday evening: “Any account doxxing real-time location info of anyone will be suspended, as it is a physical safety violation. This includes posting links to sites with real-time location info.”

Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., tweeted that she had met with Twitter representatives on Thursday who said the company would not take action against journalists who criticize the platform.

“Less than 12 hours later, multiple technology reporters have been suspended. What’s the deal, @elonmusk?” Trahan added.

The suspensions come as Musk has backtracked on his promise that he would run Twitter as a free speech absolutist, reinstating accounts associated with the QAnon movement and other far-right groups while banning others.

Internally, he has removed critics of his policies from the company. 

The suspensions add to what has been a tumultuous couple of days for Twitter after the company first suspended the account that tracked Musk’s jet.

Musk appeared to threaten legal action against its creator, Jack Sweeney, a 20-year-old Florida college student, after Musk claimed a “stalker” confronted a car carrying his child in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Musk provided no proof that Sweeney or his account was involved. He did not provide a time or location in the sprawling metropolitan area where the claimed incident occurred.

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Sweeney told NBC News on Wednesday that he hasn’t received any notification of legal action, and the last time his bot tweeted anything was Dec. 12, “which is not last night, so I don’t get how that’s connected.”

The Los Angeles Police Department said Thursday that no police reports had been filed.

“LAPD’s Threat Management Unit is aware of the situation and tweet by Elon Musk and is in contact with his representatives and security team. No crime reports have been filed yet,” Officer Lizeth Loeni, a police public information officer, said in a statement Thursday evening.

There are other law enforcement departments that also cover parts of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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