January 28, 2023

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Elon Musk reinstated the journalists’ Twitter accounts after the comment sparked backlash

Elon Musk reinstated the journalists' Twitter accounts after the comment sparked backlash

Dec. 17 (Reuters) – Elon Musk has reinstated the Twitter accounts of several journalists that were suspended for a day over a controversy over the publication of public statements about the billionaire’s plane.

The jobs reinstatement came after the unprecedented suspension drew harsh criticism from government officials, advocacy groups and press organizations from several parts of the world on Friday, with some saying the microblogging platform endangered press freedom.

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

“People have spoken up,” Musk said in a tweet on Saturday. “The accounts that exposed my location will now be lifted.”

Twitter did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. A Reuters check showed the suspended accounts were reinstated, which included journalists from the New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post.

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

Critics view the episode, dubbed “The Thursday Night Massacre” by a well-known security researcher, as fresh evidence of Musk, who considers himself a “speech mogul,” eliminating speech and users he personally hates.

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

Roland Lescure, France’s industry minister, tweeted on Friday that after Musk suspended journalists, he would suspend his Twitter activity.

Melissa Fleming, the UN’s chief of communications, wrote on Twitter that she was “deeply disturbed” by the comment and that “media freedom is not a game”.

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Germany’s Foreign Ministry has warned Twitter that the ministry has a problem with actions that threaten press freedom.

ELONJET

The comment stemmed from a dispute over a Twitter account called ElonJet, which had been tracking Musk’s private jet using publicly available information.

On Wednesday, Twitter suspended the account and others who had tracked the private jets, despite Musk’s previous tweet that said he would not suspend ElonJet in the name of freedom of speech.

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

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

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

“I understand that the focus seems to be mainly on journalists’ accounts, but we’ve applied the policy equally to journalists and non-journalists today,” Irwin said in the email.

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

Musk accused the journalists of publishing his real-time location, the “assassination coordinates” for his family.

The billionaire appeared briefly in a Twitter Spaces audio chat hosted by reporters, which quickly turned into a contentious debate over whether the arrested journalists had actually exposed Musk’s real-time location in violation of policy.

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“If you do that, you get suspended. End of story,” Musk said repeatedly in response to questions. “Dox” is a term for posting private information about someone, usually with malicious intent.

The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, one of the journalists suspended but who was nonetheless able to join the voice chat, dismissed the notion that he had exposed Musk or his family’s exact location by posting a link to ElonJet.

Soon after, BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos, who hosted the Spaces chat, tweeted that the audio session was suddenly cut off and the recording was not available.

In a tweet explaining what happened, Musk said, “We’re fixing an old bug. Should work tomorrow.”

Additional reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas, Eva Matthews, Sneha Boomick and Rhea Benoy in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Hyunju-jin in San Francisco; Editing by Nick Zieminski, Jonathan Otis, and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.