Twitter suspends journalists after they reveal Elon Musk’s live location. On Thursday night, just days after an account following Musk’s private plane was removed from the network, and journalists got the ban hammer too.
Twitter suspends journalists from the New York Times (Ryan Mac), CNN (Donie O’Sullivan), Mashable (Matt Binder), Washington Post (Drew Harwell), and government-funded Voice of America (Steve Herman). Political columnist Keith Olbermann is among others whose accounts have been suspended. Later that night, Musk claimed that the suspensions would be temporary.
According to NBC News reporter Ben Collins, Harwell’s last post before being stopped was about Twitter suspending the account of one of its competitors, Mastodon, for tweeting a link to its own version of the @ElonJet account that monitored Musk’s jet. (On Thursday, Mastodon’s Twitter account was also suspended.)
Olbermann’s final tweet requested users to re-create Harwell’s message word for word and link to an article by independent journalist Aaron Rupar, whose account was also suspended, criticizing Musk for his “populist cosplay” while being one of the world’s richest men.
Twitter suspends journalists, but why?
“Without commenting on any specific accounts, I can confirm that we will suspend any accounts that violate our privacy policies and put other users at risk,” Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, says.
On Wednesday, Twitter announced a policy update that prohibited sharing “live location information, including information shared on Twitter directly or links to 3rd-party URL(s) of travel routes.”
“We don’t make exceptions to this policy for journalists or any other accounts,” Irwin added.
In response to a tweet from venture capitalist Mike Solana claiming that providing a link to any version of the @ElonJet tracker appeared to result in a suspension, Musk said, “Same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else.”
He subsequently tweeted, “Accounts engaged in doxxing will be suspended for 7 days.”
The suspended accounts appear to be able to use Twitter Spaces, as several of the blacklisted journalists discussed the news in a live audio chat room Thursday night.
Musk briefly joined in affirming that providing a link to a page that offered real-time location tracking, such as @ElonJet, was “ban evasion” and no different from broadcasting live locations.
“You show the link to real-time information, ban evasion,” Musk said. “You dox, you get suspended, end of the story, that’s it.”
Banned Washington Post tech reporter Harwell, who was also in the chat room, responded: “This is reporting … there is reporting value in public data.” He tried his best to downplay the seriousness of the situation with the blanket “reporting” defense but failed…
Binder stated on Thursday that he was instantly suspended after sending a screenshot from O’Sullivan of “an official LAPD statement regarding the incident Elon Musk was tweeting about last night that led him to suspend ElonJet and its creator Jack Sweeney.”
“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,” Binder said. “I have been highly critical of Musk but never broke any of Twitter’s listed policies.”
About Twitter suspending journalists’ news, Rupar wrote on his Substack earlier in the evening that he didn’t know what rule he could have violated.
“I did post a tweet yesterday noting that the ElonJet account that was suspended from Twitter was still active on Facebook, with a link to the Facebook page,” Rupar said. “Perhaps that did it, but I still don’t know what policy that could’ve possibly violated.” Mac tweeted from a fresh account, saying he received no notice or explanation for his suspension.
“I cover Twitter, Elon Musk, and his businesses. And I will continue to do so,” he said on Twitter. Collins verified the new account, @MacSilenced, was the genuine Mac in a tweet.
“We hope that all of the journalists’ accounts are reinstated and that Twitter provides a satisfying explanation for this action,” said Harlie Stadtlander, communications director for the New York Times, to NBC News.
CNN’s called Twitter suspended journalists’ news “impulsive and unjustified” while asking Twitter for an explanation.
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What is doxxing?
Doxing or doxxing (originally spelled in 1337 as d0xing) is the act of publicly providing personally identifiable information about an individual or organization, usually via the internet, usually with malicious intent. Historically, the term has been used interchangeably to refer to both the aggregation of this information from public sources or record databases and social media websites (like Facebook), as well as the publication of previously private information obtained through criminal or otherwise fraudulent means such as hacking and social engineering. The aggregation and provision of previously published material as distinct from publication is generally a legal practice though subject to laws concerning stalking and intimidation. Doxing may be done for reasons such as online shaming, manipulation, extortion, and vigilante aid to law enforcement.