Twitter has banned several journalists critical of Elon Musk after they allegedly crossed a line.
The Rule Breakers: The suspended Twitter accounts belonged to:
Reporters from American news outlets such as The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, The Intercept, and Mashable
Two independent journalists – Aaron Rupar and Steve Herman
American sports commentator Keith Olbermann
ADS-B Exchange, a database for flight tracking enthusiasts
Their 'offence' was tweeting external links to a banned Twitter account which amounted to "ban evasion," Musk alleged.
He was likely referring to '@elonjet' which was banned for keeping track of Musk's private jet in real time.
Aaron Rupar confirmed this by stating that he had tweeted a link to the Facebook page of '@elonjet' shortly before getting suspended.
Why Musk is irked: The billionaire has blamed '@elonjet' for doxxing him and endangering the safety of his family who apparently had a run-in with a "crazy stalker" recently.
The flip side: '@elonjet' is one of many accounts that have sprouted with the intention to highlight the adverse effects of private jets on the environment in the context of climate change. Celebrities like Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian have also received flak for their environmentally unsustainable decision to fly via private jet.
Permanent or temporary? It is unclear. Rupar shared a purported screenshot and claimed that his account has been permanently suspended.
Yes, but: Musk is leaving it up to users to decide when to reinstate the suspended accounts. He is conducting a Twitter Poll that has two choices: Now or In 7 Days.
Besides the arbitrary crackdown on Twitter users who get on Musk's bad side, people who try to post links to its rival platform Mastodon are reportedly being shown an error message that states, "we can’t complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful." The account used by homegrown microblogging site Koo to respond to user queries was also suspended.
Twitter covered its bases: The platform tweaked its policy a day before the suspensions to prohibit sharing of "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,” Twitter's head of trust and safety Ella Irwin said as per a report by The Verge.
But there was no heads-up: "I have not received any communications from Twitter whatsoever, other than a notice at the top of my feed that I am permanently banned and in read-only mode,” one of the reporters who was suspended was quoted as saying in the report.
"Neither The Times nor Ryan have received any explanation about why this occurred. We hope that all of the journalists’ accounts are reinstated and that Twitter provides a satisfying explanation for this action," read a statement from The New York Times.
The big picture: '@elonjet' has always managed to frustrate Musk, to the point that he once offered the owner Jack Sweeney millions of dollars for voluntarily deleting the account.
1. Classic Musk: On 6 November, he tweeted, "My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk." Now, he appears to have changed his mind.
2. Double standards? 'Twitter Files' was an investigation backed by Musk which took aim at the platform's former executives for its decision to suppress a damaging Hunter Biden report.
How is Musk's decision to take strict action against journalists reporting on other Elonjet sites any different? When a Washington Post journalist posed this question to Musk in the Twitter Spaces, the latter replied, "You dox, you get suspended. End of story, that’s it," and left.
Ultimately, Musk has final say. In the past, Twitter would unlock a user's account if they deleted the violating tweet. But in Don Elon's Twitterverse, it seems he is judge, jury, and executioner.
(Update, 17 December: This report was updated with news of Koo's account being suspended.)