February 8, 2023

Elon Musk’s decision to abruptly suspend several journalists from Twitter sparked an outcry from First Amendment supporters, threats of sanctions from European regulators and criticism of the social media platform as news on Friday. and questions about the future of intellectual gathering places.

But at a time when complex, novel issues such as free speech and online censorship are being debated, the move also highlights the role of a simpler, more enduring element of American life: media moguls.

Hello, Citizen Musk.

Like William Randolph Hearst and Rupert Murdoch before him, Musk now controls an influential mass media production. Twitter, though distinct from newspapers and television networks, has lured journalists by pitching itself as a virtual town square.Now Mr. Musk, although his wish “Even my harshest critics stay on Twitter” seems to be a display of his ownership power in a seemingly arbitrary way, as if to stamp out accounts that personally displease him.

Journalists, including those from CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post, were suspended after Mr. Musk accused them of violating Twitter’s rules on violating personal privacy. Twitter recently shut down an account called @ElonJet that used publicly available flight data to track the whereabouts of Musk’s private jet after Mr Musk claimed a “crazy stalker” accosted a car in which one of his sons was traveling.

“You’re not special because you’re a reporter; you’re a citizen, so there’s no special treatment,” Mr. Musk told reporters in a brief Twitter audio conference on Thursday. He added, using the term for posting intrusive personal information, “You doxx, you get suspended, end of story.”

But it’s unclear how the journalists suspended by Mr. Musk violated Twitter’s policies. Some journalists have written about the removal of @ElonJet and other accounts that track private jets, or accounts associated with them; some have previously written stories critical of Mr. Musk’s management of Twitter. On Friday, Twitter suspended the account of Linette Lopez, a journalist who had published an investigation into Tesla, another company Musk controls.

Just last month, Mr. Musk said he would allow @ElonJet to stay on Twitter. The pledge, he said, demonstrates “my commitment to free speech,” something Mr. Musk, who has amassed millions of online followers in part by portraying himself as a First Amendment absolute, has said often. activist, determined to root out Twitter’s supposed bias. previous management.

Journalists’ participation on privately controlled corporate Twitter does not equate to free speech; journalists are free to post their work on their own company’s platform and through other social media channels.

Yet for more than a decade, Twitter has occupied a unique place in the news and information ecosystem, with journalists flocking to share their stories, build relationships with sources, and discuss the issues of the day. It also allows writers outside established organizations to intrude on political and cultural conversations.

After Mr. Musk was suspended, the media said Twitter’s arbitrary actions could intimidate journalists who cover his company. “If confirmed as retaliation for their work, it would constitute a serious violation of journalists’ right to report the news without fear of retaliation,” said Jodie Ginsberg, chair of the Committee to Protect Journalists. friday saidCNN called the suspensions “impulsive and unreasonable,” and The New York Times called the moves “problematic.”

EU lawmakers also expressed strong opposition to the move. European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova said the move violated the EU’s Digital Services Act and its Freedom of the Media Act, a rulebook that regulates online content. “There are red lines. Sanctions, soon,” she said tweets on Friday.

Mr. Musk has firmly rejected the criticism. He mocked the crying reporters over actions Twitter took under its former owner — such as limiting links to 2020 New York Post posts about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son Hunter — Equivalent to censoring conservative views.

“It’s inspiring to see the newfound love of free speech in the press,” Mr. Musk wrote in a Twitter thread, suggesting journalists were concerned about the suspension when Twitter restricted certain posts about Covid and the president’s politics. Feeling upset and not speaking out what the platform considers misinformation.

Mr. Musk also has supporters at the top of Silicon Valley, where many tech founders and investors have watched his unorthodox management of Twitter with excitement, not contempt. Mr. Musk’s confrontation with his critics, such as dissenting workers and skeptical journalists, could offer a future for tech leaders tired of ceding power to internal and external critics, the executives believe. model.

This week’s drama sparked a broader discussion about the role of social media platforms in determining which ideas circulate online. Mr. Musk, who did not respond to a request for comment, was a merry warrior in that debate; it prompted him this month to release so-called Twitter documents that he said shed light on Twitter’s past content moderation decisions.

One of Mr Musk’s reporters entrust With these documents, Bari Weiss, Say On Friday, she was upset by Twitter’s decision to suspend the journalist’s account.

“Twitter’s old system was governed by its whims and biases, and it certainly looks like the new system has the same problems,” said Ms. Weiss, a former opinion writer and editor for The Times and founder of an independent media site , freedom of the press. “I’m against both situations. I think journalists who cover stories of public importance should be reinstated.”

Mr. Musk appeared to take Ms. Weiss’s view seriously.exist twitter replyhe accused her of “sending virtue signals that you’re ‘good’ in the eyes of the media elite, allowing one foot to step into two worlds.”

It was unclear whether Mr. Musk would eventually change course and restore the suspended journalist’s account.friday mr musk ask His 121 million followers voted on when the account could be reinstated; as of Friday night, nearly 60% of respondents had chosen “now.” The count is set to run for several hours.

This week’s developments have some journalists wondering whether Twitter’s days as the media’s social platform of choice are numbered and whether journalists should consider other options.

Naturally, the discussion took place on Twitter, with Mr. Musk as active as ever. In a series of posts on Friday, Mr. Musk — who, like any proud media mogul, keeps a close eye on his platform — joked, defended his position and turned on his critics.He highlighted a user’s post claiming that Twitter now has “more attention, news and power than ever before,” replying Approval emoji with bull’s eye.

Citizen Musk seems to be having a good time.

Bernhard Warner with Kate Conger Contribution report.

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