Twitter on Thursday evening, December 15 banned the accounts of several high-profile journalists from top news organizations, a significant attempt by new owner Elon Musk to wield his authority over the platform.
Accounts belonging to CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, The New York Times’ Ryan Mac, The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell and other journalists who have covered Musk aggressively in recent weeks were all abruptly permanently suspended. The account of progressive independent journalist Aaron Rupar was also banned.
Musk claimed that the journalists had violated his new “doxxing” policy by sharing his live location, amounting to what he described as “assassination coordinates.”
Even though Donie O’Sullivan did not share the billionaire’s live location.
Shortly before his suspension, O’Sullivan reported on Twitter that the social media company had suspended the account of an emerging competitive social media service, Mastodon, which has allowed the continued posting of @ElonJet, an account that posts the updated location of Musk’s private jet.
Doxxing refers to the practice of sharing someone’s home address or other personal information online. The banned account had instead used publicly available flight data, which remain online and accessible, to track Musk’s jet.
“The impulsive and unjustified suspension of a number of reporters, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, is concerning but not surprising. Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern for everyone who uses Twitter,” A CNN spokesperson said.
A New York Times spokesperson called the mass bans “questionable and unfortunate,” adding: “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.”
“Elon says he is a free speech champion and he is banning journalists for exercising free speech,” Harwell told CNN on Thursday. “I think that calls into question his commitment.”
Rupar, too, said he had heard “nothing” from Twitter about the suspension.
The @ElonJet account, which had amassed more than 500,000 followers, was permanently suspended Wednesday after Twitter introduced a set of new policies banning accounts that track people’s live locations.