At a time when Elon Musk promises freedom of speech, Twitter suspended the accounts of more than a half-dozen journalists who had been writing about the company and its new owner.
Some journalists had been tweeting about Twitter shutting down an account @ElonJet that tracked flights of the billionaire’s private jet and about versions of that account hosted on other social networks.
Twitter did not say why the reporters’ accounts were suspended. “Nothing says free speech like suspending journalists who cover you,” Sarah Reese Jones of the news commentary website PoliticusUSA said in a tweeted response to posts about the suspensions.
The move is in complete contrast with Musk’s tall claims about championing the cause of freedom of expression.
In an earlier tweet, he had, however, made his intentions clear by describing the liberal circles as “woke mind virus” that needs to be defeated.
Checks on Twitter showed account suspensions included reporters from CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post as well as independent journalists.
An account for Twitter rival Mastodon was also suspended, according to a report by NBCNews.
Musk on Wednesday tweeted that a car in Los Angeles carrying one of his children was followed by “a crazy stalker” and seemed to blame the tracking of his jet for this alleged incident. In the tweet, he said legal action is being taken against the person who ran ElonJet.
The Twitter account that tracked flights of Musk’s private jet was shut down Wednesday despite the billionaire’s statement that he is a free speech absolutist.
“Well it appears @ElonJet is suspended,” creator Jack Sweeney tweeted from his @JxckSweeney account, which was subsequently suspended as well.
Twitter later sent out word that it updated its policy to prohibit tweets, in most cases, from giving away someone´s location in real-time.
“Any account doing real-time location info of anyone will be suspended, as it is a physical safety violation,” Musk said in a tweet. “This includes posting links to sites with real-time location info.”
Doxxing refers to revealing identifying information such as home address or phone number online, typically to target someone for abuse.
Tweets sharing a person’s location that are “not same-day” are allowed under the tweaked policy, as are posts about being at a public event such as a concert, Twitter said.
Sweeney attracted attention with his Twitter account that tracks the movements of Musk’s plane and even rejected Musk’s offer of $5,000 to shut down @ElonJet, which had hundreds of thousands of followers.
Musk had gone public saying he would not touch the account after buying Twitter in a $44 billion deal as part of his commitment to free speech on the platform.
Flight-following websites and several Twitter accounts offer real-time views of air traffic, but that exposure draws pushback ranging from complaints to equipment seizures.
US rules require planes in designated areas to be equipped with ADS-B technology that broadcasts aircraft positions using signals that relatively simple devices can pick up.