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Twitter suspension of journalists sparks global backlash

Twitter’s unprecedented suspension of at least five journalists over claims they revealed the real-time location of owner Elon Musk has sparked a swift reaction from government officials, advocacy groups and news organizations around the world.

Officials from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and the European Union condemned the suspensions, with some saying the platform was endangering press freedom.

The episode, which a well-known security researcher called “Thursday night massacre“, is being considered by critics as new evidence of the billionaire, who considers himself a “free speech absolutist”, removing speech and users he personally dislikes.

The United Nations is “very concerned” about the arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday, adding that media voices should not be silenced on a platform that purports to give space to free expression.

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“The move sets a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists around the world face censorship, physical threats and even worse,” Dujarric told reporters.

French Industry Minister Roland Lescure tweeted on Friday that after Musk’s suspension of journalists, he would suspend his own activity on Twitter.

The German Foreign Ministry warned on Twitter that the ministry had a problem with measures that endanger press freedom.

The suspensions stemmed from a disagreement over a Twitter account called ElonJet, which tracked Musk’s private plane using publicly available information.

‘Violate the spirit of the First Amendment’

On Wednesday, Twitter suspended the account and others that tracked private jets, despite Musk’s earlier tweet that he would not suspend ElonJet in the name of free speech.

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Shortly after, Twitter changed its privacy policy to prohibit the sharing of “live location information.”

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Then, on Thursday night, several journalists, including those from the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post, were suspended from Twitter without notice.

In an email to Reuters overnight, Twitter’s head of trust and security, Ella Irwin, said the team manually reviewed “each and every account” that violated the new privacy policy by posting direct links. to the ElonJet account.

“I understand the focus seems to be primarily on journalists’ accounts, but today we are applying the policy equally to journalists’ and non-journalists’ accounts,” Irwin said in the email.

The Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing said in a statement Friday that Twitter’s actions “violate the spirit of the First Amendment and the principle that social media platforms will allow the unfiltered distribution of information that is already out in the open.” public”.

Musk appeared briefly in a Twitter Spaces audio chat hosted by journalists, which quickly escalated into a contentious discussion about whether the suspended reporters had actually exposed Musk’s real-time location in violation of policy.

“If you do dox, you get suspended. End of story,” Musk said repeatedly in response to questions. Dox is a term for posting private information about someone, usually with malicious intent.

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The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, one of the reporters who had been suspended but was nonetheless able to join the audio chat, dismissed the idea that he had exposed the exact location of Musk or his family by posting a link to ElonJet.

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Shortly after, BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos, who hosted the Spaces chat, tweeted that the audio session was abruptly cut off and the recording was unavailable.

In a tweet Explaining what happened, Musk said: “We are fixing a legacy bug. I should be working tomorrow.


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