Musk restores some suspended Twitter accounts of journalists after poll
Unbanned reporter warns crackdown could have ‘chilling effect’ on coverage of social media site’s new CEO
SAN FRANCISCO — Elon Musk has reinstated the Twitter accounts of several journalists who were suspended after he accused them of endangering his family, with some of those targeted tweeting Saturday they were back on the platform.
Musk had drawn anger and warnings from the EU and United Nations after suspending the accounts of more than half a dozen prominent journalists from the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post.
“The people have spoken. Accounts who doxxed my location will have their suspension lifted now,” the Twitter owner tweeted late Friday.
Musk carried out a Twitter poll asking whether he should restore the suspended accounts now or in a week’s time. Nearly 59 percent of the 3.69 million who took part said he should restore the accounts now.
Some of the suspended accounts appeared to have been reactivated, with former Vox journalist Aaron Rupar tweeting again.
“I was pretty bummed about getting suspended initially but quickly realized it’d be fine because I’m blessed to have an amazing online community,” Rupar posted, thanking people for their support.
Later on MSNBC Rupar warned that Twitter’s crackdown, even if temporary, would have a “chilling effect on coverage of Elon Musk” and make reporters think twice about running afoul of the company’s new owner.
The accounts of some other journalists remained suspended early Saturday, including those of Business Insider’s Linette Lopez and former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann.
The latest controversy began Wednesday when Musk suspended @elonjet, an account that tracked flights of his private plane.
Musk said the move was necessary after a car in Los Angeles carrying one of his children was followed by “a crazy stalker” and seemed to blame the jet tracking for the incident.
Some of the journalists had reported on the affair, including tweets linking to the suspended @elonjet account, which Musk said amounted to offering “assassination coordinates” against him and his family.
In a chat hosted live on Twitter, Musk provided no evidence for his claim but told suspended reporters that on Twitter “everyone’s going to be treated the same… they’re not special because you’re a journalist.”
Pressed further on his allegations, Musk ended the conversation. Twitter Spaces, the feature where the chat took place, was then suspended. The live audio service was back up Friday, with Musk saying they had been fixing a bug.
Musk’s suspensions had drawn sharp criticism from media organizations, the European Union and the United Nations.
UN rights chief Volker Turk welcomed Musk’s decision to reinstate the accounts, “but serious concerns remain,” he posted on Twitter.
He also urged Musk to “commit to making decisions based on publicly-available policies that respect rights, including free speech. Nothing less.”
Earlier the spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres called it a “dangerous precedent at a time when journalists all over the world are facing censorship, physical threats and even worse.”
The EU had warned Twitter could face fines through European laws.
“News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying,” EU commissioner Vera Jourova tweeted after the move.
Twitter has lurched from one controversy to the next since Musk took control after paying $44 billion, mainly by selling shares in Tesla, his successful electric car company.
The billionaire’s talk of unfettered speech — and the instability surrounding the company — has scared off major advertisers and caught the attention of regulators.
Musk has reinstated the account of former US president Donald Trump and lashed out against the outgoing key advisor for the US Covid-19 response, Anthony Fauci, a frequent target of vitriol in right-wing media.
CNN has reported that Twitter’s former head of trust and safety fled his home after baseless attacks on Twitter content moderation, endorsed by Musk.
Meanwhile, a purge initiated by Musk at Twitter left more than half of its 7,500 employees out of work, and now many of them are taking the SpaceX and Tesla tycoon to court.
Market tracker Insider Intelligence forecast that Twitter would experience an exodus of users.
“There won’t be one catastrophic event that ends Twitter,” said Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg.
“Instead, users will start to leave the platform next year as they grow frustrated with technical issues and the proliferation of hateful or other unsavory content.”