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Group wants Twitter owner probed over reporter suspensions

The Government Accountability Project says federal lawmakers should investigate Elon Musk for suspending several journalists from Twitter.

The Government Accountability Project says federal lawmakers should investigate Elon Musk for suspending several journalists from Twitter.

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, appears at a U.S. Air Force event in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 7, 2022.
Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, appears at a U.S. Air Force event in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 7, 2022. (Photo by Trevor Cokley, U.S. Air Force, Graphic by The Desk)

A government whistleblower advocacy group has sent a letter to prominent members of Congress urging them to investigate Twitter and its chief executive, Elon Musk, for suspending a journalist.

The journalist, Steve Herman, was one of several who found their accounts banned earlier this month after they posted information about an online account that offered real-time information about the location of a private jet used by Musk.

Musk banned the accounts over privacy concerns, saying the information — while public — was akin to “doxing,” or posting personal information to entice harassment. Like other reporters, Herman noted that the Twitter account, “ElonJet,” had moved to a competing social network called Mastodon, which offers many of the same features as Twitter.

Herman’s account was “permanently suspended,” according to a note on his Twitter account, though Musk lifted the ban shortly after it was put in place. Many journalists who were suspended under the policy had their accounts restored and were back to tweeting in less than a day, but Herman’s account remains suspended.

According to a letter sent by the Government Accountability Project, Herman’s account remains frozen because he has not agreed to delete three tweets that offered information about the ElonJet profile on Mastodon, including one that directly links to the account.

While Congress has refused to intervene in Musk’s shenanigans, the Government Accountability Project has nonetheless urged federal lawmakers to probe the suspensions for abuse of authority.

Lawmaker have been hesitant to intervene in policies set by a private company, and have said as much when it comes to Twitter. But while most of the journalists work for commercial news organizations, Herman is an exception: His Twitter account is connected to his work as a reporter for the Voice of America, a non-commercial news organization that is funded entirely by the U.S. federal government.

The Government Accountability Project didn say whether it believed Twitter or Musk violated any civil laws. Nonetheless, the group is hoping lawmakers investigate the matter, and possibly investigate more, depending on what they find.

“For no rational reason, Twitter and Mr. Musk wrongly muzzled and continue to muzzle Voice of America’s reporter and at least five other journalists,” David Seide wrote. “We ask you to continue to review this mistreatment and, if you believe warranted, investigate further.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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