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Twitter suspends accounts used by journalists

A sign attached to Twitter's global headquarters is viewed from a sidewalk on Market Street in San Francisco, California. June 18, 2014. (Photo: Matthew Keys/The Desk/Creative Commons)
A sign attached to Twitter’s global headquarters is viewed from a sidewalk on Market Street in San Francisco, California. June 18, 2014. (Photo: Matthew Keys/The Desk/Creative Commons)

A number of journalists working for high-profile news outlets had their Twitter accounts suspended without warning on Thursday.

The suspensions were related to purported violations of Twitter’s rules, which have shifted significantly since the social media company was acquired by technology mogul Elon Musk in late October.

Among the journalists who were kicked off Twitter were:

  • Matt Binder, reporter for pop culture website Mashable
  • Micha F. Lee, correspondent for the Intercept
  • Drew Harwell of the Washington Post
  • Linette Lopez, technology reporter for Business Insider
  • Ryan Mac, technology correspondent for the New York Times
  • Donie O’Sullivan, technology reporter for CNN
  • Keith Olbermann, sports broadcaster and former MSNBC host
  • Aaron Rupar, former contributor to Vox Media
  • Anthony Webster, freelance investigative reporter at Bellingcat

A review of some affected accounts showed users had linked to a profile on the website Mastodon that published updates about a private airplane used by Musk. This week, Musk announced a new policy at Twitter that forbids posting information about a person’s location in real-time.

The policy came several weeks after Musk affirmed he would not take action against a specific account that tweeted the location of his personal jet based on open-source information. That account moved to Mastodon after Musk reversed his position.

The suspensions did not appear to target journalists for their newsgathering and reporting, but rather for linking to information that is now forbidden under Twitter’s new policies, which Musk changes by the day.

Appearing on CNN Thursday evening, O’Sullivan said the majority of journalists who were suspended had covered Musk’s tenure as Twitter’s CEO over the last few weeks. O’Sullivan said his last tweet was about a police investigation into the purported stalking incident, and that a message on his account now said it was “permanently in read-only mode.”

Musk seems to be stamping out accounts that he doesn’t like,” O’Sullivan said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for CNN called Twitter’s decision to suspend reporters “impulsive and unjustified,” and said the news network would “re-evaluate our relationship” with the social media platform.

Officials with the Washington Post and the New York Times did not return requests for comment Thursday evening, but a spokesperson for the Washington Post told other outlets that the suspension of their reporter “directly undermines Elon Musk’s claim that he intends to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech.”

Musk has not publicly addressed the issue, but did say in a tweet Thursday that accounts engaged in “doxing,” or the exposure of personal information, would receive a “temporary” suspension for seven days.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).