On Thursday, Twitter banned several high-profile journalists from the nation’s most esteemed news outlets, ending Elon Musk’s promise of free speech on the platform.
Musk, a self-described free-speech absolutist, hasn’t been able to cope well with the criticism following the takeover of the social media giant, so he’s decided to discard the Twitter free speech idea altogether.
The accounts of CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, The New York Times’ Ryan Mac, and The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell have all been quelled Thursday evening. The same goes for other journalists who’ve criticized Musk or his takeover, including the independent journalist Aaron Rupar and others.
“I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter because that is what free speech means,” Musk stated in April when he announced he was purchasing Twitter. In light of recent events, Musk’s April statement doesn’t really hold water.
Apparently, Twitter’s free speech is a thing so long as you don’t break any of its arbitrary rules prohibiting acts that aren’t illegal. So, not free at all.
On Wednesday, just before the bans took place, Twitter “introduced a set of new policies banning accounts that track people’s live location. Musk also blocked any account linking to such information,” according to CNN.
While “doxing,” i.e., the act of making a person’s identifiable and private information public, is cause for concern as it can lead to actual criminal offenses, it doesn’t apply when the information is publicly available. Being the crux of the matter, it’s also the reason for the recent Twitter ban spree.
Besides criticizing Musk’s Twitter free speech “idea” and his child-like decision-making, all of the banned journalists have one more thing in common — they recently reported on Mastodon’s account, which allowed the continued posting of @ElonJet.
@ElonJet is a service that tracks the real-time whereabouts of Elon Musk’s private jet using publicly available data. According to Twitter’s newest policies, this is a cause for a permanent ban, despite not breaking any laws. Musk, expectedly, went as far as to call it “assassination coordinates.”
Twitter suspended Mastodon’s account and banned the journalists who reported on it. Hardly anyone’s idea of free speech, let alone a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist.
“Elon says he is a free speech champion, and he is banning journalists for exercising free speech,” Harwell told CNN on Thursday. “I think that calls into question his commitment.”
Musk’s Twitter free speech claims, which were incredibly dubious from the get-go, have finally flatlined in a spectacular manner for everyone to see.