A haven for free speech? Not so fast! Elon Musk says a lot of things that end up falling to the wayside, but making Twitter a haven for “healthy, functioning free speech” was never expected to join the list. Previously, he even said he wanted his critics to stick around since that is what free speech is about. But his recent actions say otherwise, with Musk seemingly adjusting his stance and banning journalists from the platform.
Who was banned? Last Thursday, multiple accounts belonging to journalists who cover Musk and Twitter were banned without any warning. Some of those impacted include Ryan Mac of the New York Times, Drew Harwell of the Washington Post, and Matt Binder of Mashable.
- Many of those banned wrote their previous stories on Musk and Twitter.
- Musk claimed the bans were due to breaches of the new doxxing policy. According to him, some of the accounts linked to a tracker for his private jet.
The weekend saw another journalist temporarily suspended. Taylor Lorenz, a technology and online culture columnist at the Washington Post, had her account temporarily suspended on Saturday before having it reinstated on Sunday.
- The suspension happened after Lorenz tweeted Musk for a comment on a news story she and her colleague Drew Harwell were working on.
- Musk claimed it was due to “prior doxxing action,” but he did not give any details.
The public spoke, and Elon begrudgingly listened. The weekend also saw Elon Musk and Twitter reinstating the accounts of several journalists whose accounts were suspended. The action comes after an informal survey where people voted to have the suspensions lifted immediately.
- The survey ended Friday after receiving over 3.6 million votes, with 59% of the votes in favor of restoring the accounts.
- Despite being made publicly viewable, the accounts were unable to post until the removal of the tweets Musk said violated Twitter’s rules.
- Some of the journalists disputed that the tweets violated the rules and have chosen to appeal the decision.
The backlash has been loud, with lawmakers and even the European Union criticizing Elon Musk over his actions. While lawmakers have spoken out about what happened, the European Union warned Musk Friday that under a new set of digital rules, the company could face significant sanctions.
- The Digital Services Act will take full effect in 2024 and requires social media platforms to show “respect of media freedom and fundamental rights.”
- Penalties for violating the act could see fines of 6% of the platform’s global annual revenue. For Twitter, that means billions. Repeat offenses could even see the platform banned across the European bloc.
Tesla is not safe, either. The company has seen its stock hit a two-year low after the journalists were banned. It represents a major blow to his financial foundation, and if he ends up being hit with sanctions, he could take another hit.
- Musk just got rid of over 22 million shares of Tesla worth over $3.5 billion, meaning he has sold around $40 billion in the company’s stock in the past year.
Drama with competitors is also heavy in the air. Aside from targeting journalists, Twitter has also turned on its rival, Mastodon. The platform banned linking to some Mastodon servers and blocked users from adding Mastodon usernames to their profiles.