WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Twitter billionaire owner Elon Musk banned the accounts of several prominent tech journalists covering his ongoing and unpredictable efforts to take full control of the platform.
Musk falsely claimed that the journalists were in violation of Twitter's new anti-doxxing policy, but there’s no evidence that this is true. As of 8:45 a.m. ET, Friday, the journalists' accounts remain suspended, though Musk has suggested that he might lift the ban. He also blocked links to Mastodon, the nonprofit social-media site many users have fled to since Musk took over Twitter.
Free Press is a founding member of the #StopToxicTwitter coalition, which has called on major companies to stop advertising on Twitter until Musk commits to improved content moderation and user protections on the platform. So far more than 50 of the top 100 advertisers have paused their ads and more have dramatically reduced spending, causing Musk to threaten the advertisers and attack the civil-society groups calling for these changes.
Nora Benavidez, senior counsel and director of digital justice and civil rights at Free Press, said:
“Elon Musk has a long track record of trying to silence people he dislikes or speech that is critical of him. Suspending multiple tech journalists and watchdogs falls in line with his past abuses. More, it sets a dangerous precedent seemingly motivated by Musk’s personal animus, which endangers the broader public’s ability to learn about his actions and hold him accountable. Musk has lied to advertisers, employees and civil-rights leaders — journalists are doing important work to shed light on his deception and should be permitted to do their jobs free from retaliation.
“We know firsthand, from our meeting with Musk alongside other media-rights and racial-justice leaders and his follow-up tweets about that meeting, that Musk has a loose relationship with the truth. Musk broke his promises to protect the platform’s users almost as soon as they left his mouth.
“Thursday's meltdown proves one thing: Musk doesn't care about free speech. He only cares about Elon Musk. His vendetta against journalists is just the latest in a string of dangerous and impulsive reactions since Musk took over Twitter. He's restored neo-Nazi accounts, posted QAnon conspiracy theories, incited an army of trolls and sycophants to make death threats against former Twitter employees, spread homophobic and transphobic hate, amplified vaccine disinformation, and scared away many of the company's largest advertisers — brands that account for the bulk of Twitter's revenues.
“Musk wants to make up the rules as he goes, and use them to punish anyone he disagrees with or scrutinizes his erratic actions. But Twitter's advertisers are fleeing, Musk bankers will soon be calling in their loans, and the rent at Twitter headquarters is past due. Of course, Musk should lift the suspensions and reinstate the journalists' accounts. But if it isn't obvious by now, the only way to restore Twitter is for someone besides Elon Musk to be put in charge. Musk needs to step aside as Twitter's CEO and be replaced by someone who doesn't rule by fiat, and who understands that social networks succeed when they put the health and safety of their users before the whims of one egotistical billionaire.”