Twitter owner Elon Musk’s campaign against an account that had automatically posted publicly available flight data about his private airplane escalated on Thursday night as the social media service suspended a number of high-profile reporters who were covering the social media site’s ongoing actions against the flight account, which used the handle @elonjet.
The suspended journalist accounts include those of the Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, the New York Times’ Ryan Mac, CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, Substack’s Aaron Rupar, and Voice of America’s Steve Herman.
Musk subsequently alleged in a tweet of his own that the suspended individuals had published “assassination coordinates” by revealing his “exact real-time location.” He had previously said that users who post “real-time location info of anyone” or “links to sites with real-time location info” would be suspended.
It’s not clear exactly how the reporters in question had violated this newly declared policy. None appeared to have posted any actual data about Musk’s plane, but some had written that @elonjet’s page on the competing social media site Mastodon still exists. (Writer Christopher Hooks later observed that Twitter appears to have prohibited all links to Mastodon on the grounds that they are “potentially harmful.”)
Musk later joined a “Twitter Space”—a live audio discussion—hosted by BuzzFeed’s Katie Notopoulos and characterized the Times and Post’s reporting on the @elonjet suspension as “ban evasion,” i.e., an effort to circumvent rules against “doxxing.” “You dox, you get suspended, end of story,” he said, before leaving the discussion during a follow-up question. The Space stopped functioning a short time later, and Notopoulos tweeted that she was unable to access a recording of it. (According to Twitter, recording is a standard feature of Twitter Spaces.)
Musk has said that he purchased Twitter in order to support “free speech” and “citizen journalism,” writing in November that “my commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane.” This commitment appears to have been abandoned Wednesday, when Musk tweeted that a car in which one of his children was riding had been followed by a “crazy stalker” who climbed on its hood. (The Los Angeles Police Department says it is aware of the allegation but has not yet received a report of a crime.)
Musk also recently employed journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss to publish threads on Twitter documenting what they described as the inappropriate suppression of speech by the service’s previous management group. Neither Taibbi nor Weiss has commented on the new suspensions, but Glenn Greenwald, a frequent critic of Twitter’s content moderation decisions, wrote that the move “looks like the old censorship regime liberals long cheered.”
Musk posted a poll Thursday asking followers to vote on when the suspended reporters could be reinstated. The option of reinstating them “now” took a lead over “tomorrow,” “7 days from now,” and “longer,” after which Musk wrote that he would “redo” the poll with fewer options. In the new poll, as of the time this post was published, “Now” had opened a 13-point lead over “In 7 days.”