On Thursday evening, Twitter suspended a number of prominent journalists on the platform without warning or explanation.
The situation followed the company’s decision to suspend the Twitter account of Mastodon, an open-source social media alternative that has been building momentum since Elon Musk took over the company. Twitter took action against Mastodon after the account linked to the Mastodon page of @ElonJet, a student-made bot that tracks the whereabouts of Musk’s private jet.
At least some of the accounts that were suspended had shared screenshots and observations about Mastodon’s suspension. Shortly before he was suspended, Washington Post reporter Drew Harwell tweeted that Mastodon had been kicked off the platform.
Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, The New York Times̵[ads1]7; Ryan Mac, CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, Mashable’s Matt Binder and journalist Aaron Rupar were also suspended Thursday night. Many of the reporters regularly covered Musk’s takeover of Twitter in recent months.
Rupar weighed in on his suspension on Substack, observing that while he didn’t know why his account was disabled, he shared a link to the ElonJet Facebook account in the course of reporting on the topic. Through an alternate account, Mac shared the message he received from Twitter and noted that there was no warning before the permanent suspension.
Some of the suspended accounts shared Mastodon and ElonJet’s Twitter handles as well as images of the tweet that appears to have gotten the former account suspended.
In light of Twitter’s reduced human moderation team, it’s possible that automated systems enforcing Twitter’s brand new rules against accounts like @ElonJet were overzealous in this case. But it’s at least as likely that this is a case of Musk directing the moderation process based on his own preferences — we just won’t know until someone on Twitter explains what’s going on.
Update: Musk just weighed in on the suspensions, characterizing them as intentional. “The same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else,” he tweeted in response.
TechCrunch has reached out to Twitter’s new head of trust and security Ella Irwin for an explanation as to why the accounts were not given the opportunity to delete the offending tweets, which is standard practice for many Twitter violations. It is worth noting that the guidelines these accounts violated, a ban on share “live location information” is only 24 hours old.
This story develops…