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Musk restores some suspended Twitter accounts of journalists

By AFP
December 18, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO: The Twitter accounts of several journalists suspended after Elon Musk accused them of endangering his family were reinstated on Saturday, but some said the billionaire owner offered full use of the platform only if they deleted posts about tracking his location.

Musk had drawn anger and warnings from the European Union and United Nations after suspending the accounts of more than a half-dozen prominent journalists from The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post and other outlets.

“The people have spoken. Accounts who doxxed my location will have their suspension lifted now,” the Twitter owner tweeted late on Friday.

Doxxing generally means publishing private information on the Internet to harass or embarrass someone.

Musk carried out a Twitter poll asking whether he should restore the suspended accounts now or in a week´s time. Nearly 59 percent of the 3.69 million who took part said he should restore the accounts now.

Some of the suspended accounts were reactivated, with former Vox journalist Aaron Rupar, Mashable reporter Matt Binder and freelancer Tony Webster tweeting again Saturday.

Speaking later on MSNBC, Rupar warned that Twitter´s crackdown, even if temporary, would have a “chilling effect on coverage of Elon Musk” and make reporters think twice about running afoul of the company´s new owner.

The accounts of some other journalists remained suspended early Saturday, including those of Business Insider´s Linette Lopez and former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann.

The latest controversy began Wednesday when Musk suspended @elonjet, an account that tracked flights of his private plane.

Musk said the move was necessary after a car in Los Angeles carrying one of his children was followed by “a crazy stalker”; he seemed to blame the jet tracking for the incident. Some of the suspended journalists had reported on the affair, including tweets linking to the suspended @elonjet account, which Musk said amounted to offering “assassination coordinates” against him and his family.

In a chat hosted live on Twitter, Musk provided no evidence for his claim but told suspended reporters that on Twitter “everyone´s going to be treated the same... they´re not special because you´re a journalist.”

Pressed further on his allegations, Musk ended the conversation. Twitter Spaces, the feature where the chat took place, was then suspended. The live audio service was back up Friday, with Musk saying the platform had been fixing a bug.

Meanwhile, the United Nations rights chief said on Saturday that Elon Musk´s decision to reinstate the Twitter accounts of several journalists was welcome news, but warned that “serious concerns remain”.

“Good news that journalists are being reinstated Twitter, but serious concerns remain,” Volker Turk said on the platform, insisting “Twitter has a responsibility to respect human rights.”

Musk had drawn anger and warnings from the European Union and United Nations after suspending the accounts of more than half a dozen prominent journalists from the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post, who he accused of endangering his family. But he suddenly announced late Friday that the accounts would be reinstated.

“The people have spoken. Accounts who doxxed my location will have their suspension lifted now,” the Twitter owner tweeted.

Turk voiced concern at the way the determinations were reached, calling on Musk to “commit to making decisions based on publicly available policies that respect rights, including free speech. Nothing less.”

The latest controversy began when Musk on Wednesday suspended @elonjet, an account that tracked flights of his private plane.