Elon Musk flexed his media muscle by suspending reporters on Twitter

A sudden decision by Elon Musk Suspension of many journalists Friday’s departure from Twitter prompted an outcry from First Amendment advocates, threats of sanctions from European regulators and questions about the social media platform’s future as a gathering place for news and ideas.

But while people debated the complex, novel issues of free speech and online censorship, the move also underscored a simpler, more enduring element of American life: the role of the press baron.

Hello, Citizen Musk.

Like William Randolph Hearst and Rupert Murdoch before him, Mr. Musk now controls an influential means of mass media production. Twitter, though a different beast from newspapers and TV networks, promoted itself as a virtual town square and wooed journalists. Now Mr. Musk, though His stated wish “Even my worst critics are on Twitter,” he says, flexing his franchise in arbitrary ways, branding accounts that personally dislike him.

Suspensions – These include reporters from CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post. were brief. Many There were accounts Reactivated Late Friday, Mr. Musk conducted an informal poll of Twitter users on the issue.

Mr. Twitter suspended journalists after Musk’s allegations. Twitter recently suspended the account @ElonJet, which used publicly available flight data to accuse Mr. Musk’s personal plane tracks the whereabouts of Mr. After Musk said a “crazy person” hit the car in which one of his sons was a passenger.

“You are not special because you are a journalist; You are a citizen, so there is no special treatment,” said Mr. Musk told reporters during a heated Twitter audio session on Thursday. “You’re suspended, end of story,” he added, using a term for the release of intrusive personal information.

But Mr. It’s unclear how the journalists suspended by Musk violated Twitter’s policies. Some reporters have written about the removal of @ElonJet and other accounts that track private jets or are linked to those accounts; Some Mr. Critical stories have been written about Musk’s Twitter handle. On Friday, Twitter tweeted that Mr. It suspended the account of Lynette Lopez, a reporter who published investigations into Tesla, another company controlled by Musk.

As of last month, @ElonJet will be allowed to remain on Twitter, Mr. Musk said. Determined to root out alleged bias on the part of Twitter, Mr. He said the promise demonstrated Musk’s common refrain “my commitment to free speech.” previous administration.

Journalists’ participation in Twitter, a privately controlled company, is not tantamount to free speech; Reporters are free to publish their work on their own organizations’ sites and through other social media.

However, for more than a decade, Twitter has occupied a unique role in the news and information ecosystem, where journalists come to share their reports, develop relationships with sources, and discuss the issues of the day. It has also allowed writers outside established institutions to enter political and cultural conversations.

Mr. In the wake of Musk’s suspension, media reported that Twitter acted arbitrarily to intimidate journalists who reported on its companies. “If found to be retaliation for their work, this would seriously violate the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal,” said Jodi Ginsberg, president of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Friday said. CNN called the suspensions “emotional and illogical” and The New York Times described the moves as “questionable”.

There was also a backlash from lawmakers in the European Union. Vera Jourova, vice president of the European Commission, said the move violates the EU’s digital services law and its media freedom law, which serves as a sort of rulebook for evaluating online content. “There are red lines. And barriers, soon,” she said Tweeted On Friday.

Mr. Musk firmly rejected those criticisms. Joseph R. He derided journalists for arguing that actions Twitter took under its previous owners — such as the restriction of records linking to a 2020 New York Post report about Biden Jr.’s son Hunter — amounted to censorship. Conservative viewpoints.

“It is very encouraging to see the renewed love of journalists for freedom of speech,” said Mr. Musk wrote in a Twitter post that while Twitter restricted some posts about Covid and presidential politics, it indicated that reporters upset about the suspensions were not speaking up. The site assumed incorrect information.

Mr. Musk also has supporters in Silicon Valley C-suites, where many tech founders and investors are taking note of his unorthodox management of Twitter. With enthusiasm, not resentment. These administrators, Mr. Musk believes that clashes with his critics, such as workers and skeptical journalists, could provide a future model for tech leaders tired of ceding power to internal and external opponents.

This week’s drama delves into a broader debate about the role of social media platforms in determining what ideas spread online. Mr, who did not respond to a request for comment. Musk, the happy warrior in that debate; That prompted his release this month The so-called Twitter filesA set of internal documents he said shed light on Twitter’s past content review decisions.

A journalist called Mr. Kasturi trust Along with those documents, Barry Weiss, said He said Friday that he was troubled by Twitter’s decision to suspend the reporters’ accounts.

“The old regime at Twitter was governed by its own preferences and biases, and the new regime seems to have the same problem,” said Ms. Weiss, a former opinion writer and editor at The Times who founded the independent media site. , The Free Press. “I oppose it on both counts. Also, I think journalists who report on a story of public importance should be reinstated.

Mr. Musk was not impressed with Ms. Weiss’ take. Inside A Twitter responseHe accused it of “virtue-signaling to show you’re ‘good’ in the eyes of the media elite to have a foot in both worlds”.

Mr. It’s unclear whether Musk will eventually reverse the reversal and reinstate the suspended journalists’ accounts. On Friday, Mr. Musk he asked His 121 million followers to vote when the accounts are relaunched; As of Friday evening, nearly 60 percent of respondents had voted “now.” It was announced that the counting of votes would continue for several hours.

This week’s developments have some reporters wondering, not for the first time, whether Twitter’s days as the media’s social platform of choice are numbered, and whether journalists should consider alternatives.

Naturally, the debate took place on Twitter, with Mr. Musk, as usual, was a very active participant. In a series of Friday posts, Mr. Musk — who, like any proud press leader, keeps a close eye on his platform — made jokes, defended his position, and took shots at his critics. He emphasized one user’s post that Twitter now has “more focus, pressure and power than ever.” With the approving emoji of a bulls-eye.

Citizen Musk seemed to be enjoying himself.

Bernhard Warner And Kate Conger Contributed report.

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