'Free speech for me, but not for thee': Elon Musk suspends multiple journalists from Twitter

'Free speech for me, but not for thee': Elon Musk suspends multiple journalists from Twitter
Image via screengrab.

Twitter owner Elon Musk conducted a banning spree of journalists from major media outlets on Thursday evening – including The Washington Post, The New York Times, Vox, CNN, Mashable, and The Intercept – and the targets were individuals that covered him.

The pattern was noticed by NBC News senior reporter Ben Collins and is yet another stark contradiction to Musk's repeated pledges that his goal was to unshackle the microblogging site from its previous limitations in order to establish a digital free-speech utopia.

"I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means," Musk proclaimed in April during his announcement of his intention to purchase the social media giant.

READ MORE: Elon Musk dethroned as richest man in the world: report

But Musk soon began suspending the accounts of comedians such as Kathy Griffin along with other people – like Jack Sweeney (@ElonJet) – whom Musk said are in violation of Twitter's rules and putting his life at risk. Conversely, right-wing conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis have essentially been granted carte blanche by Musk.

Nonetheless, Musk defended his decisions.

“There is not special treatment for journalists,” he said.

“They posted my exact real-time location, basically assassination coordinates, in (obvious) direct violation of Twitter terms of service," Musk stated of his actions against members of the press. “7 day suspension for doxxing. Some time away from Twitter is good for the soul."

READ MORE: How Elon Musk's anti-Fauci attacks are designed for the 'right-wing information ecosystem': columnist

Musk also tweeted that "criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not."

CNN revealed that Musk's allegations were at least partially false because Irish correspondent Donie O’Sullivan "did not share the billionaire’s live location."

O'Sullivan had merely "reported on Twitter that the social media company had suspended the account of an emerging competitive social media service, Mastodon, which has allowed the continued posting of @ElonJet, an account that posts the updated location of Musk’s private jet," CNN explained. "Other reporters suspended Thursday had recently written about the account."

CNN published a statement:

Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern for everyone who used Twitter. We have asked Twitter for an explanation, and we will reevaluate our relationship based on that response.

Executive Editor Sally Buzbee of The Washington Posttweeted on behalf of reporter Drew Harwell:

The suspension of Drew Harwell's Twitter account directly undermines Elon Musk's claim that he intends to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech. Harwell was banished from Twitter without warning, process or explanation, following the publication of his accurate reporting about Musk. Our journalist should be reinstated immediately.

A New York Times spokesperson called the ban of technology reporter Ryan Mac “questionable and unfortunate,” adding that “neither The Times nor Ryan have received any explanation about why this occurred. We hope that all of the journalists’ accounts are reinstated and that Twitter provides a satisfying explanation for this action.”

The American Civil Liberties Union responded that “it’s impossible to square Twitter’s free speech aspirations with the purging of critical journalists’ accounts.”

Meanwhile, Collins' observation quickly went viral, sparking voluminous reactions on his thread.

"My team met with @Twitter today. They told us that they're not going to retaliate against independent journalists or researchers who publish criticisms of the platform. Less than 12 hours later, multiple technology reporters have been suspended. What's the deal, @elonmusk?" United States Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-Michigan) wondered.

"He’s lying," progressive podcaster Fred Wellman replied to Trahan about Musk. "He never pays a price for any of it."

Many subsequent comments, however, were of a completely unsurprised nature.

"Nothing says free speech like suspending journalists who cover you," noted Sarah Reese Jones of PoliticusUSA.

"The world’s richest man has taken possession of a global social media platform used by the world’s journalists, scientists, governments, private citizens, businesses, religions, militaries and health/emergency services to share all vital information—It’s going as you might expect," wrote Condé Nast Legal Affairs Editor Luke Zaleski, stressing that "Twitter’s Elon’s World. He paid $44 billion to dominate your attention and determine what you see. He knows he can manipulate his personal platform to be in a position powerful enough to crown kings, pick presidents and help produce whatever personal or political outcome he wants."

Former Federal Bureau of Investigation Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and MSNBC national security analyst Frank Figliuzzi dinged Musk for practicing “free speech for me, but not for thee.”

Epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding quipped that "it’s a miracle you’re still here Ben. Miracle of god."

Musk later initiated two polls in which he asked users whether or not he should reinstate the blocked accounts. After the first resulted in an affirmative majority, Musk posted, "Sorry, too many options. Will redo poll." When the second survey yielded a similar outcome, nothing happened until around 3:00 a.m., when Musk boasted that "Twitter right now is" alight.

READ MORE: Elon Musk did not vote in the midterms: report

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