Elon Musk banned at least nine journalists from Twitter on Thursday night in a mass purge by arguably the pettiest man on the planet. And while the journalists haven’t been told what caused the bans, many had tweeted about the Twitter account that tracked Elon’s private jet using publicly available information.
The bans on journalists, called “permanent suspensions” in Twitter lingo, come after Musk banned the @ElonJet account on Wednesday, later explaining that he believed it was a threat to his family’s safety. Musk has said he’s going to take legal action against the college student who ran the account. Just a few weeks earlier, Musk had insisted the account wouldn’t be banned because he believed in free speech so much.
Musk appeared to confirm the bans were all about his private jet, writing on Twitter late Thursday, “Same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else.”
Musk also briefly joined a Twitter Spaces conversation hosted by BuzzFeed journalist Katie Notopoulos where he said that journalists weren’t special and would be banned for any “doxxing” behavior. Musk claimed the journalists who’ve been banned shared his address, something that simply isn’t true. When the journalists on the Twitter Spaces conversation tried to ask Musk follow-up questions he just left the chat.
“You dox, you get suspended, end of story,” Musk said.
Aaron Rupar, an independent journalist who previously worked at Vox, told Gizmodo that Twitter provided no explanation for his ban.
“I would appreciate it if someone at Twitter would try to explain the rationale for this. Twitter is obviously a huge, huge part of my audience, so as an independent journalist being cut off from that really hurts,” Rupar told Gizmodo via email.
Twitter no longer has a communications team for Gizmodo to contact, but Twitter’s head of trust and safety Ella Irwin told the Verge’s Alex Heath that these accounts were supposedly putting people “at risk.”
“Without commenting on any specific accounts, I can confirm that we will suspend any accounts that violate our privacy policies and put other users at risk,” Irwin told the Verge.
Below, a list of the journalists who have been suspended, which Gizmodo will update as we learn more:
- Matt Binder (Mashable)
- Drew Harwell (Washington Post)
- Steve Herman (VOA News)
- It’s Going Down News (Independent Site)
- Micah Lee (The Intercept)
- Ryan Mac (New York Times)
- Mastadon (Social Media Site)
- Keith Olbermann (formerly MSNBC)
- Donie O’Sullivan (CNN)
- Tony Webster (Minnesota Reformer)
Curiously, Matt Binder was able to join a Twitter Spaces conversation with journalists on Thursday night, despite being suspended. Binder said he can’t see his notifications, DMs, and he can’t tweet, but he’s able to speak in a Twitter Space. Binder said he received a notification that his account is permanently in read-only mode.
Jack Sweeney, the 20-year-old college student in Florida who ran the ElonJet account, also spoke during the Twitter Spaces conversation with journalists. Sweeney speculated that journalists were being banned because CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan had reached out to the LAPD, which claimed a police report had never been filed about an incident involving someone supposedly stalking Musk’s 2-year-old child.
“I think it all started with that Donie O’Sullivan. He put that thing where they said they didn’t file a [police] report,” Sweeney said.
The Twitter Spaces conversation hosted by Notopoulos continued after Musk left the chat but it appears to have been killed around 12:13 a.m. ET on Friday, as Notopoulos was mid-sentence.
Musk has previously called himself a “free speech absolutist,” but Twitter’s rules have never been more restrictive than since he took over. The only people who seem to get carte blanche on the platform these days are anti-Muslim bigots, far-right insurrectionists, and literal neo-Nazis.
A small sample of people who’ve been reinstated since Musk took over:
- Baked Alaska (neo-Nazi, real name Tim Gionet)
- Andrew Anglin (founder of the Daily Stormer neo-Nazi site)
- Laura Loomer (anti-Muslim bigot)
- Roger Stone (former Trump advisor, professional ratfucker)
“Tonight’s suspension of the Twitter accounts of a number of prominent journalists, including The New York Times’s Ryan Mac, is questionable and unfortunate,” the New York Times said in a statement published on Twitter.
“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 Times continued.
Musk created a Twitter poll asking if and when he should reinstate the journalists who were banned for tweeting about the ElonJets account. But after his first poll showed that most people wanted the journalists to be reinstated “now,” Musk apparently didn’t like that result.
“Sorry, too many options, will redo the poll,” Musk tweeted.
Obviously, whatever results Musk is receiving from his new poll will be ignored until he gets the answer he’s looking for. But it’s a very bizarre dance to do. Everyone knows there are no consistent rules at Twitter anymore, just the whims of a billionaire. But Musk seems to need validation that what he’s choosing is popular and that he himself is personally liked.
And he’ll keep it up—banning journalists and enacting strange rules after the fact to rationalize his decision—until he finally feels that validation. Sadly for him, it will never be enough.
Updated at 11:10 p.m. ET to include Matt Binder and Jack Sweeney’s participation in a Twitter Spaces conversation.
Updated at 11:50 p.m. ET to include Elon Musk’s comments in a Twitter Spaces conversation.
Updated at 12:15 a.m. ET on Friday to include Musk’s apparently shutting down of the Twitter Spaces chat by journalists.