Twitter Suspends Journalists Over Elon Musk Jet Tracking Articles

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Twitter accounts of a number of high profile journalists have been suspended after covering the Elon Musk jet tracking story

Twitter has suspended the accounts of a number of high profile journalists that have covered the banning of the Elon Musk jet tracking bot.

On Thursday Silicon UK and other media outlets reported that Twitter had suspended an account tracking Elon Musk’s private jet in real-time using publicly available information, and the multi billionaire threatened legal action against the account’s operator.

Now the Twitter accounts of nearly ten journalists who covered the story have been suspended, and Elon Musk took to Twitter to defend the suspensions on the grounds of protecting his family.

Image credit: Elon Musk
Image credit: Elon Musk

Journalists suspended

Some messages said the accounts were “permanently suspended,” though Musk indicated the suspensions would last seven days, CNBC reported.

It reported that the accounts of Ryan Mac of The New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan of CNN, Drew Harwell of The Washington Post, Matt Binder of Mashable, Micah Lee of The Intercept, Steve Herman of Voice of America and independent journalists Aaron Rupar, Keith Olbermann and Tony Webster had all been suspended as of Thursday evening.

The Twitter account for Mastodon, a platform billed as a Twitter alternative, was also suspended early Thursday evening, CNBC noted.

And the Twitter accounts operated by NBC News journalists were unable to tweet any link to Mastodon pages.

Mastodon was, however, trending on Twitter.

The accounts were reportedly suspended because the journalists had provided links to other websites tracking Elon Musk’s jet.

On Twitter itself, Musk indicated that the suspensions stemmed from the platform’s new rules banning private jet trackers, after Musk responded to a tweet from Mike Solana, vice president of venture capital firm Founders Fund, who had noted that the suspended accounts had posted links to jet trackers on other websites.

Users rebuke

But Musk was handed a setback when he polled Twitter users over the timeframe to unsuspend the offending accounts. The majority (43 percent) said Musk should unsuspend the accounts right now, although 38.1 percent said the suspension should be longer.

Musk redid the poll saying there too many options, but the time of writing he is losing that new poll as well, with 58.4 percent in favour of immediately unsuspending the journalist accounts, as of Friday afternoon.

Yoel Roth

Some Twitter users have responded to Musk’s desire to protect his family, by highlighting the example of Twitter’s former head of Trust & Safety Yoel Roth.

Roth this week was forced to flee his home with his family, after Musk publicly misrepresented the former executive’s dissertation, resulting in threats being made against the former Twitter executive.

Musk tweets about Roth recalled the QAnon conspiracy movement, which falsely claim that Democratic Party leaders direct a child sex abuse network.

“Looks like Yoel is arguing in favour of children being able to access adult Internet services in his PhD thesis,” Musk tweeted last Saturday, attaching a screenshot of Roth’s dissertation.

In the text, Roth had suggested that services like the gay dating app Grindr should adopt safety strategies to accommodate teenagers using their platforms, rather than drive them out entirely.

Shrinking users

Meanwhile market research agency Insider Intelligence has predicted that more than 32 million Twitter users may ditch the Musk-owned platform within the next two years as they become “frustrated” by technical matters and the rise in post they deem offensive.

Our latest forecast shows the global monthly Twitter user base will shrink 3.9 percent next year and 5.1 percent in 2024. “Users will start to leave the platform next year as they grow frustrated with technical issues and the proliferation of hateful or other unsavory content,” said Insider Intelligence principal analyst Jasmine Enberg.

“We’ve cut our projections for Twitter ad revenue growth to be essentially flat,” Enberg added. “Back in March, we had expected double-digit increases in both 2023 and 2024.”

“But ‘it’s not time to write Twitter’s obituary yet,’” Enberg concluded. “While our forecast reflects the current volatile conditions at the company, there’s a possibility users will flock back—if the app can figure out its tech and content moderation.

Rival platforms to Twitter such as decentralised social network Mastodon Social, have seen its  user base grow dramatically since Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter.