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‘Free speech absolutist’ Elon Musk evades journalists’ questions on Twitter bans

Elon Musk took over Twitter in October 2022 in a deal worth $44 billion  (Copyright-2022)
Elon Musk took over Twitter in October 2022 in a deal worth $44 billion (Copyright-2022)

Elon Musk abruptly left a Q&A session on Thursday evening after facing questions about the suspension of several prominent journalists from Twitter.

Reporters from CNN, Mashable, The New York Times and The Washington Post were suspended after they tweeted about the suspension of the account ‘ElonJet’, which tracked the movements of the billionaire’s private jet.

Following the bans, BuzzFeed News reporter Katie Notopoulos organised a session on Twitter Spaces – an audio-based feature on the platform – which Mr Musk briefly joined.

When asked about the journalists’ bans, the Twitter boss said that showing real-time information about someone’s location was “inappropriate”, despite objections from reporters that they were just doing their job.

“There is not going to be any distinction in the future between journalists and regular people, everyone is going to be treated the same,” he said.

“You’re not special because you’re a journalist, you’re just a citizen. So no special treatment: You dox, you get suspended, end of story.”

Mr Musk then abruptly left the Twitter Spaces before Ms Notopoulos was able to ask any follow-up questions. The session was also unexpectedly cut off following Mr Musk’s departure, preventing any further discussion.

“Sorry it appears the Space cut out, screen went suddenly blank on my end and everyone got booted,” Ms Notopoulos tweeted.

The Independent has reached out to Twitter for comment.

Mr Musk, who has previously described himself as a “free speech absolutist”, tweeted on Thursday that he had taken the decision to ban the @ElonJet account after his family’s safety was endangered by a “crazy stalker” following a car carrying his two-year-old son.

The account has since been restored after Mr Musk posted a poll asking his followers whether it should be unsuspended. The majority of respondents said the account should be reinstated immediately.

The account must follow new rules concerning the sharing of “real-time location info” in order to avoid another ban. The new restrictions prevent users from posting information about a person’s location for 24 hours, even if that information is publicly available.

“We’ve updated our Private Information policy to prohibit sharing someone else’s live location in most cases,” Twitter Safety tweeted.

“When someone shares an individual’s live location on Twitter, there is an increased risk of physical harm. Moving forward, we’ll remove Tweets that share this information, and accounts dedicated to sharing someone else’s live location will be suspended.

“You can still share your own live location on Twitter. Tweets that share someone else’s historical (not same-day) location information are also not prohibited by this policy.”