The Backlash of Twitter’s Ban of Journalists
By: Harshil Yerrabelli
On December 16, 2022, both American and European legislators threatened Twitter with fines and sanctions after its CEO, Elon Musk, suspended the accounts of at least eight journalists the day before without warning, including The New York Times’ Ryan Mac, CNN’s Donnie O’Sulivan, and The Washington Post’s Drew Harrell. Although the connections between the bans are unclear, these actions are still having a negative impact on Twitter as they could decrease the motivation for reluctant advertisers to join the social media platform. The consequences also stretch to the CEO’s other companies, including Tesla and SpaceX, as they are both major recipients of government funding and projects.
The Suspensions of Prominent Voices Could Raise the Regulatory Heat on Twitter
The multi-billionaire’s decision has set off a wave of protests. News organizations like The New York Times and CNN are demanding an explanation for the reasoning behind the action, and supporters of the journalists feel that it was excessively punitive. As a result of this disapproval from the people, lawmakers from the European Union have taken matters into their own hands. Vice President of the European Commission, Vera Jourva, stated that the move by Musk violated the E.U.’s Digital Services Act and its Media Freedom Act. Even though these two laws give limitations on how companies can moderate content, Twitter will not face the punishment of paying six percent of their global revenue as the laws go into effect next year. Members of the U.S. Congress have also taken the offensive. Representative Lori Trahan, a Democrat from Massachusetts and a member of the House committee on electronic communications and the internet, expressed dismay as she was previously assured by Twitter that they had no intention of retaliating against journalists and independent researchers who cover Musk and the company critically.
The fallout that Elon Musk has received has prompted him to defend his decision to block the journalists, as he said, "You doxx, you get suspended, end of story." The term "doxx" that he uses refers to the action of publishing the live location or other personal information of someone else. Musk himself has been a victim of it, as his location was shared on the platform recently. All in all, this story has brought up the question of how long Elon Musk will be able to do whatever he wants with Twitter, as the consequences of his somewhat irrational and careless actions have been detrimental to his reputation.
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