Hours after Twitter “permanently suspended” more than half a dozen journalists from outlets including CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post following their reporting on an account related to Elon Musk, the man himself showed up briefly in a Twitter Space hosted by BuzzFeed News tech reporter Katie Notopoulos on Thursday night.
“Everyone’s going to be treated the same,” said Musk, the CEO of Twitter, in defense of the decision to suspend reporters. “They’re not special just because you’re a journalist.”
Shortly after journalists attempted to further question him about the suspensions, he fled the Space.
Earlier in the evening, Musk had falsely accused journalists of posting his real-time location, which he referred to as “basically assassination coordinates.” He said that doing so was a “direct violation of Twitter terms of service.”
The reporters had been covering the story of Twitter banning @ElonJet, an account that tweeted the whereabouts of Musk’s personal private jet using publicly available data, and then suddenly found their own Twitter accounts suspended. On Thursday, Twitter banned the personal account of Jack Sweeney, the Florida college student who ran @ElonJet, as well as the official account of Mastodon, a Twitter rival that had linked to @ElonJet's presence on its own platform.
Musk showed up in the Space, titled “#saveryanmac #macpack” (after former BuzzFeed News and current New York Times reporter Ryan Mac, one of the suspended journalists), more than two hours after it started.
“Showing real-time information about somebody’s location is inappropriate, and I think everyone on this call would not like that to be done for them,” Musk said
Musk attempted to claim that reporting that linked to @ElonJet was doxxing (which is when private and personal information, such as addresses or phone numbers, is published) because it could give live information about his and his family’s location. He added that Twitter won’t make a distinction between journalists and “regular people” going forward.
“You’re just a Twitter citizen. So no special treatment,” Musk said. “You dox, you get suspended, end of story.”
Musk, who has long spoken out about his distaste of the media and reporters on Twitter, said that “ban evasion, or trying to be clever about it, like, Oh I posted a link to the real-time information” wasn’t OK on the platform.
Notopoulos pushed back and said that the journalists had simply reported about @ElonJet. “You consider that, like, a tricky attempt at ban evasion?” she asked.
“You post a link to the real-time information, ban evasion, obviously,” Musk said.
Washington Post tech reporter Drew Harwell, one of the suspended journalists, said that he hadn’t posted Musk’s address on Twitter.
“You posted a link to the address,” Musk shot back.
“In the course of reporting about ElonJet, we posted links to ElonJet, which are now not online, and now banned on Twitter,” Harwell said.
“You dox, you get suspended, end of story,” Musk said again, and then left the Space in the middle of Notopoulos trying to ask him a question.
More than 30,000 people listened live to the Space, including dozens of journalists and Jason Calacanis, a high-profile Silicon Valley investor and a member of Musk’s inner circle.
Some of the suspended reporters — including Harwell and Mashable’s Matt Binder — were able to speak in the Space too after discovering a Twitter loophole that let them join the Space despite having their Twitter accounts suspended.
Media outlets responded to their reporters getting permanently suspended. The New York Times said in a statement that the move was “questionable and unfortunate.” CNN called it “impulsive and unjustified.” Sally Buzbee, the executive editor of the Washington Post, said the suspension of Harwell “directly undermines Elon Musk’s claim that he intends to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech.”
Musk did not responded to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
The suspensions of the journalists drew anger from politicians and regulators in the European Union. On Friday, Vera Jourova, vice president for transparency in the European Commission, tweeted that Twitter could face sanctions under upcoming digital content and media freedom rules.
In addition, Ronald Lescure, the French minister in charge of industry tweeted that he was "suspending all activity on Twitter until further notice" after the suspensions of the journalists.
This story was updated with details about the reactions of European regulators and politicians to Twitter's suspension of journalists.