Can you both support Elon Musk’s vision for Twitter, but also strongly oppose his most capricious move yet? It turns out you can – and even stay on Twitter to tell the tale.
Bari Weiss, the independent journalist whom Musk handpicked to release a batch of “Twitter files” last week – then wrote about her meeting with Musk Thursday on her Free Press site – on Friday made very clear her position on Musk’s banning of fellow journalists who had allegedly participated in the “doxxing” of his realtime location:
“The old regime at Twitter governed by its own whims and biases and it sure looks like the new regime has the same problem,” Weiss tweeted Friday. “I oppose it in both cases. And I think those journalists who were reporting on a story of public importance should be reinstated.”
Without warning or explanation Thursday night, Twitter suspended the accounts of several journalists who have covered or been critical of Musk, including technology writer Drew Harwell of The Washington Post, Ryan Mac of the New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan from CNN, Matt Binder from Mashable, Micha Lee of The Intercept, media pundit Keith Olbermann and Aaron Rupar and Tony Webster, both independent journalists.
The Washington Post reported that the accounts began disappearing after 7 p.m. ET, and that the journalists involved had all covered the @ElonJet account, which since 2020 had been tracking Musk’s air travel in real-time. Musk banned the account after an alleged run-in with a stalker who the CEO says jumped on a car his young son was riding in Wednesday, mistakenly thinking Musk was inside.
Even Ben Shapiro, the right-wing radio and podcast host who’s been openly celebrating the post-Musk Twitter paradigm, begrudgingly tweeted Friday that he’s “against the Twitter suspensions … at least based on posting links to publicly available flight info.”
Exactly how “public” that information is has been a point of debate, however.
Musk says he uses a special FAA protocol for private flights that privatizes personal information attached to flight numbers and other transponder data. He has argued that the @ElonJet account was subverting that system with a workaround and putting his family in danger.
Musk finally weighed in on the bans Thursday night, accusing each of the journalists of trying to work around his doxxing ban by tweeting links or screenshots that led to location tracking info. He later participated in a Twitter Spaces call – attended by journalists and even banned users like Harwell – where he defended his doxxing ban and even argued directly with Jack Sweeney, the founder of the ElonJet account – before abruptly dropping off the call.
Musk replied Friday to Weiss’ fresh criticism on Twitter, asking: “What should the consequence of doxxing someone’s real-time, exact location be? Assume your child is at that location, as mine was.”
Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald, also a Musk-supporting, free-speech absolutist, called the bans “arbitrary and excessive,” thought he used the developing situation to slam “corporate journalists.”
“Watching the same liberal corporate journalists who explicitly agitated for a regime of social media censorship suddenly and righteously wrap themselves in the flag of free speech is simultaneously nauseating and hilarious – but also encouraging and inspiring,” Greenwald tweeted.
Sarah Westwood, a politics and investigative reporter for the conservative outlet Washington Examiner, was no fan of the bans, either.
“Selectively banning voices for partisan or ideological reasons is bad no matter who does it and why,” she tweeted. “It’s hard to see how @elonmusk can have credibility as a purveyor of free speech if he abuses the same tools his predecessors did in ways he criticized.”
For his part, Matt Taibbi, the other independent journalist who, alongside Weiss, was invited to prepare and distribute the “Twitter files” last week, has not weighed in on the bans. His last tweet was a Wednesday re-tweet of a piece by centrist political writer Michael Shellenberger, titled “Twitter Broke Its Own Rules To Ban Trump While Keeping World Leaders Who ‘Incited Violence.’”
As a caption to his Wednesday tweet, Shellenberger had written: “The question is who should make those decisions and how.”