Donie O'Sullivan among numerous journalists banned from Twitter amidst Elon Musk reporting
Free speech enthusiast Elon Musk has put the foot down.
Numerous high-profile journalists including Irish export Donie O'Sullivan have found themselves abruptly banned from Twitter following an apparent u-turn by Elon Musk.
On Thursday night (15 December), a number of journalists who regularly report on Elon Musk and Twitter had their accounts suspended without specific explanation.
Previously, Musk had shouted from the rooftops that Twitter under his ownership would become a significant bastion of free speech.
Who could forget this gem, after all?
I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2022
Earlier this week, @ElonJet, an account that tracks the movements of Elon Musk's private jet – using publicly available real-time travel information – was removed from the platform. O'Sullivan was one of many journalists who reported on the account's sudden disappearance, including interviewing the individual behind the @ElonJet account.
In a statement on Thursday night, O'Sullivan's employers challenged the "impulsive and unjustified" suspension.
"The impulsive and unjustified suspension of a number of reporters, including CNN's Donie O'Sullivan, is concerning but not surprising.
"Twitter's increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern for everyone who uses the platform. We have asked Twitter for an explanation, and we will reevaluate our relationship based on that response."
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) December 16, 2022
Speaking to Anderson Cooper on CNN, O'Sullivan suggested Musk has taken a personal approach to the widespread banning of journalists on his new social media toy.
"Just really over the past hour or so a number of journalists at national news outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and here at CNN have been permanently, it seems, suspended from Twitter," said O'Sullivan.
"Now, all those journalists, including myself, happen to be people who cover Elon Musk. This is Elon Musk of course, the free speech absolutist, who likes the First Amendment.
"Drew Harwell, who is one of the reporters at the Washington Post who has been suspended, put out a statement saying 'Elon Musk is a free speech champion, he is banning journalists for exercising free speech – I think that calls into question his commitment'.
"Look," O'Sullivan continued. "As we saw with the jet tracker last night, Musk seems to be stamping out accounts that he doesn't like."
Journalist Donie O'Sullivan discussing his suspension by Musk on CNN (part 2/2): pic.twitter.com/oHRMR2xXgT
— dell cameron (@dellcam) December 16, 2022
O'Sullivan notes that when he tries to log in to his account, he receives a notification that it has been permanently suspended "after careful review", adding that the account broke the platform's rules.
"In the minutes leading up to the suspension we were reporting, we were doing our job, we were reporting on what was happening with the Musk jet situation," O'Sullivan explained.
"Musk had claimed, as kind of a justification for taking down the jet account, that there was an incident this week involving his child in Los Angeles. He claimed that a stalker – [as] he described it – followed the car that his child was in, and he tried to link this to the jet-tracking app.
"It's not entirely clear that there is a link there, but nevertheless just a few minutes before we got kicked off Twitter, I had reported that the Los Angeles Police Department said that they were aware of the situation... they did point out that no crime reports have been filed yet."
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) December 16, 2022
O'Sullivan added that he and his fellow suspended reporters are "okay" about the situation.
"I'm on the Anderson Cooper Show. We have a platform. And just like when Trump got kicked off; we can post elsewhere. I do think – this is very important – about the potential chilling impact this might have for freelance journalists, independent journalists around the world, particularly those who cover Elon Musk's other companies like Tesla and SpaceX. I think this could have a real chilling factor."
Musk, for his part, has tweeted several times in relation to the matter, arguing that his family's welfare has been put in jeopardy as a result of accounts like @ElonJet.
Unsuspend accounts who doxxed my exact location in real-time
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 16, 2022