The United Nations has joined the European Union in condemning Twitter’s decision to suspend some journalists who cover the social media firm.
Reporters for the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post were among those locked out of their accounts.
The UN tweeted that media freedom is “not a toy” while the EU has threatened Twitter with sanctions.
A Twitter spokesman told a US tech news website the bans were related to the live sharing of location data.
Melissa Fleming, the UN’s under secretary general for global communications, said she was “deeply disturbed” by reports that journalists were being “arbitrarily” suspended from Twitter.
The technology tycoon later set up a poll asking whether he should unsuspend the accounts “now” or “in seven days”, suggesting the decision could be reversed sooner rather than later.
“Same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else,” he added, using a term to describe the release of private information online about individuals.
‘A town square’
Mr Musk took control of Twitter in October in a $44bn ($36bn) deal.
When he completed his takeover, the billionaire told advertisers he bought the site because he wanted to “try to help humanity”, and for “civilisation to have a digital town square”.
Any sanctions placed on Mr Musk’s business over the account suspensions could be applied under the bloc’s new Digital Services Act, which was approved by the EU earlier this year.
Under the terms of the proposed new law, the EU Commission will be allowed to impose fines of up to 6% of the global turnover of a firm that it finds breaks its rules.
In extreme cases, the EU could ask a court to suspend a rogue service, but only if it is “refusing to comply with important obligations and thereby endangering people’s life and safety”.
Matt Binder, a journalist for Mashable and one of those suspended, said he didn’t know why he had been banned.
“I’ve been very critical of Musk in my reporting,” he told the BBC. But he said that Mr Musk’s claim “that everyone that got suspended was doxxing him – due to the jet tracker” was not true.
He said he had never tweeted a hyperlink to the tracker, but had mentioned the account after it had been suspended.
Mr Musk later spoke to journalists on Twitter Spaces, part of the social media app that allows live audio conversations, but after answering a few questions about the ban he left and Twitter Spaces itself has since appeared to be suspended.
Twitter also suspended the official account of Mastodon, which has emerged as an alternative to Twitter since Mr Musk’s takeover.
But this is a fundamentally flawed approach to moderation. I bet many of us wish we could suspend or ban social media accounts that post content we dislike.
It’s not the first time Elon Musk has taken a very personal approach to content moderation. He refused to allow Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones back on Twitter because he had used the death of children to further his career – and mentioned the loss of his own child, 10-week-old Alexander.
Fundamentally, Elon Musk has shot down in flames his much-trumpeted commitment to “free speech”. Free speech as long as it doesn’t upset him personally, appears to be the message.
This article was originally published by BBC News.
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