Twitter suspends accounts of multiple tech journalists without explanation

Twitter has suspended several prominent journalists who report on the tech and media industries late on Thursday, without explanation.

The journalists affected at the time of writing include Mashable reporter Matt Binder, as well as the New York Times‘ Ryan Mac, CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, the Washington Post‘s Drew Harwell, prominent commentator and former anchor Keith Olbermann, independent journalist Tony Webster, The Intercept’s Micah Flee, Voice of America’s Steve Herman, and independent journalist Aaron Rupar.

Some of those journalists, including Harwell, had shared reporting about the sudden suspension of rival social platform Mastodon’s Twitter account; others, including Binder, had shared screenshots or tweets showing either the suspended accounts of other journalists, or others’ reporting on Elon Musk.

The account pages now only display a boilerplate message noting that accounts will be suspended for violating the Twitter rules.

“I was banned on Thursday night immediately after sharing a screenshot from CNN’s Donnie O’Sullivan moments after he was suspended,” Binder said in a statement provided for this story. “The screenshot was an official LAPD statement regarding the incident Elon Musk was tweeting out about last night which led him to suspending ElonJet and its creator Jack Sweeney. I did not share any location data, as per Twitter’s new terms. Nor did I share any links to ElonJet or other location tracking accounts.”

ElonJet, an account which used publicly available data to track the movements of Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s private jet, was banned, un-banned, and then banned again this week. Sweeney, the college freshman at the University of Central Florida who ran the bot account and several others tracking the jets of prominent public figures, also had his personal account suspended alongside his other bot accounts. (Musk last year had attempted to pay Sweeney $5000 to take down the ElonJet bot.)

Also this week, Twitter updated a policy limiting the sharing of “live location information” on the platform, and Musk tweeted that a car carrying his young son had been “attacked” by “a crazy stalker”. In the tweet, Musk directly linked the publicly available information shared by Sweeney’s bot account to the incident and stated that legal action against Sweeney had been initiated.

Other journalists have also shared the LAPD statement about the incident, but had not had their accounts banned at the time of writing.

Mashable has reached out to Twitter for clarification regarding the journalists’ bans.

“Journalists being removed from any platform for doing their job sets a terrible and dangerous precedent,” said Ziff Davis, the parent company of Mashable, in a statement released late Thursday. “We would like more information about what rules were purportedly broken here (we have found none) that would warrant such an action. The accounts of Mashable’s Matt Binder and the other journalists suspended this evening should be restored in the name of free speech, for which Mr. Musk claims to be an advocate.”

This a developing story, and has been updated since initial publication to add to the list of journalists suspended from Twitter and embed tweets from not-yet-suspended journalists for additional context, as well as the statement from Mashable parent company Ziff Davis and the below update.

UPDATE: Dec. 16, 2022, 3:07 p.m. AEDT Elon Musk has tweeted that the bans, which he claims are for “doxxing”, are temporary suspensions lasting just 7 days. This contradicts reporting from CNN’s media reporter Oliver Darcy, who tweeted a screenshot from his colleague Donie O’Sullivan’s suspended Twitter account that stated that O’Sullivan’s ban was permanent. Mashable’s Matt Binder, whose account is still suspended, was able to join a Twitter Spaces on Thursday evening, as was Jack Sweeney via his suspended ElonJet account. It’s still unclear what on earth is going on here.