New Twitter owner, Elon Musk’s commitment to free speech has been questioned after the microblogging platform on Thursday evening banned the accounts of several high-profile journalists.
The accounts belonging to CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, The New York Times’ Ryan Mac, The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell and other journalists who have covered Musk aggressively in recent weeks were all abruptly permanently suspended. The account of progressive independent journalist Aaron Rupar was also banned.
Neither Musk nor Twitter responded to CNN’s request for comment and the platform did not formally why the journalists were exiled from the platform.
But, in a series of sporadic tweets, Musk claimed that the journalists had violated his new “doxxing” policy by sharing his “exact real-time” location, amounting to what he described as “assassination coordinates.” None of the banned journalists appeared to have shared Musk’s precise real-time location.
Musk later appeared in a Twitter Spaces, hosted by a BuzzFeed reporter, and reiterated his claim that he had been doxxed.
Doxxing refers to the practice of sharing someone’s home address or other personal information online.
Read Also: Free Speech: Former Twitter Boss, Jack Takes Responsibility For Challenges Facing The Platform
Shortly before his suspension, O’Sullivan reported on Twitter that the social media company had suspended the account of an emerging competitive social media service, Mastodon, which has allowed the continued posting of @ElonJet, an account that posts the updated location of Musk’s private jet.
The bans raise a number of questions about the future of the platform, which has been referred to as a digital town square. Musk’s censorship of the journalists called into serious question Musk’s supposed commitment to free speech.
Musk has repeatedly said he would like to permit all legal speech on the platform. In April, on the same day he announced he would purchase Twitter, he had tweeted: “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”
Several organizations condemned Twitter’s decision, with the head of the American Civil Liberties Union saying: “It’s impossible to square Twitter’s free speech aspirations with the purging of critical journalists’ accounts.”
The president of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) said in a statement it was “concerned” about the suspensions, and that the move “affects all journalists.”