‘Inconsistent and hypocritical:’ Experts criticize Elon Musk’s decision to suspend journalists from Twitter

The European Union condemned the move Friday

ORLANDO, Fla. – Twitter suspended several journalists who cover Elon Musk in the last two days, drawing the ire of media companies, experts and even world governments.

Reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Voice of America and other news agencies saw their accounts suspended on Thursday. The suspensions continued on Friday with the account of a Business Insider columnist who covered what she called dangerous shortcomings with Tesla manufacturing.

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The director of the University of Central Florida Nicholson School of Communication, Dr. Robert Littlefield, said as the owner of Twitter, Elon Musk has the right to choose what is posted on his social media platform.

However, Littlefield said as long as the information is public, accurate and it doesn’t defame a person, it should be available on social media. He said Musk, as a public figure, is subject to greater exposure.

“No one is more public than Elon Musk in so many different ways,” Littlefield said. “So, when someone starts actually stepping into that circle that he’s trying to control, that really seems inconsistent and hypocritical. I think it sends a mixed message that a public figure can control what is said about him or her or them.”

“Anyone who is a public figure, recognized in society, needs to know that they’re gonna be the subject of criticism, of observation — people are gonna talk about them,” Littlefield added.

The suspensions drew condemnation and the threat of sanctions from the European Union Council’s vice president for values and transparency.

“News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying,” wrote Věra Jourová on Twitter. “EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our #MediaFreedomAct. @elonmusk should be aware of that. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon.”

Some of the journalists whose accounts were suspended had written about the suspension of the @elonjet account that tracked the location of Musk’s plane — which is flight information still available to the public.

A day after those reports, Twitter suspended the accounts of several journalists, but it’s unclear why the company made that decision.

In the case of Business Insider columnist Linette Lopez, she told The Associated Press Friday that no reason was given for the suspension. On Twitter she had posted several tweets regarding Musk’s recent actions regarding Twitter, saying it was “classic Elon-going-for-broke behavior.”

Littlefield said Musk could have addressed the issue privately.

“He didn’t need to make a public display of the young man who was tracking him publicly,” he said.

On Wednesday, News 6 spoke with 20-year-old Jack Sweeney, a UCF student, about the suspension of his @elonjet account.

“I was a fan of Elon, I had the knowledge-a little bit of coding knowledge and knowledge that he had a private jet and a little bit about tracking,” the UCF Sophomore student said. “it’s not gonna look good for him and especially when he’s trying to make Twitter profitable and he’s trying to flip it around and he’s doing the exact opposite of what he said he would.”

On Nov. 6, Musk tweeted his commitment to free speech included not banning the account that follows his plane. Six weeks after that tweet, a disclaimer was added stating it is a direct personal safety risk.

“I would just like to work it out in a better way for both of us, so it doesn’t look as bad for him, and I end out happier than with a banned account. I think we can come to better terms,” Sweeney said.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

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About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.