Some of Elon Musk’s biggest cheerleaders, alongside some conservative influencers, are condemning Twitter’s decision Thursday to suspend several high-profile journalists who have covered Musk at outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN.
“In short, I’m against the Twitter suspensions,” conservative podcast host Ben Shapiro tweeted Friday, in a thread that also attempted to equate the suspensions with content moderation decisions that predated Musk’s takeover. Shapiro has been a vocal supporter of Musk since he began the process of taking over Twitter.
On Thursday, Twitter accounts for at least nine journalists and one left-leaning political pundit were suspended. An antifascist and an anarchist media account were also canceled. The account for Mastodon, a platform that has emerged as one of Twitter’s major competitors, was suspended as well, and links to Mastodon and other autonomous, decentralized networks were blocked as “unsafe” links that could no longer be tweeted. Some of the suspensions were initially communicated as permanent, but Musk then stated in a tweet that they would last for seven days.
Since Musk became Twitter's CEO, more than a dozen notable left-leaning accounts, including independent journalists, antifascist and anarchist media accounts, were suspended, while previously suspended right-leaning accounts, including the founder of neo-Nazi platform the Daily Stormer and white nationalist Laura Loomer, were restored.
“The old regime at Twitter governed by its own whims and biases and it sure looks like the new regime has the same problem,” right-leaning writer Bari Weiss tweeted on Friday. “I oppose it in both cases. And I think those journalists who were reporting on a story of public importance should be reinstated.”
Weiss was one of a handful of journalists Musk had commissioned just days earlier to report on what they said was Twitter’s previous left-leaning bias. The group published long threads called “The Twitter Files,” with email correspondences and internal documents related to some of Twitter’s controversial moderation decisions before Musk’s acquisition, including the decision to temporarily block links to a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Musk responded to Weiss' criticism in a tweet saying she was "virtue-signaling."
Jason Miller, the chief spokesman for the 2016 Donald Trump presidential campaign and CEO of conservative-leaning alternative social media platform Gettr, told NBC News that he disagreed with calling some of the suspended accounts' holders “journalists,” given their political leanings.
“The banning of the other names is problematic, however,” Miller, who has recently been critical of Musk, said. “Freedom of the press is critical to a free society.”
The bans have added to the jitters of some people who invest in and celebrate Tesla, the electric carmaker where Musk is CEO. Tesla’s share price dropped 4.7% on Friday to its 52-week low for the year, and some investors took to Twitter to urge Musk to refocus his attention.
“I’m a @Tesla investor and I want @elonmusk to get off @Twitter,” Joe Cirincione, a national security analyst, wrote on Twitter. “The value of my shares has been cut in half since he made his move to take over this platform. I love my Model 3, but he is killing the company with his antics.”
Ross Gerber, a longtime and vocal supporter of the automaker, said he wants Tesla’s board of directors to act.
“Elon has now erased $600 bil of tesla wealth and still nothing from the Tesla BOD. It’s wholly unacceptable,” Gerber tweeted Friday.
Musk responded to Gerber on Twitter, blaming the falling share price on interest rate decisions.
“Tesla is executing better than ever!” he said. “We don’t control the Federal Reserve. That is the real problem here.”
According to Musk, Thursday’s suspensions were related to new rules around sharing real-time location information, which he tied to an alleged stalking incident.
On Wednesday, Musk tweeted that a car one of his children was in was followed and blocked from moving by the driver, who Musk said got on top of the hood of the car with his child in it. Musk also tweeted a video containing the car’s license plate and the person who he said followed the car with his child.
Musk said, “Any account doxxing real-time location info of anyone will be suspended, as it is a physical safety violation. This includes posting links to sites with real-time location info.”
“Posting locations someone traveled to on a slightly delayed basis isn’t a safety problem, so is ok,” Musk added.
The accounts that were suspended, though, did not tweet about the real-time location of the car Musk said his child was in. One of the banned accounts, “@elonjet,” previously tweeted flight data showing the location of Musk’s private jet. Some of the journalists who were banned had previously tweeted links to the account and other profiles run by creator Jack Sweeney, whose personal Twitter account was also suspended. On Wednesday, Musk tweeted that legal action would be taken against Sweeney.
Flight data includes where a plane lands, but it does not track a plane’s occupants outside the plane itself, so it could not be used to trace the real-time location of Musk or his children if they were not onboard or near the plane.
“Even if it’s ‘doxing,’ the bans seem arbitrary and excessive,” journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has also argued against left-leaning bias, tweeted on Friday. Greenwald has recently defended Musk, who’s attracted criticism from Democratic lawmakers.
In an email to NBC News, Greenwald added that any new Twitter rule should be clearly defined and consistently applied.
“My concern is that if Musk is going to ban or punish accounts based on his whims and arbitrary application of unclear rules, then he will end up replicating rather than uprooting the pre-Musk censorship regime that has been cheered for years by Democrats and liberal media corporations,” he wrote.
Andrew Torba, founder of the far-right social platform Gab, also criticized Musk and touted his company as an alternative to Twitter.
“Elon is once again ‘leading’ with his emotions and treating Twitter not as a product, not as an essential and vital publication utility for the entire world, but as a toy, and one controlled by a petulant child at that,” Torba wrote in a blog post Friday.
Christopher Rufo, who has led “conservative pressure campaigns” against venues hosting drag performances and defended Musk, tweeted, “Doxxing should be prohibited” but “it should be a clear policy, not a changing standard.”
“Arbitrary enforcement was bad before and it’s bad now,” Rufo wrote.