Outrage after Twitter suspends several US journalists who

Key events

While it’s been quiet from politicians in the US (so far) over Elon Musk’s suspension of prominent journalists’ accounts from Twitter, European leaders are not holding back, and are threatening sanctions against the social media giant.

“News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying,” Věra Jourová, vice-president of the European Commission tweeted.

“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.”

News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying. 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.

— Věra Jourová (@VeraJourova) December 16, 2022

She did not specify what the sanctions could entail.

The Digital Services Act (DSA) compels companies using serving European web users to meet strict regulations in tackling manipulative algorithms, disinformation and other cyber harm.

Meanwhile, France’s industry minister Roland Lescure tweeted on Friday he would mothball his account.

“Following the suspension of journalists’ accounts by @elonmusk, I am suspending all activity on @Twitter until further notice”, he wrote.

Suite à la suspension de comptes de journalistes par @elonmusk, je suspends toute activité sur @Twitter jusqu’à nouvel ordre.

— Roland Lescure (@RolandLescure) December 16, 2022

Twitter: suspended accounts ‘were manually reviewed’

Twitter insisted on Friday that the company “manually reviewed” every account it suspended last night, ranging from prominent journalists from the New York Times, CNN and Washington Post, and a number of popular liberal commentators.

Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, made the claim in an email to Reuters, stating the manual review was on “any and all accounts” it said violated its new privacy policy by posting links to a Twitter account called ElonJet, which tracked Elon Musk‘s private jet using information in the public domain.

Elon Musk.
Elon Musk. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Musk, formerly the world’s richest man, who bought the social media platform for $44bn earlier this year, accused the journalists of posting “assassination coordinates” by publicizing the ElonJet account, which was suspended earlier.

“Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not,” Musk tweeted.

He did clarify how he thought they had done so. And he hung up on a Twitter Spaces audio chat after clashing with some of the journalists he banned.

The suspension of the accounts late Thursday has prompted outrage on both sides of the Atlantic about Musk’s curbing of press freedoms.

Also suspended were accounts run by liberal commentators Keith Olbermann and Aaron Rupar.

Irwin’s letter to Reuters offered little by way of further explanation.

“I understand that the focus seems to be mainly on journalist accounts but we applied the policy equally to journalists and non-journalist accounts today,” she wrote.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the suspensions, which included its technology reporter Drew Harwell, were instigated at the “direction of Ella”.

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Good morning and happy Friday to all politics blog readers! After Elon Musk’s purge of several prominent US journalists’ Twitter accounts, the EU was quick to react, promising sanctions against the social media giant.

“We have a problem @Twitter,” the German foreign ministry tweeted, while a raft of other senior European officials are expressing their concern at curbed press freedoms.

Media outlets this side of the Atlantic are similarly outraged, and we’re waiting to see what US politicians have to say about it all. We’ll bring you reaction and developments through the day.

Here’s what else we’re watching on what’s shaping up to be a busy, and consequential day:

  • Senators continue their discussions on an omnibus deal to keep the government funded for the next year after passing a week-long stopgap measure last night. Democrats want to include the Electoral Count Act, seeking to prevent another January 6-style insurrection.

  • The House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack by followers of Donald Trump are wrapping up their business ahead of Monday’s final public hearing, but it’s unclear whether we’ll see the full report on that day.

  • Joe Biden will meet veterans to talk about benefits and services resulting from the Pact Act during a town hall meeting at a National Guard center in Delaware named for the president’s late son Beau. He’ll speak at 12pm.

  • The national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, will talk about international affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace thinktank in Washington DC.