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Twitter facing UN, EU backlash over journalist suspensions. What to know

Click to play video: 'Twitter faces backlash over suspension of several journalists'
Twitter faces backlash over suspension of several journalists
WATCH: Twitter faces backlash over suspension of several journalists – Dec 16, 2022

Elon Musk’s Twitter faced backlash from the European Union, the United Nations and Amnesty International on Friday after the social media platform suspended at least five journalists over claims they revealed his personal information.

United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said at a briefing Friday that the agency is “disturbed” by the suspension of journalists.

“Media voices should not be silenced on a platform that professes to be a space for freedom of speech,” Dukaric told reporters.

“From our standpoint, the move sets a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists all over the world are facing censorship, physical threats, and even worse.”

When asked at the briefing if the UN will be reconsidering involvement in Twitter, he said that they’re “monitoring day-to-day developments.”

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“We are remaining in touch with officials at Twitter.”

Click to play video: 'Elon Musk booed during surprise appearance at Dave Chappelle show'
Elon Musk booed during surprise appearance at Dave Chappelle show

The suspensions reportedly stemmed from a disagreement over a Twitter account called ElonJet, which tracked Musk’s private plane using publicly available information.

On Wednesday, Twitter suspended the account and others that tracked private jets, despite Musk’s previous tweet saying he would not suspend ElonJet in the name of free speech.

Click to play video: 'Twitter faces an uncertain future'
Twitter faces an uncertain future

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

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Doxxing is a term for publishing private information about someone, usually with malicious intent.

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On Thursday evening, several journalists including from the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post were suspended from Twitter with no notice.

In an email to Reuters overnight, Twitter’s head of trust and safety said the team manually reviewed “any and all accounts” that violated the new privacy policy by posting direct links to the ElonJet account.

READ MORE: Twitter suspends account tracking Elon Musk’s jet after ‘stalker’ follows his child

“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,” Irwin said in the email.

The move has since been widely criticized.

Click to play video: 'Twitter suspension of journalists sets ‘dangerous precedent’: UN spokesperson'
Twitter suspension of journalists sets ‘dangerous precedent’: UN spokesperson

In a tweet, Vice-President for Values and Transparency in the European Union Commission Věra Jourová said that the news about the suspension of journalists is “worrying.”

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“EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our Media Freedom Act. Elon Musk should be aware of that. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon,” Jourová said.

Click to play video: 'Hate speech surging on Twitter under Elon Musk'
Hate speech surging on Twitter under Elon Musk

Amnesty International released a statement too, condemning the suspension of journalists, and warning that such action will lead to an increase in online abuse on the platform.

“Purging the accounts of critical journalists poses a threat to press freedom and reflects another deeply troubling example of the direction Twitter is headed,” said Alia Al Ghussain, Amnesty International’s Campaigner for Amnesty Tech.

Al Ghussain said Musk’s latest move shows the “dangers of unaccountable tech companies having total control over platforms we rely on for news and other vital information.”

“Recently, Twitter flippantly disbanded its safety council, threatening the well-being of its users,” said Al Ghussain.

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“Ever since Musk’s takeover, Twitter’s entire human rights teams and thousands of independent contractors working on content moderation have also been laid-off. Bans have also been lifted on numerous accounts that have previously posted abusive content,” she added.

READ MORE: Elon Musk is no longer the richest person in the world, says Forbes

Reuters reported Friday that Musk appeared briefly in a Twitter Spaces audio chat hosted by journalists, which quickly turned into a contentious discussion about whether the suspended reporters had actually exposed Musk’s real-time location in violation of the policy.

“If you dox, you get suspended. End of story,” Musk said repeatedly in response to questions.

The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, one of the journalists who had been suspended but was nonetheless able to join the audio chat, pushed back against the notion that he had exposed Musk or his family’s exact location by posting a link to ElonJet.

Soon after, BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos, who hosted the Spaces chat, tweeted the audio session was cut off abruptly and the recording was not available.

In a tweet explaining what happened, Musk said “We’re fixing a Legacy bug. Should be working tomorrow.”

– with files from Reuters

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