No One Wins in Elon Musk’s Battle With Journalists | Trending News Buzz



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Several well-known journalists were suspended from Twitter last night, including Ryan Mac of The New York Times and Drew Harwell of The Washington Post.

The suspensions were purportedly due to the journalists’ reporting on Jack Sweeney’s (20) @ElonJet account, which was dedicated to revealing Elon Musk’s private jet’s position using publicly available information. Musk previously stated that he would never suspend or censor @ElonJet due to his commitment to free expression, but this week, following an ostensibly unconnected allegation of stalking, he changed his mind.

Last night, Musk tweeted that the suspended accounts “posted my exact real-time location, basically assassination coordinates,” implying that either the jet tracker or the journalists who were talking about it had endangered his life. On Wednesday, Twitter changed its policy to expand the company’s definition of doxxing to include “real-time location info.” Additionally, he briefly participated in a live audio chat in Twitter Spaces that was moderated by BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos. He asserted that at least one of the journalists who had been suspended, Harwell, had been tweeting direct links to his address during that chat. It’s possible that a technical issue allowed Harwell, who was still able to participate in the Space despite being suspended, to dispute this claim. He said that he had only linked to @ElonJet while discussing it as a journalist and had never brought out Musk’s address. (If it weren’t a journalist and a wealthy celebrity, the discussion would be a dry point of moderation.)

“Same doxxing rules apply to “journalists” as to everyone else.

— Elon Musk, December 16, 2022 (@elonmusk)

Musk ignored the distinction and spent the most of the talk defending his treatment of journalists on Twitter. Musk remarked, in part, “There is not going to be any differentiation between journalists, so-called journalists, and ordinary people in the future.” “Everyone will receive the same treatment. Because you work as a journalist, you are not unique. A little while later, he departed the chat, and shortly after that, Notopoulos’s stream was cut off by the site’s Twitter Spaces function. (Musk stated that a glitch was to blame for this.) A message addressed to Ella Irwin, Twitter’s new head of trust and safety, last night remained unanswered because Twitter no longer has a communications division. (She wrote to Reuters in response, saying, “I recognize that the attention seems to be mostly on journalist accounts, but we applied the policy equally to journalist and non-journalist accounts today.”) I enquired of Notopoulos what she had learned from the discussion with Musk. When Ronnie the Limo Driver and Marianne from Brooklyn argue, she remarked, “having Elon join the Twitter Space gave me a brief vision of what it feels like to be Howard Stern.” “In the end, nobody triumphs.”

The media-tech industry cultural war has received extensive media coverage, and animosity between the two sides has been building for years. Technologists feel retaliated against when they are criticized by journalists, and they are upset by journalists’ claims of moral authority and legitimacy. Journalists dislike how dependent their industry has become on applications and social media platforms. The renowned bitcoin maximalist Balaji Srinivasan stated that the Communist Party of China, the internet, and The New York Times, “America’s leading newspaper,” are the only three poles of power in the modern world in his recently self-published book The Network State.

Now, this conflict is being observed in a smaller scale: a strange, direct conflict between Musk and specific journalists. There have been hints that Musk thought the purchase was a tactic to deprive journalists of a place they believed they defined ever since he revealed his plans to buy Twitter. He made a point of reigniting discussion on how the media and the previous Twitter management handled the contentious story regarding Hunter Biden published by the New York Post in October 2020. He got rid of Twitter’s previous verification mechanism, which he called a “lords & peasants” structure. (It had benefited journalists, who saw identity verification as a useful tool—both to avoid impersonation and to authenticate their identities while contacting potential sources.)

If anyone posted real-time locations & addresses of NYT reporters, FBI would be investigating, there’d be hearings on Capitol Hill & Biden would give speeches about end of democracy!

— Elon Musk, December 16, 2022 (@elonmusk)

At some level, the debate centres on who has a better claim to have defined Twitter’s culture and to having enjoyed—or tried to enjoy—using it. The most frequent platform users have often been those in the tech and media industries (aside from Taylor Swift fans). On occasion, journalists would use Twitter as a platform to leak embarrassing or objectionable information about internet companies, their executives, and their ardent supporters. It was also the location where journalists raised awareness of doxxing as a risky occurrence during the Gamergate harassment campaigns of 2014 and 2015. As I noted earlier this year when many in the IT sector were denouncing Notopoulos for “doxxing” the founders of the Bored Ape Yacht Club brand by releasing their names, the word went mainstream and is now being used against them with delight. While his own careless, malicious posting against Twitter’s former director of safety, Yoel Roth, apparently forced Roth into hiding last weekend, Musk is now accusing journalists of showing no concern for how their tweets can endanger his personal safety.

Notopoulos made the point that nobody is actually winning this argument. It is amusing to observe and “extremely online.” And the outcome is predictable. Even though Taylor Lorenz, a writer for the Washington Post and a favourite target of the far right, was not involved in the journalist suspensions and the “doxxing” controversy, Marc Andreessen of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz chose to pick a fight with her. (Lorenz was a former staff writer at the Atlantic.) Last night, while other users tweeted about “standing with” the barred journalists, tech investor and podcaster Jason Calacanis backed Musk with a plea that people should “be good to one other,” bookended by emoji hearts.

Musk exhibits petty, erratic conduct, and his explanations for his acts are contradictory and irrational. He simply runs a website, so it’s not like he can imprison or otherwise violate the rights of journalists. But he is denying them access to a website that is important to them in both serious and humorous ways. Twitter gives off a sense of importance since it allows journalists to participate in the media landscape. However, Twitter is significant because news is created, shared, and discussed there. Depending on a reporter’s area of expertise, being unable to use the platform can be a serious professional issue that, if she works for a boss who shares Musk’s viewpoints, might land her in hot water. Notopoulos responded to her statement by saying, “Even though it feels like it sometimes, Twitter or Elon aren’t journalists’ bosses. In the end, “journalists are worker bees with little influence.”

According to the results of a poll he tweeted, Musk appears to be considering allowing the journalists back on the platform in seven days or “immediately.” We’ll wait and see what he decides to do.

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