United Nations officials are “very disturbed” by Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s “dangerous” assault on free speech in his crackdown on a group of U.S. journalists covering him and his businesses, a spokesperson for the international organization said Friday.
Musk’s “arbitrary” action sets a “dangerous precedent” by suspending targeted prominent tech journalists reporting on him at news organizations including CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times and Mashable, among others, Stéphane Dujarric told reporters.
Dujarric said the media must not be censored on a platform that professes to be a haven for free speech — run by a billionaire who has claimed to be a “free speech absolutist.”
“The move sets a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists all over the world are facing censorship, physical threats, and even worse,” said Dujarric.
Musk is incensed that his private jet flights have been tracked regularly on Twitter by user Jack Sweeney, a sophomore at the University of Central Florida. Musk earlier this week booted both the @ElonJet tracking account and Sweeney’s personal account — and then threatened to sue Sweeney.
The Telsa CEO warned Thursday that anyone who “doxxes” on Twitter — reveals another’s real-time location information — will be suspended.
Musk considers his flight details — which are already publicly available to anyone — verboten “real-time” doxxing, he has tweeted. Yet countless people’s “real-time” location is constantly revealed on Twitter, from videos of protesters at demonstrations to celebrity appearances to politicians’ press conferences.
Apparently, not all the suspended journalists reported about or linked to the flight tracking information that Musk objects to. But they may have irritated Musk in other ways, such as reporting on the crash records of Teslas on Auto-Pilot.
CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan said Musk’s flight tracking gripe was an “entirely false” justification for the crackdown and that he was irritated by negative press. “I poked the billionaire,” O’Sullivan said Friday on “CNN This Morning.”
European Union leaders are warning that Musk’s crackdown on journalists has already run afoul of the continent’s digital regulations ensuring free speech.
Věra Jourová, the European Commission vice president for values and transparency, called Musk’s actions “worrying,” The Guardian reported.
He emphasized that the EU’s Digital Services Act required platforms to respect media freedom. When any user or content is penalized, it must be done in a “proportionate manner, with due regard to fundamental rights,” state the regulations.
“This is reinforced under our Media Freedom Act. Elon Musk should be aware of that. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon,” she said.
Dujarric said the U.N. is continuing to monitor Twitter as it weighs whether or not to continue to use the platform. He said its popularity makes it a handy “tool” for sharing factual information. But officials are concerned about the recent disturbing rise of hate speech and disinformation on Twitter, he said.
Neither Musk nor Twitter could be reached for comment. Musk reportedly shut down Twitter’s communications department shortly after taking over the company.
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