Twitter told Rep. Lori Trahan it will not retaliate against journalists. Hours later, it suspended several reporters’ accounts.

"What's the deal, @elonmusk?"

Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., speaks during a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee in Washington, D.C., on April 6.
Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., speaks during a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee in Washington, D.C., on April 6. Bloomberg photo by Al Drago

What’s the deal, @elonmusk?

That’s the question from Congresswoman Lori Trahan, the Lowell Democrat, who says only hours after she received assurance from a Twitter representative on Thursday that the company will not retaliate against journalists airing criticism of the social media site on its own platform, the company blocked the accounts of several reporters.

“My Team met with @Twitter today,” Trahan wrote Thursday night, in a tweet that’s since gone viral. “They told us that they’re not going to retaliate against independent journalists or researchers who publish criticisms of the platform.

“Less than 12 hours later, multiple technology reporters have been suspended.”

Trahan was among the vast chorus of users searching for answers from Twitter’s chief executive, Elon Musk, over the sudden suspension of the accounts belonging to at least eight journalists, including those at major outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN, who have covered Musk in the months since he took over the platform in October.


Although Twitter has not officially said the reasons for the suspensions, Musk indicated they were due to a violation of Twitter’s policy around doxxing. Musk claimed the reporters posted his “exact real-time location, basically assassination coordinates.”

On Wednesday, Twitter suspended over 25 accounts that tracked planes belonging to government offices, billionaires, and public-facing individuals, including one operated by a 20-year-old college student that published updates of Musk’s private jet location.

According to the Times, some of the journalists who had their accounts suspended had written about the plane accounts or tweeted about the accounts in addition to coverage that was critical of Musk.

Francis Grubar, a spokesperson for Trahan’s office, told on Friday Trahan’s staff met with a Twitter representative on Thursday as a follow-up to a letter Trahan, who serves on a consumer protection and commerce subcommittee, sent with Congressman Sean Casten, of Illinois, to the company last month.

The two lawmakers sought clarity from Twitter about the future of the company’s transparency policies and accessibility for research purposes, particularly as the platform fired employees dedicated to transparent algorithms, human rights, child safety, and other issues.

“One of the questions Rep. Trahan asked in her letter and that was asked again by our team yesterday was whether the company would retaliate against researchers who publish reports with negative findings about Twitter,” Grubar wrote in an email. “The company’s rep assured our team that it would not be retaliating against independent researchers or journalists for critical reports. Obviously, the suspensions that happened less than 12 hours later immediately caught our attention.”


The decision to suspend the reporter accounts appears to be a reversal of Musk’s earlier position.

In November, Musk wrote in a tweet, “My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk.”

But this week, he wrote a “crazy stalker” tracked down and approached a car one of his sons was in, and he later posted on Wednesday that, “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,” he added.

Musk’s critics, however, have said his evolving stance is at odds with his previous commitments to make Twitter a haven of free speech, with broad leeway over what accounts may post without violating the platform’s rules.

Musk appeared to address that point on Thursday night, tweeting, “Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not.”


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