Musk reinstates reporters on Twitter. Their companies, though, never left.


When Twitter suddenly suspended the accounts of several prominent journalists Thursday night — in response to a baffling claim from new owner Elon Musk that they were endangering his safety — the media bosses quickly spoke to the protest.

The New York Times called the suspensions “questionable.” CNN says it is “re-evaluating” its relationship with Twitter. The Washington Post demanded that Twitter restore the account of one of its technology reporters “immediately,” as he accurately reported Musk. One news startup, Puck, said it would suspend its paid advertising campaign on Twitter, while another, Semafor, is evaluating its own marketing push, according to a spokeswoman.

But without exception, these media organizations continued to tweet at their usual busy pace Thursday night and into Friday – using their own official accounts to promote their latest stories. .

Musk justified the suspensions by accusing journalists of posting “basically murder coordinates” for him and his family – a reference, apparently, to their reporting and tweets about the decision of Twitter suspended an account, @ElonJet, that used public flight data to share the location of Musk’s private plane.

The Post found no evidence that the reporters in question shared information about Musk or his family’s location.

Earlier Saturday, after an informal poll on Musk’s Twitter, he said suspensions would be lifted immediately for “accounts that doxxed my location,” and several journalists’ accounts appeared to too. However, the reaction reflects the conflicting, and seemingly dependent, relationship between the news media and social media.

In the 15 years since sites like Twitter and Facebook exploded in popularity, traditional news outlets have decided to see them as a great opportunity as a threat – powerful new vectors for to deliver news directly to the screens of avid readers. Publishers invest heavily in staff whose primary role is to curate and promote stories on social media; editors reward journalists who have amassed thousands of Twitter followers for the traffic they bring to their sites.

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Some managers are beginning to question whether Twitter traffic is worth the effort. Yet Friday’s modest response to a maneuver that has drawn widespread rebukes from free speech advocates — as well as from the European Commission, the United Nations and members of Congress — suggests they won’t let it go. soon.

“How [else] will they get the word out? Unfortunately, Twitter is still the only real game in town,” said Vivian Schiller, a former NPR president who also served as Twitter’s head of news in 2014. “Don’t get me wrong, Musk is thin-skinned which is not a good hypocrite, but he rode us in a barrel,” he added, until another social media platform came to compete with it.

At least nine journalists, including Washington Post technology reporter Drew Harwell and New York Times journalist Ryan Mac, have been hit with suspensions, which the American Civil Liberties Union said were “impossible to meet the free aspirations of Twitter.”

By early Saturday, some of the accounts had returned, but others appeared to remain locked until the offending tweet was deleted.

“I don’t know why I was suspended,” Business Insider’s Linette Lopez told The Post on Friday, “and I haven’t heard anything from Twitter.” Lopez noted that he did not write or tweet about Musk’s flight data controversy but shared court documents pointing to how Musk has harassed critics and revealed personal information about them in the past. His account was still suspended early Saturday.

Free speech has been a rallying cry for Musk, the billionaire owner of Tesla and SpaceX, since he first moved earlier this year to buy Twitter and has since made a point of ditching many of its previous policies. of the company against hate speech and misinformation, which is repeated. former president Donald Trump’s nearly two-year ban.

But even in the conservative-leaning media, where Musk is often praised for backtracking on Trump and other right-wing accounts, the suspensions have not been equally lauded.

On Friday morning, some of the hosts of the conservative Fox News talk show “Fox & Friends” expressed confusion. “It’s crazy,” said co-host Brian Kilmeade. “If only they criticize [Musk]he has to explain why those people were suspended,” said co-host Steve Doocy.

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Ben Shapiro, founding editor in chief of the Daily Wire, admitted to some “schadenfreude” about journalists complaining about the move “given their enthusiasm for opaque Twitter censorship” – but seems to be taking issue with Musk arguing that the suspended journalists were actually “doxing” his location. Fox News personality and radio host Dan Bongino said on his show that he doesn’t approve of censoring or suspending the accounts of journalists and said it might affect them just to give them more attention.

Some of the strongest criticism of Musk’s decision came from an ally.

“Twitter’s old regime was governed by its own whims and biases and the new regime is sure to have the same problem,” tweeted Bari Weiss, a former New York Times opinion writer. “I oppose it in both cases. And I think those journalists who report a story of public importance should be reinstated. “

Weiss is one of the writers Musk recently tapped to lead his “Twitter Files” project, in which he aired internal Twitter documents about content moderation, as part of his more big campaign to show that the company’s previous management had unfairly dealt with the conservative news site. sand accounts.

Despite Musk’s claim last month that Twitter is the “biggest driver of clicks on the internet to date,” a new study from social-analytics firm DataReportal found that it is responsible for less than 8 percent of the total social media referrals for the month of November 2021.

Media organizations usually do not share detailed data on their web traffic. But a 2016 report using data from social-analytics firm found that only 1.5 percent of publisher traffic comes from Twitter. “Twitter is very influential,” concludes a report from the Nieman Lab, “but it doesn’t drive much traffic to most news orgs.”

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Meanwhile, media managers are struggling with how to establish standards of behavior for their journalists on social media, where the temptation may be to fall into more extreme, or more casual, or more thoughtful engagement. -talk than their own professional writing allows – or to tailor their stories for their particular Twitter audience.

“The really insidious part of Twitter is that it’s so easy for even the best journalists to mistake the reaction they get on Twitter for the impact or reaction they’re reporting or that their work is getting on general,” said Joseph Kahn, executive editor of the New York Times, in an interview with The Post in June.

Now, the unpredictability of Twitter under Musk’s ownership further complicates the equation for media bosses.

“It is a battle between the reputational impact of supporting an easy platform that simultaneously restores dangerous accounts while censoring legitimate journalists, and a journalistic responsibility to remain active to balance the widespread which is false information and disinformation,” said a network executive speaking about the condition. to be anonymous to speak frankly.

There is a precedent for leaving Twitter: Fox News silenced its official account from November 2018 to March 2020, reportedly due to concerns that a photo with the home address of host Tucker Carlson was shared on the platform. According to metrics released by the network, it had no negative impact on Fox’s web traffic.

In mid-November, CBS News left Twitter for two days; one staffer said the company was concerned it no longer had an official liaison to help with security issues after a major employee exodus under Musk.

For a moment on Friday, it appeared that a news organization was preparing a different kind of boycott, when the New York Times Office has partnered to cancel a discussion “Spaces” was going to have on Twitter that day about the best books of the year.

However, a spokesperson clarified to the Times that the decision was made for “technical reasons.”


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