Journalists Say Elon Musk Needs to Reinstitute Monitoring of Twitter
January 12, 2023
Concerns linger over Twitter's stance on free expression and safety since
Elon Musk took over the platform in a $44 billion deal.
Since taking ownership in late October, Musk has instituted changes
including dissolving an oversight review channel, laying off a large portion
of the team focused on combating misinformation, and suspending the accounts
of several U.S. journalists.
Two media advocacy groups on Wednesday called on Musk to reverse course and
implement policies to protect the right to legitimate information and press
In a joint letter to Twitter, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) voiced "alarm" that Musk had
undermined the legitimacy of Twitter by dissolving the site's oversight
review panel that checked postings for their truthfulness and laying off the
majority of Twitter staff who helped combat misinformation.
The journalists' groups also criticized Musk for "arbitrarily reinstating
the accounts of nefarious actors, including known spreaders of
misinformation," and its suspension of several reporters, including VOA's
chief national correspondent, Steve Herman.
"Twitter's policies should be crafted and communicated in a transparent
manner … not arbitrarily or based on the company leadership's personal
preferences, perceptions and frustrations," said the two organizations.
The groups also said Musk should reinstate Twitter's Trust and Safety
Council to review content posted on the site and better monitor attempts to
censor information and penalize some individuals, including many
"Transparency and democratic safeguards must replace Musk's capricious,
arbitrary decision-making," said Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of
In December, Twitter notified members of the Trust and Safety Council that
the advisory group had been dissolved.
The email to the group said Twitter would work with partners through smaller
meetings and regional contacts, said CPJ, a media rights organization that
was a member of the council along with RSF.
"Mechanisms such as the Trust and Safety Council help platforms like Twitter
to understand how to address harm and counter behavior that targets
journalists," CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg said in a statement. "Safety
online can mean survival offline."
Twitter also has continued its suspension of some journalists, saying it
will restore their accounts only if certain posts are deleted.
Those suspended had tweeted about @ElonJet, an account that uses publicly
available data to report on Musk's private jet. That account was also
Musk had said on Twitter that the @Elonjet account and any accounts that
linked to it were suspended because they violated Twitter's anti-doxxing
Doxxing is maliciously publishing a person's private or identifying
information — such a phone number or address — on the internet.
The @Elonjet Twitter account, however, used publicly available data.
Additionally, none of the journalists who had tweeted about Musk and his
shutdown of the account had tweeted location information for his plane. They
did report that the @Elonjet account had moved to another platform and named
Some of the journalists have had their accounts restored after removing
content. But VOA's Herman is still suspended from the platform after
refusing to remove tweets.
veteran correspondent said he was notified this week that his appeal against
the permanent suspension was denied. The reason: violating rules against
"posting private information."
Before the account was suspended, Herman had more than 111,000 followers.
"Based on what Musk has previously tweeted and recent media reports, I have
concerns that if I don't give into the demand to delete several posts and
reactivate @W7VOA, my Twitter account will eventually be deleted for
inactivity or auctioned off," he told VOA.
Herman, like other journalists, migrated to other social media platforms
including Mastodon, where he gained 40,000 followers. But, he said, "Neither
platform has yet to achieve critical mass and thus the influence of Twitter,
especially for journalists and policymakers."