Elon Musk Restarts Twitter Spaces, Lifts Ban on Some Journalists

Users were able to use Twitter Spaces again late Friday night and some reporters were able to tweet again.

Billionaire Elon Musk changed his mind abruptly about halting the use of Spaces, the feature on Twitter where users can gather to conduct audio conversations with each other.

Musk, who now owns Twitter, changed his mind late on Dec. 16 after receiving backlash from users of the social media company. He also reinstated many of the journalists’ Twitter accounts also on Dec. 16 after warnings were given from both the EU Commission and the United Nations about protecting free speech.

The CEO of Twitter, Musk, tweeted, “Spaces is back.”

Spaces had stopped working late on Dec. 14 for some users and was deactivated on Dec. 15 for all users.

Musk did not provide any comments on why Spaces was deactivated in the first place or why he changed his mind less than 24 hours later.

The Spaces function stopped working after Katie Notopoulos, a BuzzFeed reporter, hosted a Spaces event on Dec. 15 after numerous prominent journalists had their Twitter accounts suspended without being given a reason. Musk spoke briefly on the Spaces event, who reiterated his claim that he had been doxxed, but declined to answer questions from reporters such as Drew Harwell of the Washington Post, who was one of the reporters with an account that was suspended.

“You’re suggesting that we were sharing your address, which is not true,”  Harwell said to Musk.

“It is true,” Musk replied.

Musk did not give a reason for the suspension and abruptly left the Spaces conversation.

Spaces stopped working shortly thereafter and no announcement was given by either Musk or Twitter.

The reaction to Musk’s decision was met by harsh criticism on Twitter.

Josh Marshall, founder of Talking Points Memo (TPM), an independent news organization, tweeted, “Sir, thank you for ending the tantrum and restoring a part of the website you turned off because you got mad!”

Notopoulos could not host a Spaces event on Dec. 16, but reported on Saturday that the ban for hosting had been “magically lifted.”

Some Reporters Can Tweet Again

Musk also lifted the suspension of the accounts of some of the journalists late on Dec. 16 after hosting two polls on Twitter.

The journalists who were banned include Ryan Mac of the New York Times; Aaron Rupar, an independent journalist; Donie O’Sullivan of CNN; Drew Harwell of the Washington Post; Keith Olbermann, a political journalist; Matt Binder of Mashable; Micah Lee of the Intercept; Steve Herman of VOA; Tony Webster, an independent journalist and Linette Lopez, a columnist at Business Insider.

Neither Twitter or Musk had commented when the suspensions began. This ban comes from the CEO of Tesla who has described himself as a free speech absolutist.

Some of the journalists said they were not given a reason for the suspension. There did not seem to be a common theme with the suspensions, but the users’ Twitter pages all had a message that said it suspended accounts that “violate the Twitter rules.”

After the accounts were suspended, Musk claimed in a series of tweets that the journalists had not followed his new “doxxing” policy when they allegedly shared his “exact real-time” location, stating they were “assassination coordinates.”

The reporters who were able to tweet again on Dec. 16 include Mac, Rupar, Harwell, O’Sullivan, Binder, Lee and Herman. 

Olbermann’s and Lopez’s accounts remained suspended. 

None of the banned journalists shared Musk’s precise real-time location and instead many referred to an account that was also banned, called ElonJet, that gave the location of Musk’s private jet that comes from easily accessible public information.

Musk had previously said that he would allow the account to stay active on Twitter, but claimed it posed a security threat.

“My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk,” he said in a tweet last month.

The journalists who had their accounts suspended were able to attend the Spaces event hosted by Notopoulos and discuss their suspension.

EU Commission and UN Criticize Musk’s Suspension

Věra Jourová, the vice president for values and transparency in the EU Commission, said Twitter’s suspension of journalists accounts was concerning.

“News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying,” she tweeted on Dec. 16. “EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our #MediaFreedomAct.”

The United Nations said the suspension was problematic.

The UN wrote in a tweet that media freedom is “not a toy.”

Melissa Fleming, the UN’s under secretary general for global communications, said she was “deeply disturbed” that journalists were “arbitrarily” suspended from the social media company.

“Media freedom is not a toy,” she said. “A free press is the cornerstone of democratic societies and a key tool in the fight against harmful disinformation.”

Musk acquired Twitter in October for $44 billion and since the deal to take the social media company private closed, shares of Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Free Report have fallen by 51.31% during the past year and 14.41% during the past five days.

He has sold shares of Tesla several times – his latest sell netted him $3.5 billion, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. In November, he divested $4 billion of shares, following a sale of $7 billion in August and shedding $8.5 billion of the stock in April.

Since his latest sale, Musk still owns about $66 billion worth of shares of Tesla.

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