Twitter faces criticism after suspending accounts of journalists covering CEO Elon Musk

Twitter is facing intense criticism after a series of moves by billionaire owner Elon Musk. Twitter suspended the accounts of at least eight journalists that had recently posted about Musk or his policy changes on content moderation. Some posted links to an account that tracked Musk's private jet’s travels through public data. Tech journalist Kara Swisher joined Amna Nawaz to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Twitter is facing intense criticism after a series of moves by billionaire and owner Elon Musk.

    The United Nations spoke out against the company today, calling its new suspension of some news reporters' Twitter accounts disturbing and setting a — quote — "dangerous precedent."

    Amna Nawaz has more.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right, Judy.

    Twitter suspended the accounts of at least eight journalists yesterday from The Washington Post, CNN, The New York Times, and others, with limited explanation. Each of those accounts had recently posted about Elon Musk or his policy changes on content moderation. Some posted links to an account banned this week that tracked Musk's jets through public data.

    The self-described free speech absolutist is now facing backlash.

    For more on all this, I'm joined by tech journalist Kara Swisher. She's the host of the "On With Kara Swisher" and "Pivot" podcasts, has been covering Elon Musk for more than two decades.

    Kara, welcome.

    As we just mentioned, few people have known and covered Elon Musk as long as you have. I'm just curious, as you're watching all of this unfold, as you saw the suspensions unfold last night, what are you thinking? What's going on here?

    Kara Swisher, Host, "Pivot": Well, it's the latest.

    I mean, that has been going on for — since he bought it, so one crazy thing after the next, and this is just the latest, and things he said he wouldn't do that he's doing, such as creating a moderation council and then making decisions on his own, or tweeting misinformation, when he said he wouldn't, or releasing Twitter files that are probably incomplete.

    This is just the latest. And he's just trying to create a sense of crisis and drama around the company, I guess, so people will be talking about him. He likes attention. I don't know if you have noticed.


  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, this is the same man who reinstated banned accounts, right, arguing this is all about free speech.

  • Kara Swisher:


  • Amna Nawaz:

    Is any of this about free speech, do you think?

  • Kara Swisher:

    No, it's about the whims of the richest man in the world and what he feels like doing on any given day. And I think it's not much more complicated than that.

    He's bought it. He bought it for too much money. And he will do — you know, he bought it, and he will broke — break it if he wants to. And that seems to be what he's doing.

    There's no — this is not someone who thinks deeply about big issues like free speech and things like that. It's a lot of parroted nonsense that he then uses as excuses to do what he's doing. He's just mad at some — just a jet guy who published public information. He then took it out on journalists who wrote about that controversy.

    And that's where we are. It's really not that complex. It's someone who has a — who lacks impulse control.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    At the same time, we know that there are real-world consequences to what we have seen unfold on Twitter in the last several weeks, right?

    We know researchers from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and others have tracked a dramatic surge in hate speech, in antisemitism, anti-Black rhetoric on Twitter. How worried are you about those real-world consequences while all of this plays out?

  • Kara Swisher:

    I'm not that worried, only because it's not a very big platform.

    That's the one of the big problems with Twitter. It's never been a very good business and it's never been very big. It does hold the attention of the media and politicians. Celebrities have long since abandoned this because of the toxicity of it, and it doesn't really help them that much.

    And so I think — I think that's where the problem, is, it can set the tone for discussions. But, in general, if you — if I walked outside here in San Francisco right now, very few people would know what this guy was up to, except in broad terms, is that he — he's the P.T. Barnum of the Internet age.

    And so I'm worried about it. And I think it's always dangerous when things are allowed to be toxic on a platform. But, at the same time, it's not a very big platform.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    At the same time, journalists do use it. Many rely on it. It can be a powerful message for journalism, a powerful tool.

  • Kara Swisher:


  • Amna Nawaz:

    We saw the V.P. of the European Commission respond, saying the suspensions, she thought, violated the E.U.'s Digital Services and Media Freedom Act.

    She tweeted there are red lines and sanctions soon there. What about here in the U.S.? Do you think Twitter needs to be regulated?

  • Kara Swisher:

    No, I don't. And I don't — I think that's going to be a real problem here is because of First Amendment issues.

    It really — Twitter can do whatever it wants, unfortunately, and it happens to be owned by someone who's somebody responsible about running it — not somewhat, very responsible about running it. And so I think there are different rules in Europe that come into play, but, here in this country, very difficult for anybody to regulate it.

    One of the things they could regulate is about location data. They have been talking about forcing you to give your location data or any other data. And that's certainly of concern, privacy concerns. But in terms of allowing people who to kick off and who not to kick off, this is a — this is a tech platform owned by a billionaire, and he can do what he wants, whether you like it or not.

    And so you either leave and get your stuff off there, or you stay and put up with this nonsense.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Kara, what do you know about what's happening inside the company?

    I mean, you had a fascinating interview with Yoel Roth, who was the former head of the Trust and Safety Council. He left on his own accord, but that council was recently dissolved by Musk just in the last few days. Are there people around Elon Musk to tell him what he needs to hear, not just what he wants to hear?

  • Kara Swisher:

    No. No. He's got a bunch of enablers and suck-ups. I don't know if I can say that on TV, but that's what they are.

    And I think some people have stayed because they have to. I have talked to a lot of people inside, and they have various reasons, whether it's visas or personal issues, that they have to stay and be paid and need health care and things like that.

    But all I'm hearing from inside is chaos. Whatever he feels like on any given day, they have to jump. And so that's where it is. It's not — he may have some method to this madness, but I don't think so. I think it's just whatever he feels like.

    And the issue is, this is a company that actually could have used some really good management and sort of cleaned it up and made it something a little more successful financially. But we will see if he can do it. I don't see it happening.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We will see. I foresee more headlines ahead.

  • Kara Swisher:


  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's Kara Swisher, host of the "On With Kara Swisher" and "Pivot" podcasts.

    Kara, thanks for your time.

  • Kara Swisher:

    Thanks a lot.

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