Twitter’s suspension of Irish journalist a ‘worrying development’, says NUJ

CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan was among the US-based reporters to have their accounts suspended

Elon Musk’s decision to suspend the Twitter accounts of a group of US-based journalists, among them Irish CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan, is a “worrying development”, the Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Seamus Dooley has said.

Late on Thursday, reporters from publications including the Washington Post, the New York Times, Mashable and CNN were listed as “blocked” and their tweets no longer visible. Mr Musk said the suspended profiles, including that of Mr O’Sullivan, belonged to people who had posted his real-time location. He claimed the information was “basically assassination co-ordinates”.

On Friday, Mr Dooley said the union stands with Mr O’Sullivan and all the journalists banned from Twitter.

“It is the function of journalism to hold power to account. Elon Musk is one of the most powerful and influential figures on the world stage and the NUJ stands in solidarity with journalists banned from Twitter for fulfilling their role,” he said.


“This is a deeply worrying development and raises serious questions about the credibility of Twitter. There’s a long history of media barons resisting journalistic scrutiny. This decision reeks of hypocrisy and suggests that his commitment to freedom of expression does not extend to legitimate scrutiny of his own actions.”

Mr O’Sullivan has meanwhile said it is “rich and ironic” for self-professed free-speech absolutist Mr Musk to be shutting down journalists.

Before the banning of his account, the CNN reporter, who is originally from Cahersiveen in Co Kerry, had been reporting on the suspension of the @ElonJet Twitter account that tracked the movement of Mr Musk’s private jet from publicly available flight tracking information.

The billionaire introduced new rules on the platform banning private jet trackers and said that the same rules apply to journalists, including reporters at the New York Times and the Washington Post, who were covering the story about the private jet tracking ban.

Mr O’Sullivan, who had 287,700 followers on his Twitter account, rejected Mr Musk’s “assassination co-ordinates” claim as “simply false” and expressed concern about the impact of the decision on other journalists who cover the billionaire’s various business interests.

“It is obviously a bit rich for a so-called are free-speech absolutist, as Musk portrays himself, to be going off suspending a bunch of journalists who cover him critically but cover him fairly. I think it sets a potentially dangerous precedent for speech on Twitter,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“It is important to point out here that Musk is claiming that the journalists he suspended shared the exact live co-ordinates of his location and that could get him assassinated. That just simply is false,” he said.

Separately, EU commissioner Vera Jourova tweeted on Friday that the platform could face sanctions under the Digital Services Act.

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

Ms Jorouva said Mr Musk “should be aware” that “there are red lines. And sanctions, soon.”

Twitter Ireland has been approached for comment. Some 140 jobs are expected to have been lost at the Irish operation in recent weeks after Mr Musk announced a major cull of the social media company’s global workforce.

Mr Musk, who took the reins at Twitter under the banner of free-speech absolutism and eliminating censorship, tweeted on Thursday that “doxxing rules apply to journalists’ as to everyone else. He pinned a tweet to his profile explaining his reasoning and that he believed the offending Twitter profiles had threatened his family. The standard ban period for disclosing personal location information – also known as doxxing – on the service is seven days, he said.

The mercurial owner of the service followed up with a poll among his followers asking when he should remove the suspensions. The vote concluded he should remove the bans immediately but he then issued a new poll with fewer options. Voting has again leaned toward lifting the restrictions.

“This is management as dark performance art,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, in an email. “The one thing for which we can all thank Musk is that he’s demonstrating, day by day, how dangerous (and self-destructive) it is for so much corporate power to be concentrated in the hands of a few Silicon Valley moguls.” – Additional reporting: Bloomberg

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times