It has been an eventful few days on Twitter following Elon Musk’s banning (and un-banning) of several prominent journalists.
The move was widely condemned, and it may have major consequences: a short time ago, Musk posted a poll asking if he should step down, and has promised to abide by its results.
At the time of writing, the poll is still live and 57% of more than 7 million responses have voted ‘Yes’.
How did we get here?
Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, acquired Twitter earlier this year. He claimed to be motivated by his belief in free speech, saying he wanted Twitter to become a “town square” where “a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner”.
Musk restored a number of users previously banned for violating Twitter rules, including Donald Trump. However, Twitter has also suspended many accounts since Musk took over, including several who impersonated him.
On Friday, Musk briefly banned several journalists who frequently write about him, including from the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post.
Musk accused the journalists of “doxxing” him (publicising information about his location) by writing about the account ‘ElonJet’, which tracks the movements of his private plane. Musk says this enabled a stalker to attack a car carrying his son.
Musk restored the journalists’ accounts after he ran two Twitter polls which favoured their reinstatement.
ElonJet remains banned and Musk says he plans to sue its owner.
The decision to ban journalists drew widespread criticism.
Melissa Fleming, a United Nations Under-Secretary-General, said “media freedom is not a toy… a free press is the cornerstone of democratic societies.”
Věra Jourová, a Vice-President at the European Commission, warned the bans may have violated European press freedom laws. “There are red lines. And sanctions, soon,” Jourová warned.
A few hours ago, Twitter announced it would no longer allow link sharing to several social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Donald Trump’s platform Truth Social.
Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder and a key Musk investor and supporter, criticised the decision, saying it “doesn’t make sense”. Musk appeared to revise the policy after engaging with critical responses.
This morning (Australian time) Musk tweeted an apology for the sudden changes promising “a vote” for major policy changes in future.
Shortly after that, he posted a poll asking whether he should step down as head of Twitter and promising to abide by the result.
Musk subsequently tweeted “be careful what you wish [for]” and warned it would be difficult to find a CEO to keep Twitter alive. “There is no successor,” he said.
Musk’s difficulties with Twitter have created problems for his electric car company, Tesla. Tesla has lost nearly half its value in the last three months, and Musk has sold billions in Tesla stock in recent days after previously promising he would not.
This has prompted expressions of concern from Tesla investors, some of whom Musk has argued with publicly on Twitter.