The “thursday night massacre”: this is how they were nicknamed, by a reputable computer security researcher, the unusual events that occurred on the evening of Thursday, December 15 on Twitter. It all started when a dozen leading American journalists – writing for outlets such as the New York Timesthe washington post, CNN Where The Intercept – found that their accounts were suspended. Without notice or explanation.
“I was suspended from Twitter yesterday”, writes Micah Lee on the site of investigation The Intercept where he explains in detail the chronology of events. He has apparently been punished for having written that Elon Musk had just suspended the Twitter account of Mastodon, his main competitor in the micro-blogging business, where millions of people refractory to the methods and methods have gone into exile in recent weeks. to the philosophy of the billionaire. This non-profit platform had just tweeted, before it was deleted “Did you know ? You can follow @ElonJet on Mastodon”.
A jet, a car and an elusive stalker
@ElonJet is an account (formerly on Twitter, now on Mastodon and, ironically, still on Truth Social, Donald Trump’s social network) which uses public data to give the real-time position of Elon Musk’s private jet . The latter took umbrage several months ago and wanted to buy the account from its young owner, “a 20-year-old student named Jack Sweeney, for $5,000”, as Donnie Sullivan, the political and technology journalist of CNNalso a victim of theThursday Night Massacre”.
Faced with the student’s refusal, the wealthy entrepreneur decided on Wednesday to suspend his account and change the rules of the platform, now strictly prohibiting “doxxing” – the act of disclosing an individual’s personal information.
Sweeney has “published my exact location in real time, i.e. the coordinates to assassinate me”, accused Musk emphatically, before explaining that a “crazy stalker” had followed the car where his son, X, was in from the airport. But, as noted by Daily Beastciting the work of an online investigative journalist working for Bellingcat, Musk has not provided the slightest proof of these accusations, nor has he filed a complaint; as for the video he posted to support his statements, its geolocation proves that it was not taken near the airport.
In other words, there is no certain link between the @ElonJet account and the hypothetical stalker, because “following a car is very different from following an airplane”, explains the sleuth of Bellingcat. It may also be that everything was invented by the billionaire to justify his decision to delete the account of Jack Sweeney, and all those who complained, or simply mentioned this censorship.
Critics were quick to come after what The Atlantic qualified for “gigantic whim”. On Friday, UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said to himself “very troubled” by the arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter, reports the Qatari channel Al Jazeera. “This decision sets a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists around the world are facing censorship, physical threats and even worse”, said Dujarric. In the United States, Democratic Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has come to the defense of banned journalists, saying that at this rate Musk will quickly make Twitter “obsolete”.
European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourová, whose mandate includes rule of law and disinformation, tweeted that “EU Digital Services Act requires respect for media freedom and fundamental rights.” She also promisedsanctions, soon” if Elon Musk continued to cross “red lines”.
the washington post specifies that the law on digital services of the European Union, called DSA (Digital Service Act) will oblige, from its entry into force in 2024, the giants of the digital industries “more aggressively control illegal content on their platforms and be more transparent about how their moderation systems work”. According to these new regulations, Twitter as it currently operates – with moderation services decimated by its boss and vertical decision-making in the extreme – could therefore be liable to heavy fines.
“One more step in the infantilization of American life”
For the New York Times“Elon Musk’s decisions this week are sparking a heated debate over the complex issues of free speech and online censorship”. These decisions also highlight the role of “press barons“, such as “Citizen Musk“, Where “William Randolph Hearst and Rupert Murdoch before him”. The daily, one of whose editors was censored by Musk, wonders “if the days of the media’s favorite social network are numbered and if journalists should consider alternatives”.
The vitriolic article of The Atlantic also insists on the political dimension of the “Thursday night massacre”. “It’s usually not a matter of public interest when a narcissist like Musk goes off the rails. But like the wrath of Donald Trump […], Musk’s crises could affect our culture and the way we get information”, writes the editorialist of the monthly Tom Nichols.
Admitting that there are bigger things going on in the world, he nevertheless details why this “computer version of Desperate Housewives” concerns all of us, and not just the addicts to the blue bird. Twitter is not just for “swap pet photos […], it is also an extremely valuable channel for news, information and culture. Twitter does not control the news, but helps shape public debate on many issues”.
Calling Musk’s view of free speech “nonsense” – since this one considers that white supremacists are less problematic than journalists giving information on a private jet – Tom Nichols judges that this whole affair is “one more step in the infantilization of American life”.
Instead of “american”, he could easily have written: “world”.