Anyone who pays attention to the American news media, Twitter, or both has seen some interesting developments on Twitter over the last several days.
After claiming that he and his child were doxxed by @elonjet on Twitter late last week, CEO and Owner Elon Musk went on a suspension spree, suspending that account and left-leaning journalists who were sharing @elonjet’s post. To be clear, Musk’s “doxxing” characterization is hotly debated as the information that was posted is publicly available. (Candidly, I am conflicted on this point but do lean towards the “wasn’t doxxing” side.) To some extent, Musk’s initial reaction is understandable. If you feel like someone is doing something that could endanger one of your children, you are likely to have a visceral reaction.
A day or so later, Musk started suspending accounts – again left leaning – for actions they took prior to his acquisition of Twitter unrelated to the @elonjet incident.
After years of being targeted by old Twitter management for questionable suspensions and bans that predominantly affected accounts on the right, many conservatives started mainlining schadenfreude. Turnabout and all.
But here’s the problem: Musk bought Twitter with a pledge that he was going to restore free speech, free expression and fairness on the site. But what he has done in recent days is contrary to these for the most part, particularly the fairness principle. Yes, some of the people caught in these suspensions are among the worst, most dishonest actors in the media and on Twitter. They include Taylor Lorenz of the Washington Post and independent journalist Aaron Rupar. Even I will admit to taking a bit of spiteful pleasure in seeing them get a taste of what they have for years ignored – or even encouraged – when it was being primarily targeted at right-wing figures and organizations they didn’t like.
So, I get why many conservatives who previously said they want non-partisan enforcement of Twitter rules have reveled in Musk’s moves. But in the end, principles matter…or at least they should. As people smarter than me like Twitter Files co-author Bari Weiss have noted, engaging in capricious suspensions like these were bad under the old management, and they are bad under new management.
If behavior from Musk like this continues, it will mean that Twitter is the epitome of that old line: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”