Musk is hiring journalists at Twitter. But their companies never parted.

Musk is hiring journalists at Twitter.  But their companies never parted.
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When Twitter suddenly suspended the accounts of several well-known journalists on Thursday night – a a confusing claim from new owner Elon Musk that they have compromised its security – media leaders quickly protested.

The New York Times called the suspensions “suspicious”. CNN said it would “re-evaluate” its relationship with Twitter. The Washington Post demanded that Twitter “immediately” restore the account of one of its tech reporters, noting that he was merely reporting accurately about Musk. One news startup, Puck, said it would end its paid advertising campaign on Twitter, while another, Semaphore, is evaluating its marketing push, according to a spokeswoman.

But without exception, these media organizations continued to tweet at their usual busy pace Thursday night and into Friday — using their official accounts to promote their latest stories.

Musk justified the suspensions by accusing reporters of publishing “basically conspiracy coordinates” for him and his family — an apparent reference to reports and tweets about Twitter’s decision to suspend the @ElonJet account that used public flight data. Share the location of Musk’s private jet.

The Post could find no evidence that the reporters in question shared information about the location of Musk or his family.

Earlier on Saturday, after an informal Twitter inquiry by Musk, he said suspensions for “accounts interfering with my location” would be lifted immediately, and the accounts of several reporters reappeared. Again, the reaction epitomized the contradictory and seemingly interdependent relationship between news media and social media.

In the 15 years since the rise in popularity of sites like Twitter and Facebook, traditional news outlets have decided to see them as an opportunity as much as a threat—powerful new vectors for delivering news directly to the screens of eager readers. Publishers have invested heavily in staff whose primary role is to curate and promote stories across social media; editors reward journalists with tens of thousands of Twitter followers for the traffic they can bring to their sites.

Some managers are beginning to question whether Twitter traffic is really worth the effort. However, Friday’s modest response to the maneuver, which drew widespread condemnation from free speech advocates as well as members of the European Commission, the United Nations and Congress, suggests they are not giving up anytime soon.

“How [else] will they speak out? Unfortunately, Twitter is still the only real game in town,” said Vivian Schiller, the former president of NPR who also served as Twitter’s head of news in 2014. “Don’t get me wrong, Musk is a thin-skinned deranged hypocrite, but he beat us by a barrel,” he added, until another social media platform competed with it.

At least nine journalists, including Washington Post tech reporter Drew Harwell and New York Times reporter Ryan Mack, were hit with suspensions that the American Civil Liberties Union said were “unable to combat Twitter’s free speech aspirations.”

By early Saturday, some of those accounts had returned, but others remained closed until the offending tweet was removed.

Business Insider’s Linette Lopez told The Post on Friday: “I don’t know why I was suspended and I haven’t heard back from Twitter.” Lopez noted that he has not written or tweeted about the controversy surrounding Musk’s flight data, but he did point out how Musk has harassed critics and shared court documents revealing private information about them in the past. His account was still suspended early Saturday.

Free speech has been a rallying cry for Musk, the billionaire owner of Tesla and SpaceX, since he first moved to buy Twitter earlier this year and has since reversed many of the company’s previous policies against hate speech and misinformation. a nearly two-year ban on former President Donald Trump.

Even in the conservative-leaning media, where Musk has been lauded for restoring Trump and other right-wing accounts, the suspensions have not been lauded.

On Friday morning, some hosts of the conservative Fox News talk show “Fox & Friends” expressed their confusion. “It’s crazy,” said presenter Brian Kilmeade. “If only they were critical [Musk]he has to explain why these people were suspended,” said host Steve Doocy.

The Daily Wire’s founding editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro admitted to some “schadenfreude” that journalists complained about the move “given Twitter’s penchant for opaque censorship” — but seemed to have taken matters into his own hands Journalists, put off by Musk’s argument, actually “doxed” his place. Fox News personality and radio host Dan Bongino said on his show that he doesn’t like censoring or suspending journalists’ accounts and that it might just make them pay more attention.

Some of the harshest criticism of Musk’s decision came from an ally.

“The old regime at Twitter was governed by its whims and biases, and the new regime probably has the same problem,” tweeted former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss. “I am against it in both cases. I think that the journalists who wrote the news of public importance should be reinstated to their positions.”

Weiss is one of the writers recently tapped by Musk to run the “Twitter Files” project, in which he released internal Twitter documents on content moderation as part of a larger campaign to demonstrate that the company’s previous leadership treated the conservative news site unfairly. sand accounts.

Despite Musk’s claim last month that Twitter is the “biggest click driver on the web,” a recent study It accounted for less than 8 percent of total social media referrals for November 2021, according to social analytics company DataReportal.

Media organizations typically do not share detailed information about their web traffic. But a 2016 report using data from a social analytics firm found that only 1.5 percent of publisher traffic came from Twitter. “Twitter has huge influence” Nieman concluded the report of the Laboratory“but it doesn’t drive much traffic for most news organizations.”

Meanwhile, media managers are grappling with how to establish standards of behavior for their journalists on social media, where the temptation may be to engage in louder, more casual or more opinionated conversation than is allowed in their professional writing. tailor their stories for specific Twitter audiences.

“The really insidious thing about Twitter is that even very good journalists can mistake the reaction they get on Twitter for the impact or reaction their reporting or their work in general is getting,” said Joseph Kahn, executive editor of the New York Times, June in an interview with The Post.

Now, the unpredictability of Musk-owned Twitter makes the equation even more difficult for media executives.

“It’s a struggle between the reputational impact of supporting a fickle platform that restores dangerous accounts while censoring legitimate journalists, and the journalistic responsibility to remain active in balancing widespread misinformation and disinformation,” said one network executive, speaking on condition of anonymity. anonymity to speak candidly.

There is precedent for leaving Twitter: Fox News allowed its official account to be silenced from November 2018 to March 2020, reportedly over concerns that a photo with host Tucker Carlson’s home address was shared on the platform. According to measurements released by the network, it had no negative impact on Fox’s internet traffic.

In mid-November, CBS News withdrew from Twitter for two days; one employee said he was concerned that the company no longer had an official contact to help with security matters after the departure of a senior employee under Musk.

For a brief moment on Friday, it appeared that one news organization was planning a boycott of sorts, then the New York Times announced On the same day, he announced that he had canceled the discussion on the best books of the year on Twitter’s “Spaces”.

Instead, a spokesperson for the Times announced that the decision was made for “technical reasons”.

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