Musk/Twitter: establish democratic control before it’s too late
Elon Musk has demonstrated to the entire world in the space of a few weeks that his management of Twitter is a disaster for the right to information. Twitter’s decision to ban the accounts of several journalists proves that the arbitrary way the leading online platforms are run poses a major threat to democracy, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Several journalists' Twitter accounts have been suspended without any official explanation from the platform. At the same time, Twitter’s owner, Elon Musk, has clearly said it was because they were tracking his movements in real-time. Nonetheless, no such location tracking appears in their cached Twitter accounts.
What you can see in their cached accounts is that these journalists had covered Musk’s decision to introduce a new policy on the platform, banning the sharing of location-tracking data in real time.
"We are drowning in a Kafkaesque nightmare,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We demand the immediate reinstatement of these journalists’ accounts. Such arbitrary behaviour by the platforms has gone on long enough. We must recover democratic control over the platforms before they completely subject democracies to their caprices and it is too late.”
Musk has cynically made a mockery of the process for account suspensions by polling his Twitter followers, asking them to say whether the suspensions should be lifted “now” or “in 7 days.”
According to their cached Twitter account pages, several of these journalists did nothing more than share information about Musk’s new policy and criticise it. On 15 December, the billionaire suspended the @elonjet account, which was tracing the movements of his private jet on the basis of public data alone. To justify this suspension, Twitter updated its policy on “doxxing”– the public disclosure of personal information without the consent of the person concerned.
The censorship of journalists and the creation of new rules to accommodate the boss’s caprices are not the hallmarks of a healthy online information space. It is high time that the bosses of the big platforms were brought back down to earth by law, and that they finally put their platforms at the service of information and democracy.
Time is running out for democratic societies, which must organise in response to what is a real threat. Initiatives exist, such as the Partnership on Information and Democracy, which was launched by RSF and which now has the backing of nearly 50 governments. Only international coordination will win this fight, and the Forum on Information and Democracy, has already published several hundred recommendations on how to proceed.