Elon Musk’s decision to suddenly ban prominent tech journalists from Twitter is fanning a fierce backlash in Europe.
Germany warned of the impact on press freedom, while a senior EU official said Twitter must comply with the bloc’s rules or face possible sanctions.
“Freedom of the press cannot be switched on and off as you please,” Germany’s foreign ministry tweeted on Friday. “As of today these journalists are no longer able to follow us, to comment or criticize. We have a problem with that @Twitter.”
Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s vice president for values and transparency, said the “arbitrary suspension” of journalists was “worrying,” and she indicated that the company could face penalties as a result.
“The EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our #MediaFreedomAct,” Jourová said in a post on Twitter, adding that Musk “should be aware of that.”
“There are red lines,” she continued. “And sanctions, soon.”
On Thursday evening, Twitter banned the accounts of several high-profile journalists from top news organizations without explanation, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, The New York Times’ Ryan Mac and The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell.
Neither Musk nor Twitter responded to a request for comment Thursday evening, and the platform did not explain precisely why the journalists were barred from the platform.
Musk falsely claimed that the journalists had violated his new “doxxing” policy by sharing his live location, amounting to what he described as “assassination coordinates.” CNN’s O’Sullivan did not share the billionaire’s live location.
Shortly before his suspension, O’Sullivan reported on Twitter that the social media company had suspended the account of an emerging competitive social media service, Mastodon, which has allowed the continued posting of @ElonJet, an account that posts the location of Musk’s private jet.
Other reporters suspended Thursday had also recently written about the account.
European leaders previously said they were watching how Musk’s takeover of Twitter would affect the platform.
Thierry Breton, a top EU official, warned Musk in late November that the social media platform must take significant steps to comply with the bloc’s content moderation laws.
“Twitter will have to implement transparent user policies, significantly reinforce content moderation and protect freedom of speech, tackle disinformation with resolve, and limit targeted advertising,” Breton said at the time. “All of this requires sufficient AI and human resources, both in volumes and skills. I look forward to progress in all these areas and we will come to assess Twitter’s readiness on site.”
— Chris Liakos, Oliver Darcy, Eve Brennan and Nadine Schmidt contributed reporting.