Twitter Spaces Down After Journalists Suspended

Twitter users can no longer use the audio function to speak with each other via Twitter Spaces.

Twitter Spaces, the feature where users can gather to conduct audio conversations each other, stopped working on Friday for some users.

No comment was provided from Twitter or Elon Musk, the new owner of the social network, who suspended the accounts of several journalists on Dec. 15 who cover the billionaire. This ban comes from the CEO of Tesla who has described himself as a free speech absolutist. 

The journalists who were banned include Ryan Mac of the New York Times, Aaron Rupar, an independent journalist, Donie O’Sullivan of CNN, Drew Harwell of the Washington Post, Keith Olbermann, a political journalist, Matt Binder of Mashable, Micah Lee of the Intercept, Steve Herman of VOA and Tony Webster, an independent journalist.

Some of the journalists said they were not given a reason for the suspension. There did not seem to be a common theme with the suspensions, but the users’ Twitter pages all had a message that said it suspended accounts that “violate the Twitter rules.”

After the accounts were suspended, Musk claimed in a series of tweets that the journalists had not followed his new “doxxing” policy when they allegedly shared his “exact real-time” location, stating they were “assassination coordinates.” 

None of the banned journalists shared Musk’s precise real-time location and instead many referred to an account that was also banned, called ElonJet, that gave the location of Musk’s private jet that comes from easily accessible public information.

Musk had previously said that he would allow the account to stay active on Twitter, but claimed it posed a security threat.

“My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk,” he said in a tweet last month. 

Musk appeared in a Spaces event later on Thursday night, hosted by Katie Notopoulos, a BuzzFeed reporter, and reiterated his claim that he had been doxxed.

The journalists who had their accounts suspended were able to attend the Spaces and discuss their suspension.

This recording from Marisa Kabas, a reporter and MSNBC columnist, includes Musk’s comments to reporters who asked him why he suspended the accounts of the journalists. He did not answer their questions directly and promptly left the Spaces event.

Věra Jourová, the vice president for values and transparency in the EU Commission, said Twitter’s suspension of journalists accounts is concerning. 

“News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying,” she tweeted on Dec. 16. “EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our #MediaFreedomAct.”

The United Nations said the suspension is problematic.

The UN wrote in a tweet that media freedom is “not a toy.”

Melissa Fleming, the UN’s under secretary general for global communications, said she was “deeply disturbed” that journalist were “arbitrarily” suspended from the social media company.

“Media freedom is not a toy,” she said. “A free press is the cornerstone of democratic societies and a key tool in the fight against harmful disinformation.”

Musk acquired Twitter in October for $44 billion and since the deal to take the social media company private closed, shares of Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Free Report have fallen by 51.31% during the past year and 14.41% during the past five days. 

He has sold shares of Tesla several times – his latest sell netted him $3.5 billion, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commision filing. In November, he divested $4 billion of shares, following a sale of $7 billion in August and shedding $8.5 billion of the stock in April. 

Since his latest sale, Musk still owns about $66 billion worth of shares of Tesla.

Twitter Spaces Not Working

Many users on Twitter reported not being able to either host a Spaces event or attend one.

Axel L. Jacob, an entrepreneur, tweeted that he was unable to utilize the option to host talks.

“Hey @TwitterSpaces @elonmusk we are the longest running 24/7 Space worldwide @MriyaReport. Technical problems galore?! Spaces unavailable to many? Please fix it. Our volunteer crew provides live information, brings expert discussion & data on #Ukraine️ and the #RussianInvasion

Some companies such as the New York Times cancelled preplanned Spaces events since many users are not able to access the audio option.

“We are cancelling today’s Twitter Space on the best reads of 2022,” the media company stated on Twitter. 

Eric Holthaus, founder of @currently/Project Mushroom, which was launched as an alternative to Twitter, tweeted “And now Twitter Spaces is gone. The moral of the story: If Elon doesn’t like you, you don’t get a voice. Twitter as we knew it is dead.”

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