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It increasingly looks like self-described free speech absolutist Elon Musk is suspending Twitter users based on personal grudges instead of concrete principles. The latest victim: Insider columnist Linette Lopez, who has spent years aggressively covering Musk’s businesses, including documenting alleged safety lapses at Tesla.
In 2018, Musk disputed Lopez’s reporting, claiming that she had written “several false articles” and suggesting, with scant evidence‚ that she had bribed a former Tesla employee for information and was secretly “serving as an inside trading source for one of Tesla’s biggest short-sellers.”
“Have you ever heard anything more ridiculous,” she said on Friday of the allegations, laughing. “What a frickin’ fantasy.”
Lopez told The Daily Beast she received no explanation for her suspension, nor information about how long the ban will last. She said she hadn’t tweeted details about the location of Musk’s private jet—his stated rationale for other suspensions—but instead had been cataloging what she considered his hypocrisy over doxxing and targeting private citizens.
“I was just trying to highlight the fact that he talks about bullying and doxxing and all this stuff… And he’s a pro at it,” she said. “He harassed me back in 2018, he talked shit about me in the court of law, he sued my source. Like, I’ve been through the wringer with this guy. Nothing he does surprises me.”
Insider declined to comment; Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk banned multiple prominent accounts over the past week, starting with the @Elonjet plane tracker. He then moved onto journalists who had covered the controversy, including New York Times reporter Ryan Mac, a former target of his ire.
In 2018, while working at BuzzFeed, Mac published emails from Musk in which the billionaire baselessly accused a British man working to rescue Thai children stuck in a cave of being a “child rapist.” Musk claimed the emails were off the record, but Mac never agreed to those terms.
On Thursday, after banning the reporters, Musk launched a Twitter poll asking his followers when the accounts should be reinstated. The listed options were “now,” “tomorrow,” “7 days from now,” and “longer.” Quickly, the “now” option took the lead.
Musk then launched a new poll.
“Sorry, too many options. Will redo,” he wrote. This time, he gave voters only two choices: “now” and “in 7 days.”
Once again, “now” sailed into the lead. As of early afternoon on Friday, however, the accounts were still banned.
Even some of Musk’s allies seemed to be questioning his tactics. Bari Weiss, one of the journalists Musk designated to distribute the “Twitter Files”—internal documents related to the platform’s historical approach to content moderation—suggested the billionaire had abandoned his absolute commitment to free speech.
“The old regime at Twitter governed by its own whims and biases and it sure looks like the new regime has the same problem. I oppose it in both cases,” she tweeted on Friday. “I have never been swayed by the ‘Twitter is a private company’ argument. And I’m left wondering… whether any unelected individual or clique should have this kind of power over the public conversation.”
Weiss took the opportunity to blast mainstream reporters who had expressed alarm about the recent bans, arguing that those journalists had not complained when right-wing users were suspended under the old leadership team.
Her comments seemed to agitate Musk. “What should the consequence of doxxing someone’s real-time, exact location be? Assume your child is at that location, as mine was,” he tweeted in reply, referring to the jet-tracking account he claimed led to a “crazy stalker” following his son.
When Weiss did not respond, he followed up. “Bari, this is a real question, not rhetorical. What is your opinion?” She did not immediately respond to that query either.