Journalist suspended from Twitter describes 'chilling effect'

STORY: Twitter's unprecedented suspension of at least five journalists drew swift backlash from government officials, advocacy groups and journalism organizations across the globe on Friday.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the U.N. was disturbed by the 'arbitrary' suspensions:

"Media voices should not be silenced on a platform that professes to be a space for freedom of speech. From our standpoint, the move sets a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists all over the world are facing censorship, physical threats, and even worse. And we are remaining in touch with officials at Twitter."

Twitter suspended the accounts over claims they revealed the real-time location of owner Elon Musk.

"It will definitely have a chilling effect on coverage of him."

Aaron Rupar is an independent journalist covering U.S. media and politics, and publisher of the newsletter, 'Public Notice'. On Wednesday he published a newsletter critical of Musk:

"I published a newsletter taking a close look at kind of his brand of populism, and how he postures as a populist but he's really kind of appealing to the far right and trying to marginalize people who are already marginalized, trans people, LGBT people."

By Thursday, Rupar's popular Twitter account had been suspended.

"It seemed like beyond being critics of Elon, the one thing that all of us had in common was that we had linked to the Facebook page tracking his private jets."

On Wednesday, Twitter suspended an account called ElonJet, which tracked Musk's private plane using publicly available information.

Shortly after, Twitter changed its privacy policy to prohibit the sharing of "live location information."

A day later, Rupar and several journalists including from the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post were suspended from Twitter with no notice.

"So in effect, I was banned for something that when I posted it was not a violation of the terms of service, but retroactively was deemed to be that, which obviously has kind of negative implications for anybody who's doing coverage of Elon, where it seems like these rules can change kind of arbitrarily and based on his whims. And I guess the real lesson is that if they want to find a reason to ban people, you know, he can find that they can kind of come up with an explanation later on."

Twitter's head of trust and safety said in an email to Reuters the team manually reviewed "any and all accounts" that violated the new privacy policy by posting direct links to the ElonJet account.

Officials from France, Germany, the U.K. and the European Union condemned the suspensions, with some saying the platform was jeopardizing press freedom.

Rupar said the platform - where he has built a large following - is key to reaching his audience, and a permanent ban would be a major professional setback.

"You know, it is kind of a little bit of a disconcerting reminder of how reliant people like myself have become on a platform that until a few months ago, I think we assumed that there were kind of rules of the road, that there was transparency, that you could appeal decisions like this. And what we're seeing is that that's kind of gone out the window and that, you know, it's whatever Elon wants these days is what he gets."