Free speech ‘absolutist’ Elon Musk personally ordered the Twitter suspension of left-wing activist, report claims

Twitter CEO has overseen effort to punish his critics while cozying up to far-right accounts

John Bowden
Washington DC
Sunday 29 January 2023 19:37 GMT
Trevor Noah mocks Elon Musk's Twitter takeover

Elon Musk oversaw a campaign of suppression that targeted his critics upon his assumption of power at Twitter, and directly participated in at least one case according to Bloomberg.

The new Twitter CEO personally directed the suspension of a left-leaning activist, Chad Loder, who became known across the platform for his work helping to identify participants in the January 6 attack, according to an internal Twitter message obtained by the news outlet.

It isn’t clear what Mr Musk’s reasoning for the suspension of Loder was; the only text in the message purportedly read: "Suspension: direct request from Elon Musk."

Loder was suspended in November, and has said that the only explanation they were given was ban evasion, though they claim this reason is fabricated.

The campaign to silence Mr Musk’s critics on the platform hardly ended with the suspension of one activist. Numerous other accounts of left-leaning activists and commentators have been suspended without warning, and a number of journalists also remain suspended from the platform for tweeting passing mentions of an account that tracked Mr Musk’s private jet.

Those suspensions came at the direction of Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of Trust and Safety, according to Bloomberg.

A former executive at the company summed it up in a scathing (albeit anonymous) statement to the news outlet: “Since the acquisition, the company’s only actions have been to silence critics of Elon, to expose journalists and others to harm, and to violate basic ethical standards and privacy laws.”

The Independent has reached out to Twitter representatives for comment about the uncovered internal messages.

The site has undergone a period of turmoil since Mr Musk took over last year following a brief legal fight.

Various news reporting has indicated that the platform has lost as many as half, if not more, of its top 100 advertisers since the Tesla and SpaceX executive took over and began a series of rapid policy changes, many of which came to be reversed days or even hours after they were announced.

Mr Musk, meanwhile, has increasingly spent time on the site interacting with far-right commentators like Ian Miles Cheong, Peter Sweden and others known for embracing misinformation and outright lies as he wars with traditional journalists. As a result, he has fallen victim to believing some of the conspiracies spread by those accounts; most recently, that resulted in the CEO of Twitter tweeting and later quietly deleting a baseless, insulting conspiracy about the husband of former House speaker Nancy Pelosi suffering serious injuries during a home invasion.

The platform has also implemented a paid “verification” system” which allows users to pay a small fee to obtain the blue check marks previously only handed out to accounts actually proven to be linked to prominent persons. The implementation of that system immediately led to predictable abuse, with trolls seizing the opportunity to alter their accounts to appear as if their tweets were coming from famous individuals or companies.

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