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Elon Musk Is Still Silencing the Journalists He Banned From Twitter

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Micah Lee's twitter account is seen displayed on a mobile phone screen

Photo Illustration: The Intercept/Getty Images


I’ve been writing critically about billionaire Elon Musk since he took over Twitter — particularly about his “free speech” hypocrisy and his censorship of left-wing accounts. This must have angered him. Last week, he suspended me and eight other journalists from Twitter.

We had all pointed out that Musk censored a Twitter account, @ElonJet, which used public data to post the location of his private jet, but that @ElonJet had moved to rival social networks, like Mastodon, that didn’t censor the account. Musk accused us of “doxxing” him by posting “assassination coordinates” and then tried to blame his outburst on an alleged stalking incident that had nothing to do with the @ElonJet account.

My suspension lasted just a few days before my account was reinstated. When people visit my Twitter profile, it no longer says “account suspended,” and it looks as if I’m back on the platform. Friends and strangers alike have reached out to me saying it’s good to see that I’m back on Twitter. It’s an illusion.

In reality, I’m still locked out of my Twitter account unless I agree to delete a specific tweet at the behest of the billionaire. Several of the other suspended journalists are in the same boat. (Twitter, where the communications team was decimated by Musk’s layoffs, did not immediately reply to a message for comment.)

When I log in to my Twitter account, the site is replaced with the message: “Your account has been locked.” Twitter accuses me of violating its rules against posting private information. (In the 13 years that I’ve used Twitter, I’ve never violated any rules, and my account has never been suspended or locked until now.)

To unlock my account, I must remove the offending tweet, which in my case said, “Twitter just banned Mastodon’s official Twitter account @joinmastodon with 174,000 followers, probably because it tweeted a link to @ElonJet’s Mastodon account. Twitter is now censoring posting the link, but the user is @elonjet@mastodon.social.”

remove tweet screenshot

Screenshot: Micah Lee


I didn’t want to bend the knee to the Mad King of Twitter, so I submitted an appeal. “My tweet is about Twitter censoring rival social network Mastodon,” I wrote. “This is suppression of speech that never would have happened before Elon Musk took over.” After two days, I received an update from Twitter: “Our support team has determined that violation did take place, and therefore we will not overturn our decision.”

My alleged offense is that I posted private information to Twitter by linking to @ElotJet’s account on Mastodon or, in my case, mentioning the username and showing the link in a screenshot. This is on its face absurd — I didn’t post private information, much less “assassination coordinates” — but a quick Twitter search for https://mastodon.social/@ElonJet shows that plenty of other accounts have posted this same link yet aren’t locked out.

I’m not the only suspended journalist that’s locked out of my account. Some journalists like Drew Harwell of the Washington Post have written on Mastodon about being locked out. “For anyone wondering,” Harwell wrote, “I’m still unable to access Twitter until I delete this tweet, which is factual journalism that doesn’t even break the location rule Twitter enacted a few days ago.” He appended a screenshot of the tweet.

And in an interview on CNN, Donie O’Sullivan, another suspended journalist, explained that his account is locked as well. “Right now, unless I agree to remove that tweet at the behest of the billionaire, I won’t be allowed to tweet on the platform,” he said. He also submitted an appeal.

Mashable’s Matt Binder was unsuspended following the mass banning, but he wrote on Mastodon that when he wrote to a Twitter official to ask how he had broken company policy, he was then locked out. “Seems they forgot to force me to delete the tweet the first time, like they did the other suspended journalists,” he wrote.

Steve Herman of Voice of America, whose account was also suspended last week, told CNN over the weekend: “When I got up this morning, I saw a bunch of news stories that my account had been reinstated with those of the others. Well, that’s not exactly true.” Herman explained that Musk was demanding he delete three offending tweets, all about @ElotJet.

The New York Times reported that the account of its suspended journalist, Ryan Mac, was also locked, contingent on whether he chooses to delete posts that Twitter flagged as violating rules against posting private information.

Other journalists who were suspended for their @ElonJet-related tweets are now fully back, including Aaron Rupar and Tony Webster.

I personally don’t plan on submitting to Musk’s petty demands. We’ll see if anything changes. In the meantime, you can follow me on Mastodon at @micahflee@infosec.exchange, and The Intercept at @theintercept@journa.host.

The post Elon Musk Is Still Silencing the Journalists He Banned From Twitter appeared first on The Intercept.





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SharedProphet
38 days ago
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Thursday Night Purge: Elon Musk’s Twitter Bans Tons Of High Profile Journalists

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Well. Just after finishing that last post about Twitter banning the official Mastodon account on Twitter for tweeting about the ElonJet tracking account existing on Mastodon, it seems that whatever brakes or controls were in place at the new “free speech absolutist” Twitter have really come off. In quick succession, a whole bunch of high profile reporter accounts were suspended, including Aaron Rupar (who famously covers and quotes videos of high profile politicians), Drew Harwell from the Washington Post, Ryan Mac from the NY Times, Donie Sullivan from CNN, and Matt Binder from Mashable.

It’s not entirely clear what “policy” these accounts violated. For all of Elon’s talk about transparency, there doesn’t seem to be very much here. A few of the accounts had talked about the ElonJet controversy but it’s not clear that they linked to it.

In Donie’s case, his last tweet had been posting the police report from the LAPD in response to questions about Elon Musk’s claim that a stalker had jumped on a car with one of his children inside. The LAPD statement said:

LAPD’s Threat Management Unit (TMU) is aware of the situation and tweet by Elon Musk and is in contact with his representatives and security team. No crime reports have been filed yet.”

And then he got banned.

Binder’s final tweet was noting what Donie’s final tweet was before getting banned.

So, look, again, content moderation at scale is impossible to do well, yada yada yada. But, uh, I’d sure like some Twitter Files on what’s going on here.

Either way, it would be nice if Musk’s supporters began to realize that (1) maybe this isn’t as easy as “no moderation” and (2) maybe the old Twitter wasn’t really evilly censoring their ideological viewpoints after all… but I fear that most are going to instead not care at all and (1) cheer on this removal of “the corporate media fake news elite” and (2) come up with some ridiculous excuse about how it’s not really a free speech issue at all.

But, of course, all of that is bullshit. Elon is free to do what he wants. Just as the old Twitter was. But, we can still call out what appears to be hypocrisy.

Update: The purge continues. Micah Lee, Tony Webster and Keith Olbermann are three more reporters now gone from Twitter.

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SharedProphet
43 days ago
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Anker Tries To Bullshit The Verge About Security Problems In Its Eufy ‘Smart’ Camera

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Anker, the popular maker of device chargers and the Eufy smart camera line, proudly proclaims on its website that user data will be stored locally, “never leaves the safety of your home,” footage only gets transmitted with “end-to-end” military-grade encryption, and that the company will only send that footage “straight to your phone.”

Yeah, about that.

Security researcher Paul Moore and a hacker named Wasabi have discovered that few if any of those claims are true, and that it’s possible to stream video from a Eufy camera, from across the country, with no encryption at all simply by connecting to a unique address at Eufy’s cloud servers using the free VLC Media Player.

Both clearly demonstrated the problem on Twitter, but, when contacted by The Verge, Anker tried to claim that what the security researchers had clearly, repeatedly demonstrated wasn’t possible:

When we asked Anker point-blank to confirm or deny that, the company categorically denied it. “I can confirm that it is not possible to start a stream and watch live footage using a third-party player such as VLC,” Brett White, a senior PR manager at Anker, told me via email.

Except it’s not only possible, it’s been repeatedly proven (though there’s no evidence yet of this having been exploited in the wild and it only works on cameras that are in an awakened state). Users really only need a camera’s serial number, which they can obtain from the box or sometimes guess. An attacker could also exploit and access cameras he donated to Good Will or other thrift stores.

The discovery comes after a decade of “smart” hardware device makers having a fairly abysmal track record on security and privacy despite websites that routinely claim the opposite. From TVs that fail to encrypt your home conversations to refrigerators that leak your email credentials, the sector is rife with problems that somehow still don’t get the kind of scrutiny they deserve.

Moore claims Anker’s problems go deeper, claiming that Eufy had violated numerous additional security promises, including uploading camera thumbnail images, including captured users’ faces to the cloud without permission and failing to delete stored, private consumer data.

Despite Anker being a Chinese-based company, you won’t hear any of the same national security hyperventilation over these kinds of issues routinely found in this and other Chinese-made “smart” home technologies. Those kinds of freak outs are, apparently, singularly reserved for social media services like TikTok, and only if such complaints can get you on television.

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SharedProphet
51 days ago
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Twitter and the maintenance cost of code

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Elon Musk pledged to get rid of bots and spam and promote free speech when he bought Twitter. Then he stepped on a rake, stumbled dazed onto a floor covered with marbles, ran in place for a few seconds windmilling his arms, fell down, got back up but his pants fell down, tripped over them, and a cartoon anvil fell on his head. That is to say, Twitter is melting down.

From what I have read (on Twitter, of course; what better vantage point is there from which to watch the collapse?), at this point most critical departments at the company are completely vacant. As many as 90% of the 7,500 employees the company had last month are gone. Importantly, payroll and tax departments are empty, so that will be a huge problem, but I want to talk about the software. There are a lot of reasonable and informative threads about how things will likely play out, but a few people seem to think the platform will basically run itself, and will be fine without all these people to keep it going.

That’s not how it works.

Elon likes to say that technology doesn’t just advance automatically, that it only happens if a lot of people work really hard on it. In the same way, no technology we have created just keeps working indefinitely without maintenance. Just as gravity pulls us down to Earth, entropy constantly pulls matter towards simpler, less useful configurations, breaking down everything from our bodies to solid state data storage. Resisting this degration requires energy: attention and effort from people.

Even software that is built and released as finished on a speicific date has a maintenance cost. Without considering how these days basically all software is constantly being updated, hardware changes and older models are discontinued. If you just want the same software to work on a new computer (likely with a new operating system version), it takes effort to update it so that can happen.

Software services require that kind of maintenance continuously. Newly discovered bugs in the software or its dependencies require updates. Usage patterns change, and if database queries and schemas aren’t adjusted to fit the new use case, everything will slow to a crawl. Browsers change over time, and the next version of Safari or Chrome or Firefox could break your script or your layout.

And of course this is not even to mention the hardware:

Twitter thread from @ MosquitoCapital, an experienced sysadmin, about things that can go wrong with the Twitter infrastructure.

See the full thread for items 3 through 56 if Twitter is still up when you read this.

A commonly accepted signifier of proficiency is the ability to do something difficult while making it look easy. The sheer number of people who think Twitter is simple is a huge testament to how well it was executed.



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SharedProphet
70 days ago
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Road Space Comparison

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I wonder how hard it would be to ride an electric scooter in a hamster ball.
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SharedProphet
107 days ago
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Universe Price Tiers

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In Universe Pro®™ the laws of physics remain unchanged under time reversal, to maintain backward compatibility.
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SharedProphet
149 days ago
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3 public comments
silberbaer
148 days ago
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I would gladly pay $49.95/month for optional aging and death, and bad things not happening.
New Baltimore, MI
cjheinz
149 days ago
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Nice!
fxer
149 days ago
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How do I get Enterprise pricing
Bend, Oregon
gordol
149 days ago
That'll be NCC1701 dollars.
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