Explained | Why did Twitter block Mastodon links, suspend its account along with journalists

Suspended Twitter accounts belonged to reporters from The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, The Intercept, and Mashable

December 17, 2022 02:37 pm | Updated December 19, 2022 09:26 am IST

File photo of people using mobile phones to access social media against the Twitter logo backdrop

File photo of people using mobile phones to access social media against the Twitter logo backdrop | Photo Credit: Reuters

The story so far: Twitter on Thursday suspended Mastodon’s account on the platform. Twitter was further blocking users from tweeting links to Mastodon’s servers. The microblogging platform also suspended accounts of journalists critical of Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s attempts to suspend accounts sharing the whereabouts of his private jet.

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Tweets to Mastodon links resulted in an error message saying “We can’t complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful,” according to a report from tech outlet The Verge. Twitter was also blocking links to the original mastodon.social server along with 10 more domains, the report shared.

Why did Twitter suspend Mastodon’s account?

Twitter suspended Mastodon’s official Twitter account while introducing a new policy against sharing live location information. Though the exact reason behind the suspension is not known, reports noted that it could be because Mastodon tweeted about @ElonJet, the account which tracks the movements of Elon Musk’s personal jet.

Mastodon has emerged as one of the most popular options for users looking for Twitter alternatives.

Twitter on Wednesday also suspended @ElonJet and its creator’s account. This happened despite Musk earlier tweeting that his commitment to free speech extended to not banning the account even though it was a “direct personal safety risk,” in his words.

The ban on @ElonJet came less than a week after its creator, Jack Sweeney, claimed that the tracker was being restricted by Twitter.

Musk had reached out to Sweeney, offering to pay in exchange for him taking down the account.

Why did Twitter suspend journalists from the platform?

Twitter on Thursday also suspended the accounts of several prominent reporters who cover Elon Musk and his activities. Suspended accounts included reporters from The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, The Intercept, and Mashable.

The suspended journalists had reportedly tweeted about Musk’s attempts to suspend accounts sharing the whereabouts of his private jet.

Accounts that couldn’t post, could still join a Twitter Spaces live audio chat, according to a report from The Verge.

Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, while pointing to the policy update that prohibits sharing of live location information including information shared on Twitter that “directly or links to third-party URLs of travel routes,” said “We don’t make exceptions to this policy for journalists or any other accounts.”

Why did Twitter update its policy on sharing live locations?

Musk on Thursday claimed that a car carrying his child was followed by a “crazy stalker,” thinking it was him. The billionaire went on to share that the alleged stalker “blocked the car from moving” and climbed onto its hood.

Musk also tweeted that legal action is being taken against “Sweeney & organizations who supported harm to my family.”

After the incident, Musk, citing physical safety violations, tweeted that accounts sharing real-time location information of anyone will be suspended. This would include links to sites with real-time information.

He further shared that posting locations that someone travelled to on a delayed basis would be allowed, as it did not pose a safety problem.

Musk ran a Twitter poll asking users to vote on whether suspended accounts that “doxxed” his exact location in real-time should be restored immediately or after seven days.

Twitter was also blocking users from tweeting links to Mastodon’s major servers. Users attempting to tweet Mastodon’s links were met with an error message saying that the link had been identified as being potentially harmful by Twitter or its partners.

Twitter was blocking links to Mastodon’s original social server along with 10 other domains, a report from the Verge shared.

Neither Twitter nor Mastodon has issued any statements regarding the block.

Failing to share a Mastodon link on Twitter

Failing to share a Mastodon link on Twitter | Photo Credit: Nabeel Ahmed

What is Mastodon and why is it being seen as an alternative to Twitter?

Mastodon is a decentralised open-source social media platform. Founded by developer Eugen Rochko, the platform runs using multiple servers which are not controlled by a company or an individual. Users can choose to interact within specific servers or with all servers across the platform.

Users can send “toots” which can be up to 500 characters, using their own handles. Users can also share media, re-share toots, and favourite and bookmark them, similar to how they interact with tweets on Twitter.

While Mastodon has a relatively smaller user base, it reached one million monthly active users in November this year. The platform has emerged as one of the main alternatives for Twitter users since reports of increasing hate speech and abuse surfaced after Elon Musk took over Twitter.

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