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CNN's Donie O'Sullivan explains why Musk banned his Twitter account
02:30 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Elon Musk’s Twitter sparked an international outcry on Thursday by suspending a number of journalists at major news organizations who cover him.

But a different and possibly related move that Twitter took around the same time, against a fast-growing rival, could open the company up to regulatory scrutiny, some legal experts say.

In addition to suspending journalists who had been covering a controversy related to the third-party tracking of Musk’s private jet, the platform also suspended the official Twitter account of rival Mastodon after it tweeted about the ElonJet account.

Twitter users began tweeting links to their Mastodon profiles, some half-jokingly telling followers where they could be found on the alternative platform in case they, too, were banned from Twitter without warning.

Soon, however, Twitter began throwing up roadblocks — marking links to Mastodon as “unsafe” and potentially malicious, blocking tweets containing those links and preventing users from adding Mastodon links to their profiles.

Now, legal experts are pondering whether there may be anticompetitive or other regulatory implications arising from Twitter’s blocking of Mastodon links.

“You could see all sorts of problems, both from a competition and a consumer protection standpoint,” said Bill Baer, who has served as the former top antitrust official at the Justice Department and at the Federal Trade Commission across two separate US administrations.

Those questions, which bring to bear on Twitter some of the antitrust scrutiny that’s been leveled at larger tech giants Meta and Google, come just as Twitter faces intensifying questions about its ability to comply with a US government consent decree — along with concerns about hate speech on the platform and the possible precedent set by its suspension of journalists reporting on Musk.

Twitter, which has cut much of its public relations team, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Twitter’s restrictions on Mastodon

As news of the journalist suspensions spread, many Twitter users announced they were migrating or expanding to Mastodon. But the sudden restrictions Twitter placed on link-sharing appeared to thwart some attempts at referring users to the alternative platform.

“Twitter is now attempting to prevent its users from navigating to the official social media accounts of elected officials on other platforms,” said Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer, sharing a screenshot of a Twitter system message warning that Beyer’s link to his Mastodon profile was “potentially spammy or unsafe.”