NBC News reportedly temporarily suspended top tech correspondent Ben Collins from covering Elon Musk, owing to the reporter’s past commentary about the billionaire on Twitter, Semafor reports.
Two unnamed sources told the outlet that Collins, known for his hard-hitting stories about social media and the online right, was taken off Musk duty at NBC and MSNBC because of posts he made about the new Twitter owner earlier this month.
In one tweet, the reporter mocked Musk for appearing to take weeks to learn the identity of one of Twitter’s top lawyers after his $44bn buyout of the social network was complete.
The Independent has contacted NBC and Collins for comment.
Media observers and fellow journalists rallied behind the NBC reporter, arguing Collins was doing important work covering Twitter.
“Great to see media companies stand up for their journalists in the midst of pretty obvious censorship on Twitter,” Georgetown University policy professor Dan Moynihan wrote on Twitter on Friday. “Oh, wait. NBC suspended Ben Collins for accurately characterizing the guy censoring journalists.”
Southern Poverty Law Center reporter Jason Wilson wrote on Friday that by suspending Collins, NBC’s newsroom leadership had “sided with the censors, undermined their reporters, and confirmed that they have learned nothing since 2015.”
In a Twitter post on Friday morning, Collins posted a single heart emoji.
The reported suspension comes as a wave of prominent tech reporters from outlets like CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post covering Musk were suspended from Twitter, raising fears the billionaire was attempting to silence the press.
Musk claims some of the reporters had “doxxed” him, revealing his real-time personal location, by sharing links related to @ElonJet, a Twitter account that tracks the movements of Musk’s private jet.
“Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not,” Mr Musk tweeted on Thursday night.
Many of the reporters who had been suspended said they had never posted anything which had violated Twitter’s terms of service.
“I never posted anything Elon Jet related or that could violate the policy about disclosing locations. Unless the policy is that you criticize Elon and you get banned,” Aaron Rupar, a liberal former Vox reporter who was among those suspended, told CNN’s Oliver Darcy.
The tail number of Elon Musk’s jet has previously been reported to the public, and a variety of free, publicly available websites track its location.
On Thursday, Musk, who has described himself as a “free speech absolutist,” abruptly left a Q&A session on Twitter Spaces, an audio discussion feature, where journalists asked him questions about Twitter’s content policies.
“There is not going to be any distinction in the future between journalists and regular people, everyone is going to be treated the same,” he said during a testy exchange.
“You’re not special because you’re a journalist, you’re just a citizen,” he continued. “So no special treatment: You dox, you get suspended, end of story.”
The billionaire then left the discussion before more follow-up questions could be asked and the audiofeed itself began experiencing problems.