He Reported on a Twitter Hack. Musk’s Free Speech Haven Kicked Him Out
Another day in Muskland, and this time, Twitter’s arbitrary scope has landed on Wired reporter Dell Cameron. The journalist was permanently suspended from Twitter Wednesday, after reporting on the hacked account of antagonistic Daily Wire host Matt Walsh.
Walsh, who is a longstanding anti-trans, anti-sense pundit, has more than 1.7 million followers on Twitter. But on Tuesday night around 8 p.m. ET, his usual posts were replaced by several derogatory callouts of conservatives Walsh has praised in the past, including Joe Rogan, Andrew Tate, and Ben Shapiro. The alleged hacker also pinned a tweet on the profile reading “My Pronouns Are That/N***a,” and plugged a pro-LGBTQ+ rap.
In an article published Wednesday, Cameron reported on the hack and spoke to the hacker claiming responsibility. According to Cameron’s reporting, the hacker claims he took over Walsh’s account with the help of an “insider” and SIM swapping — a technique where programmers can target accounts that use phone number verification by fooling their cell phone provider. In February, Twitter removed the ability for everyday users to use SMS two-factor verification, which is one of the least secure forms of account protection. (Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was once hacked in the same way in 2019.)
Less than a few hours after reporting on the hack, Cameron’s Twitter account was suspended. Cameron declined to comment to Rolling Stone. But on the journalist’s Mastodon account, he posted that he was permanently suspended for publishing the story.
In an email shared with Rolling Stone, Twitter support banned Cameron’s account for violating rules about the distribution of hacked material.
“We don’t permit the use of our services to directly distribute content obtained through hacking that contains private information, may put people in physical harm or danger, or contains trade secrets,” the message said.
Following initial tweets about the hack, Cameron was also targeted by other far-right pundits, who accused him of soliciting stolen information.
The suspension, if related to Cameron’s reporting, would go directly against the platform’s current policies about journalists and hacks, which allows for reporting with “editorial judgment” on hacked material.
“We recognize that source materials obtained through leaks can serve as the basis for important reporting by news agencies meant to hold our institutions and leaders to account,” reads their terms of service. “As such, we defer to their editorial judgment in publishing these materials, and believe our responsibility is to provide additional context that is useful in providing clarity to the conversation that happens on Twitter.”
In a statement shared with Rolling Stone, Wired said it did not believe Cameron’s account violated Twitter’s policy and asked for the reporter to be reinstated.
Twitter Trust and Safety VP Ella Irwin responded to Wired statement on Thursday afternoon, saying Cameron was suspended for “the solicitation of or distribution of hacked/ illegally obtained materials” and “threats to expose or doxx someone through the sharing of private communications/ information.”
But when emailed for comment, Twitter’s press email automatically responded to Rolling Stone‘s request with a poop emoji. The automated response is just another Musk-related change that has been in place since the Tesla tycoon took over the app — a nod to the Twitter overlord’s seemingly desperate desire to leave behind a meme-heavy legacy.