AOC vs Elon Musk
Image Credit: Twitter

A war of words has emerged — yet again — between controversial billionaire Elon Musk and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), the feisty New York congresswoman, this time over the drop-of-a-hat Twitter ban on journalists.

Until recently, Musk cited his being a “free speech absolutist” as one of the reasons for his $44-billion purchase of the microblogging site.

Since taking Twitter private, however, Musk’s every move — lifting of the ban on Donald Trump, and slapping a ban on members of the US media — has been subjected to close scrutiny.

After firing about 3,500 people, he also disbanded Twitter'sTrust and Safety advisory group, introduced new controls for ad placements, put suspected bot accounts on hold, added a verification process and rolled out a color scheme for different accounts, among others.

Late on Thursday, the accounts of reporters working for the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, other publications were suspended.

To AOC, the move amounts to being “erratic”.

Musk justified his move, stating: “If anyone posted real-time locations & addresses of NYT reporters, FBI would be investigating, there’d be hearings on Capitol Hill & Biden would give speeches about end of democracy!” He later added that the ban, over an alleged "doxing" offence, stays for seven days.

Doxing (also 'doxxing') is the act of revealing information about someone online, such as their real name, home address, personally identifiable information about an individual or organisation, on the the internet.

On Friday, AOC took potshots at Musk’s move to muzzle journalists on the microblogging site, stating the ban amounts to “descending into abuse of power.”

Musk fired back: “They posted my exact real-time location, basically assassination coordinates, in (obvious) direct violation of Twitter terms of service.”

In her Friday tweet, OAC wrote: “You’re a public figure. An extremely controversial and powerful one. I get feeling unsafe, but descending into abuse of power + erratically banning journalists only increases the intensity around you.”

Then OAC gave Musk an unsolicited advice: “Take a beat and lay off the proto-fascism. Maybe try putting down your phone.”

To which Musk fired back: “You first lol”.

Brading barbs

Perhaps i's mutual admiration, in reverse, and it’s not the first time they traded barbs publicly.

On November 3, AOC and the tech magnate sneered at each other after she assailed Musk’s announcement that Twitter users should pay for verification as part of a new direction for the platform, away from dependence on advertising.

The New York Democrat chided Musk’s plan to “sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is actually a $8/mo subscription plan.”

Musk clapped back: “Your feedback is appreciated, now pay $8.” It's not clear if AOC paid for her Twitter account, now checked blue, to be verified.

Then the Tesla CEO mocked AOC for equating the verification feature — the coloured checkmark seen next to the names of public figures and organisations — with “free speech” and for complaining about the $8 monthly price while selling a $58 sweatshirt on the congresswoman’s website.

OAC responded, stating “my twitter mentions/notifications conveniently aren’t working tonight, so I was informed via text that I seem to have gotten under a certain billionaire’s skin.”

It's not immediately clear if AOC had paid the $8 monthly fee for her Twitter account, now checked blue, to stay "unsuspended".