The personal Twitter account of Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) was suspended on Wednesday.
The lawmaker said that the reason for the suspension was not immediately clear. “Twitter did not alert me ahead of time, nor have they yet offered an explanation for the suspension,” he said from his official account. “My team and I are seeking answers.”
The suspension came after Lee posted a number of tweets on Tuesday exhorting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to release Navy Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis, who is serving a three-year prison sentence for his purported role in a fatal car crash two years ago. The lawmaker told Kishida that he had until midnight to release the sailor before Lee sought to remove military aid from Japan, with which the United States is an ally.
“You’ve made your choice,” Lee said shortly after the midnight deadline, according to a report from Fox News. “I hope you’re ready for some conversations on the Senate floor that you’re not likely to enjoy. This issue isn’t going away, and neither am I.”
A number of lawmakers, including Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), asked Twitter CEO Elon Musk why Lee was suspended. The world’s richest man acquired Twitter at the end of last year for $44 billion and announced that he wanted to restore freedom of expression to the platform. He restored a number of conservative accounts which had been suspended under previous management.
Lee was suspended less than one month after Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) temporarily lost access to his Twitter account after he changed his profile photo to an image from a hunting trip with his wife, Cindy Daines. The post stood in violation of Twitter rules against “graphic violence or adult content in profile images,” according to a notice from the social media company shared by Daines spokeswoman Rachel Dumke. “We consider graphic violence to be any form of gory media related to death, serious injury, violence, or surgical procedures,” the notice continued.
The picture, which showed Cindy Daines and her husband posing next to an antelope she had killed, appeared to show little blood apart from some drops on the animal’s front leg. There were no firearms or other weapons shown in the picture.
Musk vowed to resolve the issue after officials such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) voiced concern. “This is being fixed,” the entrepreneur remarked. “Policy against showing blood in profile pic is being amended to ‘clearly showing blood without clicking on the profile pic.’ The intent is to avoid people being forced to see gruesome profile pics.”
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Musk previously told advertisers that he purchased the company to “have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence.” At the same time, he has expressed a desire to refrain from promoting what he deems to be radical left-wing and right-wing content on the site; he vowed that the social media platform would not become a “free-for-all hellscape” where users could breach the law with impunity or splinter into “echo chambers.”