In a recent development, Twitter has taken a controversial step by reportedly throttling access to certain websites and competing social networks. According to a report by The Washington Post, Twitter is leveraging its t.co link shortener to slow down traffic to platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Threads, Substack, the New York Times, and more.
What ties these websites and services together is their association with the term “free speech absolutist,” a stance advocated by entrepreneur Elon Musk. This move comes amidst a very public feud between Musk and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, involving even discussions of a potential cage fight. The websites affected by the throttling include Instagram, Facebook, Threads, Substack, the New York Times, and Bluesky. Users clicking on links to these sites are experiencing a noticeable five-second delay before the intended webpage starts to load.
The discovery of Twitter’s outbound link throttling was initially made by a user on Hacker News, later confirmed through independent analysis by The Washington Post. In response, a spokesperson for the New York Times expressed concern over the delays and lack of communication from Twitter. The statement highlights potential concerns of targeted pressure on news organizations without clear reasons.
Substack, a popular platform for writers and content creators, issued a strong response, with co-founders Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi stating that their platform was created precisely to counter such behavior from social media companies. They assert that writers cannot build sustainable businesses when their connections to audiences depend on unreliable platforms willing to make hostile changes.
While the scope of the throttling practice remains unclear, this move raises significant questions about the role of social media platforms in shaping online discourse and accessibility. Elon Musk’s reputation for challenging various entities could be seen as a motivating factor, yet the broader implications on free speech and media diversity remain central to the discussion.
Interestingly, despite this controversy, several major websites including The Washington Post itself, Fox News, Mastodon, and YouTube appear to remain unaffected by Twitter’s new throttling measures.
In the ever-evolving landscape of online communication, the throttling incident prompts further inquiry into the power dynamics between social media giants and the diverse array of content they host. It underscores the need for transparent communication between platforms and the stakeholders that depend on them for information dissemination and engagement.