Twitter restricts substack-related tweets, sparking debate
This article was originally published on Passionfruit.
On April 7th, Substack authors began sharing their work on Twitter notice that they couldn’t embed Substack links when creating a post on Twitter. They also realized that they couldn’t How, retweet, Penor Answer to tweets containing a link to Substack. Then, on April 8, users tweeted noticed Replaced search results for “substack” with results for “newsletter”.
All restrictions on tweets, including substack content, appear to be in place decided Status as of April 11th. So was it a technical problem? Apparently not quite.
The creators speculated that the backlash was due to Substack’s April 5 announcement of a new feature called Substack Notes. Substack Notes brings a social media feed with short tweet-like posts to the newsletter outlet. Substack Notes only exists within the newsletter platform and can only be accessed by a creator’s subscribers.
Shots (lightly) fired
Social media users may think that Musk feels threatened by Substack Notes, and Substack’s founders said in a blog post that Twitter’s move to restrict Substack-related content “is a reminder of why cracks are opening in the legacy business models.” of the Internet”.
One of the first users to notice the block was writer Matt Taibbi, who tweeted on April 7th about his experiences. “When I asked why, I was told it was a dispute over the new Substack Notes platform. … Since sharing links to my articles is the main reason I come to this platform, I was alarmed and asked what was going on,” he said.
Taibbi speaking out against the Elon controlled platform was notable; He is best known as the first author and driving force behind the “Twitter Files,” a proposed revelation by former Twitter executives fueled by documents allegedly provided by Musk. However, Musk and Taibbi don’t appear to be on good terms since Taibbi opened up about the Substack drama.
Elon Musk responded to the allegations in a Twitter on April 8 threadstating that Taibbi’s testimony was false and that substack links were never blocked.
“Substack was trying to download a huge chunk of the Twitter database to boot their Twitter clone, so obviously their IP address is untrustworthy.” He also noted that Matt “is/was” a Substack employee. Substack CEO Chris Best cleared in a Substack Notes post that Taibbi “is not and has never been an employee of Substack”.
He continued deleting several his tweets in the thread, aside from his original reply.
For example, on April 10, Musk posted and then deleted a screenshot of a private conversation between himself and Taibbi. The news revealed nothing revolutionary about Taibbi, only alleging that Taibbi misspoke when he said he was “employed” at Substack. Paid through subscribers, he was one of the first authors to use Substack Pro, which offered developers an upfront payment for a year of writing in exchange for 85% of their subscription earnings.
However, the screenshots seemed to indicate that Taibbi believed his tweets were deleted from Twitter in response to his involvement in Substack, which Musk said in the messages “shouldn’t happen” and he would “fix.”
Musk angers independent journalists
That Musk went so far as to publicly criticize Taibbi, who many speculate posted the Twitter files with Musk’s blessing, is notable. For someone who claims to be an advocate of free speech, Musk has now alienated one of his few remaining allies in the field of independent journalism, which relies solely on subscription-based monetization.
Despite Musk’s claim that Twitter didn’t censor Substack posts, Substack authors aren’t convinced that malicious intent was not involved. Jessica Valentinan author and reproductive rights advocate who has a substack called abortion every day found that she was not receiving the type of intercourse she was used to.
“So apparently Twitter has banned all interactions with tweets that have substack links, so I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” Valenti wrote.
substack addressed Twitter’s decision to prevent interaction with Substack content reads: “Authors deserve the freedom to share links to Substack or elsewhere. … Their livelihood should not be tied to platforms where they do not own their relationship with their audience and where the rules can change on a whim.”
Professor Zeynep Tufekci from Columbia University did the same tweeted about the substack mystery and said, “Seriously. Searching for the word substack on Twitter returns “newsletter”. What will be hardcoded next? The search for Elon returns “the most amazing and funniest guy ever.”
Journalist Noah Berlatsky wrote about the whole kerfuffle on his substack, claiming that the whole censorship effort is evidence of Elon Musk’s fundamental confusion about how Twitter works.
“The attack on Substack is particularly bizarre because Twitter and Substack are not actually competitors. They are complementary services. And that shows how thoroughly Musk doesn’t understand his own business,” he wrote.
Many creators noted that this change would complicate the Twitter landscape for creators trying to work cross-platform. Writer Dan Pfeiffer observed that Twitter’s blocks on Substack “is a big deal for independent writers trying to build an audience.”
Creators writing through Twitter in their substack posts could also face problems if this type of blocking persists and prevents them from sharing their work on an app that they analyze and comment on.
Although the embedding issues seem to be gone, this experience has further pissed off creators to envision a future on Twitter, and perhaps even drove more people to Substack.
Are you a substack author with opinions on Twitter’s latest moves? E-mail [email protected] to share your experience.
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*Initial publication: April 11, 2023 4:12 pm CDT
Patricia Grisafi, Ph.D. is a New York City-based freelance writer and educator. She is the author of Breaking Down Plath (Jossey-Bass). Her cultural criticism has been published in NBCThink, Salon, The Guardian, Los Angeles Review of Books, Vice and others.