Twitter said on Sunday it will block links to other social media services and suspend accounts that try to direct users to alternative platforms, apparently in an effort to stop user defections from competitors.
But Twitter CEO Elon Musk later relented, easing the policy and causing widespread confusion about what kind of linking is and isn’t allowed on the platform.
Under the new policy announced Sunday afternoon, links to content on Facebook and Instagram will be blocked, as well as links to content on emerging Twitter alternatives, including Mastodon and Post. The rule also covers Truth Social, the Twitter clone backed by former President Donald Trump.
Twitter’s move signals a shift toward a more closed environment, one that still accepts incoming traffic from other locations but makes it more difficult for users to leave Twitter for other destinations.
“Specifically, we will remove accounts created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms and content that contains links or usernames to the following platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Nostr and Post,” a Twitter support account chirp.
Despite the ban, Twitter said the new policy would still “allow paid advertising/promotion for any of the banned social media platforms.”
Hours after bringing up the policy, Musk appeared to soften to criticism from other users and agreed to relax the rules. In an exchange involving Box CEO Aaron Levy — who called the new policy “sad” — Musk agreed that it was “reasonable” that some would want to link to their Instagram profiles to promote their own business.
“The policy will be amended to only suspend accounts when the *primary* purpose of that account is to promote competitors, which basically falls within the no spam rule,” Musk tweeted.
Then, amid the ongoing backlash, Musk opened a Twitter poll asking if he should “step down as chairman of Twitter.”
“I will stand by the results of this poll,” Musk wrote.
Early Sunday evening, Yes won by a margin of 58% to 42%.
Notably absent from Twitter’s list of banned social media platforms is TikTok, one of the internet’s fastest growing social media platforms whose links to China have raised national security concerns among US policymakers. Musk’s large stake in China through his other company, Tesla, has raised doubts among critics about whether the CEO would stand up to China if the country’s leaders sought to put pressure on Twitter.
The policy change came after some Twitter users announced their intention to move to other platforms last week, in the wake of Twitter suspending several journalists covering Musk. Amid the backlash over the journalists’ comment, Twitter quietly began blocking links to Mastodon.
Sunday’s initial announcement appears to formalize this ban into official Twitter policy, which is a move It can raise eyebrows Among the organizers on Twitter.
As part of Twitter’s new policy, the company said users may not “associate” with social media platforms subject to the restrictions. Users were also prevented from updating their Twitter profiles to include their account names on other platforms, a way of letting followers know where they can be found elsewhere on social media.
Twitter said in blog post.
The company said that attempts to circumvent this policy will be applied against it. For example, using link shortening services to disguise the true destination of a URL or attempts to spell the URL in plain text would also be against Twitter’s rules, the company said.
“If violations of this policy are included in your bio and/or account name, we will temporarily suspend your account and require changes to your profile so that you do not violate,” the blog post read. Subsequent violations may result in permanent suspension.
Twitter said first offenses or isolated incidents could result in temporary suspensions or requirements for users to delete offending content.
It’s unclear how or if the policy will be implemented after Musk’s apparent decision to ease restrictions Sunday night.
The company said users may continue to use third-party software to post their social media content simultaneously to multiple sites, including Twitter.
Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, as well as Truth Social’s Trump Media & Technology Group company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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