While many people turned to Twitter on Sunday to watch the World Cup final unfold, the company introduced a new policy prohibiting “free promotion” of competing social media websites. Twitter said it would remove links to Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Tribel, Post, Nostr and Donald Trump’s Truth Social from accounts whose “main purpose” is to promote content on those platforms.
Users were told they could no longer use their Twitter bios to link to their other social media profiles, nor post tweets inviting their followers to follow them elsewhere. In addition, the company restricted the use of third-party aggregators such as Linktree and Link.bio. Twitter warned that users who attempt to circumvent the new policy through technical means such as URL cloaking or less sophisticated methods will be in violation of the policy.
However, when the Twitter community came to terms with the rule change, the CEO changed his mind again. Within hours of tweets announcing the new policy, plus the support page detailing its enforcement, were removed and replace it with a poll to askTo: “should we have a policy to prevent existing accounts from being created or used for the primary purpose of promoting other social media platforms?” At the time of writing, the “No” option had an impressive share of 86.9 percent of the vote.
Should we have a policy that prohibits the creation or use of existing accounts for the primary purpose of promoting other social media platforms?
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) December 19, 2022
Before the takedown, the support page outlined two exceptions to the new rule. “We recognize that certain social media platforms provide alternative experiences to Twitter and allow users to post content to Twitter from those platforms,” the company said. “In general, any form of cross-posting on our platform does not violate this policy, even from the prohibited sites listed above.” In addition, Twitter said it would continue to allow paid promotion for any of the platforms on the new banned list.
According to Twitter, accounts that violated the new policy would be temporarily locked if it was their first violation or “an isolated incident.” The company may also have removed the offensive tweets. “Any subsequent violation will result in a permanent suspension,” Twitter added. The company indicated that it would temporarily lock accounts that add the offending links in their bios. Multiple violations “may result in permanent suspension,” it added.
— AlexisOhanian7️⃣7️⃣6️⃣ (@alexisohanian) December 18, 2022
Twitter quickly began enforcing the policy shortly after it was announced. At 2:17 p.m. ET, Paul Graham, the founder of startup accelerator Y Combinator and one who supported the Musk acquisition, said he was done with Twitter after the rule change and told his more than 1.5 million followers to follow him on Mastodon . Twitter then suspended Graham’s account, only to pick it up again not long after.
The policy comes after another messy week on Twitter. On Dec. 15, a handful of notable journalists, including NBC’s Ben Collins and CNN’s Donnie O’Sullivan, discovered they couldn’t access their Twitter accounts. Most accounts were talking about Jack Sweeney or his ElonJet account, which was banned for violating the company’s recently announced policy against public location sharing. While Twitter later reinstated those reporters’ accounts, it abruptly suspended their account on Saturday Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz. At the time of her suspension, Lorenz only had three posts to her credit, including a tweet to Musk asking him to comment on an upcoming story. Another of her posts linked to her YouTube channel, but at the time Twitter’s policy against linking to competing platforms was non-existent and nowhere in the new rule is Google’s video service mentioned.
Update: 12/19 at 4:02 AM ET: Article updated with the policy change reverted.
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