Twitter recently walked back a controversial policy banning links to other social media platforms on the site. According to CNN, the policy restricting users from linking to certain rival social media sites (including Facebook and Instagram) only last about 24 hours. Still, the move had a lasting effect on users and introduced a rare level of censorship not previously seen on U.S.-based social media apps.
Why Twitter Started Banning Links To Other Social Media Sites
Since Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter, the platform has undergone rapid and often unpredictable changes. From personnel to policy, Twitter seems to be a vastly different company than even a few months ago.
Unlike some other major changes to the platform users learned about either from Musk himself or former employees, the news that Twitter would be banning links to other social media sites came from a Tweet thread directly from @TwitterSupport. The company since deleted the thread announcing the change, as well as a blog post that specifically named certain websites targeted by the policy.
At the time, however, the explanation was essentially that it was "free promotion" to other sites. In addition to Twitter saying it would not support linking out to other social media platforms, it also went so far as to ban the account for Mastodon. Users were also forbidden for linking to certain social media sites in their bio link.
As best anyone can guess, the move was related to Twitter's search for revenue and Musk's increasingly sporadic decisions based more likely on personal whims than carefully curated policy. It's entirely plausible Musk was simply upset at the number of Twitter users telling their followers to follow them on other platforms.
Why Twitter Reinstated Links To Other Services
A flurry of negative feedback prompted Twitter to quietly remove its post about banning links, as well as the blog post outlining the policy. That said, neither Musk nor Twitter has committed to allowing links to other platforms on the site.
A separate Twitter account, @TwitterSafety, asked in a poll if Twitter should have a policy preventing profiles intended to promote other social media platforms. With more than 325,000 votes, "No" won the vote with 87 percent. Even for diehard followers of Musk, the move seemed to be completely antithetical to his self-proclaimed free speech absolutism.
As of right now, no other major social media platform prevents users from linking to competitors for promotion of profiles or otherwise. And for a platform that is desperately trying to win back advertisers, the last thing Musk and Twitter need are more manufactured controversies with even fewer supporters for Musk's side. Platforms have allegedly throttled the reach of certain types of posts and links — including Facebook removing support for YouTube embeds years ago and apparently showing YouTube links to far fewer people than native video posts. Why Twitter decided to create a policy of banning links instead of just tinkering with the priority for those posts is perplexing.
What It Means For Creators
Twitter is a treacherous place for content creators right now. As we outlined in an earlier article talking about the whole fiasco, Twitter can be an incredibly valuable tool for a certain type of user. But for content creators who feel they need to be on at least a half dozen platforms or more at any given time, worrying about their Twitter presence may just be more of a headache.
That said, even users whose primary social following is on Twitter should absolutely consider creating new places or their followers to reach them. Preferably some place they have a bit more agency over — like an email list, Discord, Patreon, Substack, or other gathering place.