There’s enough happening at Twitter today for a whole season of an HBO drama.
The relationship between Elon Musk and his lead Twitter Files writer has ended over Musk’s decision to block interactions on tweets that include links to Substack.
As a result of Twitter’s actions against Substack today, writer Matt Taibbi has left Twitter and said he will solely be using Substack going forward. In response, Musk unfollowed Taibbi’s Twitter account.
Earlier today, Mashable reported that Twitter was seemingly blocking all interactions on tweets that included links to the newsletter platform Substack. Many Twitter users run newsletters through Substack, including Matt Taibbi, the writer Elon Musk hand picked to lead coverage of the Twitter Files.
For those who haven’t been following, the Twitter Files are Musk’s curated internal documents from before he took over the company that supposedly show various levels of government interference or bias from previous Twitter executives. (We should note that what has been released shows basic content moderation policies being acted on without anything nefarious going on. While one can certainly disagree with Twitter’s policy decisions, the released documents do not prove that any government agencies forced the company’s hand.)
Interestingly, the feud between Taibbi and Musk comes just one day after the former appeared on MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan’s cable news shot where Hasan pressed Taibbi on various errors in his Twitter Files reporting. During the show, Hasan inquired about why Taibbi had not covered the reports that Twitter was censoring certain users at the behest of the Indian government. Taibbi also notably refused to criticize Musk during the episode.
Without the ability to retweet, like, bookmark, or even reply to a tweet that included a link to a Substack newsletter, many of these tweets were receiving greatly diminished reach on the Twitter platform.
Initially, it was unclear for sure whether the move by Twitter was purposeful. It seemed so, when combined with news that Twitter blocked Substack writers from embedding tweets in their newsletters the day prior. However, whether it was an intentional action had yet to be confirmed.
But just a short time ago, Taibbi, who has a direct line to Musk, confirmed that the move from Twitter was intentional. According to Taibbi, Twitter purposefully instituted the block as retaliation against Substack for launching a social media-like feed with tweet-like posts just two days ago called Substack Notes.
“Earlier this afternoon, I learned Substack links were being blocked on Twitter,” Taibbi wrote in a newsletter post on Friday. “Since being able to share my articles is a primary reason I use Twitter, I was alarmed and asked what was going on. It turns out Twitter is upset about the new Substack Notes feature, which they see as a hostile rival. When I asked how I was supposed to market my work, I was given the option of posting my articles on Twitter instead of Substack.”
Taibbi says he turned down Twitter’s offer to post his work on the platform instead of on Substack. He also shared that his decision “will come with a price” regarding his ability to gain access to future Twitter Files work.
“I’m staying at Substack,” said Taibbi. “You’ve all been great to me, as has the management of this company. Beginning early next week I’ll be using the new Substack Notes feature (to which you’ll all have access) instead of Twitter, a decision that apparently will come with a price as far as any future Twitter Files reports are concerned.”
Taibbi goes on to say everything he had done was “worth it.” The writer gained thousands of paying subscribers after first partnering with Musk and sharing the Twitter owner’s curated narrative.
Substack is also taking advantage of the moment. After sharing a joint statement with Mashable earlier today, the newsletter service’s founders published a Substack post about how the platform is “changing the internet.”
“Today Twitter started blocking links to Substack. We hope this action was made in error and is only temporary. Writers deserve the freedom to share links to Substack or anywhere else,” they wrote. “However, even if this change is not temporary, it is a reminder of why cracks are starting to show in the internet’s legacy business models.”
The latest Twitter drama unfolds amidst continuing chaos at Twitter. Fleeing advertisers, a flailing paid subscription service, a hostile relationship with journalists and news outlets, fraying relationships with Twitter’s important power users and third-party developers – these are just some of the issues facing the company since Elon Musk took over. And, unfortunately for its users, things don’t look like they’ll get better any time soon.