‘Free Speech Absolutist’ Elon Musk Heats Up Twitter’s War with Substack

(Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images, BNN Edit
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images, BNN Edit

Twitter CEO Elon Musk has denied blocking links to Substack, the popular paid newsletter platform, following recent controversy. Musk may deny that links were blocked, but the self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” used the same tricks on Substack that the company has used on conservatives for years.

Forbes reports that Elon Musk, has spoken out about the dispute between the social media behemoth and the online publishing platform Substack, particularly in relation to Twitter Files journalist Matt Taibbi. Twitter was accused of severely restricting the sharing of Substack content, by Taibbi, who announced his plans to leave Twitter on Friday. In his reply, Musk attacked Taibbi as a liar and insisted that Substack links had never been blocked.

“Substack links were never blocked. Matt’s statement is false,” Musk tweeted on Saturday. Incredibly, Musk’s statements were fact checked by his own community notes system.

Musk’s statement may technically be true, but it doesn’t provide a complete picture. In fact, Twitter has made it very difficult for users to access Substack content by putting up barriers like warnings that Substack links might be dangerous or contain malicious content. Twitter also prevents users from liking or retweeting tweets containing Substack links. The screenshot below demonstrates what users face when attempting to engage with tweets containing Substack links.

The warning that appears on Twitter if anyone tries to retweet something from Substack.

The controversy seems to be related to Substack’s intention to introduce a feature for short-form content called Substack Notes, which Musk views as a potential rival to Twitter. He claimed that in order to build the feature, Substack was attempting to download a sizable portion of Twitter’s database.

Of course, as a private company, Twitter is well within its rights to restrict access to competitors. But this is at odds with how every other social media site like Facebook and TikTok treat links to competitors and would appear to go against Musk’s previous statements that he is a “free speech absolutist.”

In a tweet, Musk stated that: “Substack was trying to download a massive portion of the Twitter database to bootstrap their Twitter clone, so their IP address is obviously untrusted.”

Chris Best, a co-founder of Substack, refuted Musk’s assertions, saying that even though his company has used the Twitter API for many years, the firm has always abided by Twitter’s API usage policies.

“We believe we’re in compliance with the terms, but if they have any specific concerns we would love to know about them! We’d be happy to address any issues,” Best wrote.

The message posted to Substack Notes by co-founder Chris Best on Saturday.

Additionally, Musk falsely stated that Taibbi worked for Substack. The publishing platform disputes this while admitting that Taibbi, like many other authors on the website, is compensated for his content by readers.

“That writers making money seems to be such a strange concept is telling,” Best wrote, seemingly taking a dig at Musk.

The situation is still developing, and the Substack team is dealing with Twitter backlash. Twitter has yet to respond to inquiries from journalists about co-founder Chris Best’s profile, which is currently not visible in searches.

For some time over the weekend, Taibbi was censored by Twitter with a search ban, meaning his tweets wouldn’t show up in searches. That appears to be lifted as of Monday morning.

Read more at Forbes here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.