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X throttling Facebook, news sites criticized by Elon Musk: report

X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has been slowing the speeds with which users can access links to rivals and news sites that have come under criticism from owner Elon Musk, according to a report.

Users who click into links to stories from the New York Times, Facebook, and other news outlets and competitors were forced to wait around five seconds before the page appeared, according to an analysis conducted by The Washington Post.

Links that lead to pages hosted by Facebook, Instagram, Bluesky, Substack, and Reuters were also throttled, according to the report.

The delay was felt by users who clinked into the domain, which is a link-shortening service that X uses.

Throttling websites and delaying access could turn off users, thus affecting traffic figures and dampening ad revenue.

By late Tuesday afternoon, X appeared to have eliminated the delay. When contacted for comment by Reuters, X confirmed the delay was removed but did not elaborate.

The Post has sought comment from X.

X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has been throttling news sites that have often come under criticism from owner Elon Musk, according to a report.

A user on Hacker News, a tech forum, posted about the delay earlier on Tuesday and wrote that X began delaying links to the New York Times on Aug. 4.

On that day, Musk, who billed himself as a “free speech absolutist” who acquired Twitter in order to do away with its previously stringent content moderation policies so as to allow nearly unfettered expression, criticized the publication’s coverage of South Africa and accused it of supporting calls for genocide.

Musk has also referred to the Times as “propaganda” and the “Twitter equivalent of diarrhea.”

Facebook and Instagram are properties of Meta Platforms Inc, the tech conglomerate run by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg and Musk have been needling each other over a mixed martial arts cage match that the two men agreed to earlier this year.

A Washington Post analysis found that those clicking into a link to Facebook experienced a delay of about five seconds.
A Washington Post analysis found that those clicking on a link to Facebook experienced a delay of about five seconds.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

Both men blame the other for the fight being put off.

Zuckerberg has also sought to encroach into the micro-blogging space by creating a new “Twitter killer” app, Threads, which initially saw an explosion of sign-ups after its rollout but whose popularity has since waned.

Bluesky is another X-like app that was founded by Twitter pioneer Jack Dorsey — the tech mogul who publicly endorsed Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of his original brainchild and who remains on the board of X.

Dorsey in recent weeks has expressed criticism of Musk’s stewardship of X.

Substack, the newsletter subscription service funded by venture capital giants including Andreessen Horowitz, was embroiled in a feud with Musk earlier this year after X began suppressing links to Substack on its platform.

X blocked links to Substack after it rolled out a new feature, Notes, a short-form content platform that operated similarly to Musk’s outfit and was thus perceived as a threat.

Links to New York Times stories are also reported to have been throttled, according to the analysis.
Links to New York Times stories are also reported to have been throttled, according to the analysis.
Getty Images

The dust-up with Substack led to Matt Taibbi, a Musk ally who collaborated with the mogul on “The Twitter Files,” ditching X.

Taibbi, a former Rolling Stone journalist, hosts a lucrative newsletter on Substack.

A spokesperson for the New York Times said it has not received an explanation from X about the link delay.

“While we don’t know the rationale behind the application of this time delay, we would be concerned by targeted pressure applied to any news organization for unclear reasons,” the spokesperson told Reuters on Tuesday.

Substack’s co-founders Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi released a joint statement to The Washington Post which read: “Substack was created in direct response to this kind of behavior by social media companies.”

Elon Musk, who billed himself as a "free speech absolutist," has been critical of news organizations.
Elon Musk, who billed himself as a “free speech absolutist,” has been critical of news organizations.
David Talukdar/Shutterstock

“Writers cannot build sustainable businesses if their connection to their audience depends on unreliable platforms that have proven they are willing to make changes that are hostile to the people who use them,” the statement read.

A Reuters spokesperson said: “We are aware of the report in the Washington Post of a delay in opening links to Reuters stories on X. We are looking into the matter.”

Bluesky did not reply to a request for comment.

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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