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Twitter backtracks on policy banning links to competitors

A sign attached to Twitter’s global headquarters is viewed from a sidewalk on Market Street in San Francisco, California. June 18, 2014. (Photo: Matthew Keys/The Desk/Creative Commons)

Twitter owner Elon Musk said the company is walking back plans to prohibit users from linking to their profiles on competing social media services, less than one day after unexpectedly rolling out a policy that did just that.

On Sunday, the official Twitter Safety account issued a three-tweet thread proclaiming that links to competing social media services like Facebook, Mastodon, Truth Social, Post News and Instagram were no longer allowed.

The prohibition extended to tweets, profile links and account names, according to a now-deleted support page reviewed by The Desk. The ban extended to social media portfolio services like Linktree. Links to OnlyFans, Snapchat, Reddit and LinkedIn were not banned.

A spokesperson for Twitter’s trust and safety team — which has largely been gutted over the past few weeks due to layoffs — said the move was intended to prevent “free promotion” of competing streaming services. It came several days after the official “Join Mastodon” profile on Twitter was suspended for purported violations of Twitter’s rules. Mastodon is a decentralized social media platform that offers similar features to Twitter.

The policy generated strong condemnation from Twitter users, who complained that it contradicted Musk’s assertion that he was committed to “free speech” on the platform.

Hours after the policy was announced, Musk said the rule would be tweaked to prohibit accounts whose express intent was to promote competing social media platforms. The Desk noted several accounts belonging to Meta, the company behind Facebook and Instagram, were still online even after Musk’s modification.

On Monday, Twitter walked back the new policy completely, deleting the support page that once outlined the anti-competition rule. Musk said future policy changes would be put to a vote by Twitter’s users. He previously allowed users to vote on whether suspended users should have their accounts restored, including former President Donald Trump and several high-profile journalists working for CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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