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Mastodon links blocked on Twitter after account suspended

Elon Musk, the owner of social media platform Twitter, appears at an event in 2018.
Elon Musk doesn’t want Twitter users linking to Mastodon anymore, apparently. (Photo by Daniel Oberhaus via Flickr, Graphic by The Desk)

Users of social media website Twitter are being prevented from linking to profiles on rival platform Mastodon after the company banned the “Join Mastodon” account on Thursday.

The move comes after Twitter CEO Elon Musk announced a new prohibition on accounts that publish real-time location information of other individuals and banned an account that posted updates about the location of his personal airplane.

The account holder who posted under the “ElonJets” handle has since moved his activity over to Mastodon, a decentralized social media platform that has found favor with hundreds of thousands of people since Elon Musk took over Twitter in late October.

More than a half-dozen journalists had their accounts suspended on Thursday after they tweeted information about Mastodon, with some posting a direct link to the new ElonJets profile there. The journalists include correspondents for CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times and other high-profile outlets who have covered Twitter’s ever-changing policies during Musk’s short tenure.

On Thursday, Musk responded to criticism that the suspensions flied in the face of free speech, which he vowed to vigorously defend when he acquired the service several weeks ago.

Musk said accounts that engage in “doxing,” or the publication of personal information, would receive a “temporary” suspension that would last for seven days. At least one journalist, CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, said his account was “permanently in read-only mode.”

Now, Twitter has taken the extraordinary step of banning links to Mastodon accounts completely, even when those links have no direct connection to any problematic activity or users under Twitter’s code of conduct.

It was not clear why Twitter decided to ban links to Mastodon entirely, rather than limiting links to problematic accounts that post content in violation of its rules. Officials at Twitter have been difficult to reach, in large part because most of the website’s communications team has been laid off.

Also unknown is whether the blocked links were the result of a deliberate action by someone at Twitter, or part of a larger set of bugs and glitches that have plagued the social network since Musk took control of it in October. On Wednesday, The Desk reported that an issue involving Twitter’s use of text messages for two-factor authentication resulted in some people being locked out of their Twitter accounts for weeks, a problem that Twitter acknowledged in mid-November but has yet to fully fix.

Other issues include Twitter users experiencing a sudden drop in followers, an increase in reply and direct message spam, and a bug that briefly prevented some users who opted-in to see mature content from viewing adult photos and videos.

A current Twitter employee who spoke with The Desk on background said around 60 percent of the company’s staff has been laid off or quit over the last several weeks, and the bugs are a byproduct of losing a significant amount of talent and institutional knowledge in a short amount of time.

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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 10 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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