Elon Musk and Twitter’s third-party link ban was a dumb way to alienate creators

Last weekend, Twitter announced that it would “no longer allow free advertising on certain social media platforms”. After the pushback, it lifted the ban and erased all evidence of it. Elon Musk acknowledged the mistake with one simple tweet which read: “In the future there will be a vote on major policy changes. I apologize. Won’t happen again.” And then everyone moved on.

Everyone except me because I absolutely can’t stop thinking about it.

The ban was so desperately short-sighted, so removed from the realities of social media, that I still can’t believe how bad it was. So let’s break it down, shall we?

First things first: what did the prohibition directive say?

The first line of the policy is deceptively rational: “We will remove accounts created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms.” This makes sense since these types of accounts could be flagged as spam anyway. But then things got weird, because the policy also said Twitter would not allow “content containing links or usernames for the following platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Nostr, and Post.”

It described a violation of the ban as “linking (i.e. using URLs) […] or providing your handle without a URL [to] Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Post and Nostr” and third-party aggregators like linktr.ee and Ink.bio “both at the tweet level and at the account level.” There were the following examples:

OK, got it, so why is this policy so idiotic (and what is it real reason for the ban)?

Musk is afraid of losing Twitter users to competitors, and this ban was a desperate attempt to stem the bleeding. The list of banned platforms didn’t include video-based platforms like YouTube and TikTok for a reason: Musk’s main concern was cutting off users from competing text and photo platforms.

The thing is, such policies fail because they don’t reflect how social media acts as a channel for people to share things and connect with others.

Additionally, the policy betrays a deep misunderstanding of the issues currently plaguing Twitter. Many people definitely want to leave or have already left, whether it’s because of Musk’s insane leadership or the rise in hate speech or some other reason. But there were dozens of people on my timeline saying things like, “If this site dies, I’ll see you [other social media site]” and share their Mastodon usernames, for example. But they always say “if this platform is dying” or “just in case it gets any worse here on twitter”.

So, sure, some people definitely want to go. But it seems others don’t want leaving as much as they want the site to be better. And rather than addressing the root issues of why people think the site might die, Musk and his staff have gone out of their way to weaken the healthy competition that challenges them to actually work hard to make Twitter a place to go where people would like to stay.

Why is it so important that this ban affects YouTubers directly?

Is much of Twitter a churning cesspool of negativity and misinformation? Yes. It’s also a place for artists, musicians, photographers, comedians, writers, YouTubers, and other creators to share their work that keeps the site from burning itself. Some of them have built businesses and careers based on their Twitter followers, but it’s difficult to make money with the limited monetization opportunities the platform offers. That means these developers need to diversify across other platforms and projects to survive. And how do you promote these platforms and projects? By linking to them or creating linktr.ee and Ink.bio pages to online stores or affiliate links. Cutting off creators from their ability to advertise on Twitter is cutting off their livelihood.

On Sunday, Musk tweeted about the ban: “No more ruthless free advertising from competitors. No traditional publisher allows that, and neither does Twitter.” So first of all, I have no idea what traditional publishers like Twitter make of almost 100 percent user-generated content, so the comparison is ridiculous. But more importantly, Musk makes it particularly clear that he’s missing the point. People don’t link to Facebook to give meta a little boost; They link to Facebook to support their own personal or business pages on the platform.

Creators cannot live off Twitter’s popularity alone, and they will happily leave a platform that doesn’t pay them for a platform that does. And that’s the most idiotic element of the ban: instead of making Twitter better, it alienates everyone who does it.

https://mashable.com/article/twitter-third-party-link-ban-elon-musk-creators Elon Musk and Twitter’s third-party link ban was a dumb way to alienate creators

Zack Zwiezen

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