Today, in a new chapter of “Elon Musk managing Twitter as if he were a fifteen year old”, it is time to talk about what has happened these days between the social network and Substack. When we talk about Substack, we are referring to the largest newsletter platform in the world, with a large presence in the United States. But how could this company have affected Twitter, a microblogging social network?
Last week, Substack launched a new feature for its platform called Notes. This new feature differs from the lengthy posts usually made on the platform in that they are short posts, which allow you to reply, quote or include images/videos within a feed of your own. Exactly, it is an imitation of Twitter.
What seems like great news for many editors who were forced to migrate from Twitter after the closure of Revue, the social network’s newsletter service, must have really angered Musk, who saw how another big company could compete with him. The champion of free speech and the free market, in an act that could be considered regrettable or even childish, began by blocking the ability to like or retweet tweets containing the word “Substack”.
That is, if you try to reply to a tweet that mentioned the word “Substack”, including any link that directs to the platform, Twitter warns you by telling you that “it has disabled some actions on this tweet”. This block also remains in place in mobile apps and TweetDeck, even though the message does not appear.
Not content with this, Musk also decided to remove all the visibility he could from Substack. How? With a rather “dirty” trick: when searching for the word “Substack” in the Twitter search engine, it searched for the word “newsletter” instead. This way, those who wanted to know what was going on with Substack or those who wanted to search for posts by editors on Twitter, had a much harder time (basically, it’s as if you wanted to search for “Twitter” in Google and only “social network” results came up).
Despite this ploy, it didn’t take long for little tricks to get around Elon Musk’s censorship to come up. In the case of blocking, editors found that they could insert links to their Substack posts using link-shortening services. And to both write about Substack and search for the word in the search engine, users simply typed “sub stack” (separately).
Musk’s response to the (many) tweets about this issue and to the displeasure of Substack founders Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie and Jairaj Seth, was that the newsletter platform was “trying to download a massive part of the Twitter database to bootstrap its Twitter clone”. A claim lacking any proof and denied by Chris Best, Substack’s CEO, in a publication in which he claims that his platform used Twitter’s api for years and without violating any regulations.
Best also used his post on Substack to express his frustration at this situation and to make it clear that the platform’s editors do not work as such for Substack, but are its customers. By putting these impediments on Twitter, Musk has intended to hurt Substack by putting sticks in the wheels of freelancers who make their living from subscriber donations.
Wow, Musk is quite the example of a good businessman. Not only does he carry out this type of “initiatives” against other companies, but also, in his own company, he has earned the reputation of being a completely incompetent businessman, who only knows how to threaten to fire his employees if they do not comply with his wishes and who uses Twitter to artificially raise the value of a cryptocurrency in order to pocket millions of dollars.
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