Twitter bans links to other social media sites

Twitter will ban links to other social media services and suspend accounts that try to direct Twitter users to alternative platforms, the company has announced, in an apparent attempt to stem user defections to competitors.

Under the new policy, links to content on Facebook and Instagram are prohibited, as well as links to content on emerging Twitter alternatives, including Mastodon and Post. The rule also covers Truth Social, the Twitter clone backed by former President Donald Trump.

Twitter’s move signals a shift toward a more closed environment, one that still accepts incoming traffic from other sites but makes it more difficult for users to leave Twitter’s website for other destinations.

“Specifically, we will remove accounts created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms and content that contains links or usernames for the following platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Nostr and Post,” Twitter’s support account tweeted.

Despite the bans, Twitter says it will still “allow paid advertisement/promotion for any of the prohibited social media platforms.”

Notably absent from the list is TikTok, one of the internet’s fastest-growing social media platforms whose links to China have sparked national security concerns among US policymakers. Musk’s own significant stake in China through his other company, Tesla, have raised doubts among critics as to whether the CEO would stand up to China if the country’s leaders sought to apply pressure on Twitter.

Twitter’s announcement prompted confusion from the platform’s former CEO, Jack Dorsey, who replied: “Why?” Dorsey followed up with: “doesn’t make sense.”

The policy change comes after some Twitter users announced their intention to move to other platforms last week, in the wake of Twitter’s suspension of a number of journalists who cover Musk. Amid the backlash to the journalists suspensions, Twitter quietly began blocking links to Mastodon.

Elon Musk's startup Neuralink proposes implants that connect your brain to a computer.
Elon Musk’s Twitter has banned links to other social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. (Getty)

Now, that practice has been formalised into official Twitter policy, a move that could further raise eyebrows among Twitter’s regulators.

As part of Twitter’s new policy, users may not “link out” to social media platforms subject to the restrictions. Users are also prohibited from updating their Twitter profiles to include their account names on other platforms, a way to inform followers where they might be found elsewhere on social media.

For example, posting encouragement to “follow me @username on Instagram” or “username@mastodon.social” is restricted, Twitter said in a blog post.

Attempts to circumvent that policy will also be enforced against, the company said. For example, use of link-shortening services to obscure the true destination of a URL or attempts to spell out a URL in plain text will also run afoul of Twitter’s rules, the company said.

“If violations of this policy are included in your bio and/or account name, we will temporarily suspend your account and require changes to your profile to no longer be in violation,” the blog post said. “Subsequent violations may result in permanent suspension.”

Tiktok app logo showing on phone screen
The Twitter ban on links to social media sites does not include Tik Tok, whose links to China have sparked national security concerns among US politicians. (AP)

First offences or isolated incidents may result in temporary suspensions or requirements that users delete the violating content, Twitter said.

Users may continue to use third-party software to simultaneously publish their social media content to multiple sites, including Twitter, the company said.

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, as well as Truth Social’s parent Trump Media & Technology Group, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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