Elon Musk slaps back against accusations he was suppressing Substack, says platform was using Twitter code to 'bootstrap' their 'clone'

After reports emerged on Friday that Twitter was suppressing and blocking links from competitor and blogging platform Substack, CEO Elon Musk shot back saying that Substack was in fact downloading huge portions of Twitter code in order to essentially clone the platform for their own use.

He also said that Twitter was not blocking Substack links, and a quick check shows that this is true, the links are behind a warning, but they are certainly accessible. 

"The link you are trying to access has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially spammy or unsafe," the warning reads, "in accordance with Twitter’s URL Policy. This link could fall into any of the below categories: malicious links that could steal personal information or harm electronic devices; spammy links that mislead people or disrupt their experience; violent or misleading content that could lead to real-world harm; certain categories of content that, if posted directly on Twitter, are a violation of the Twitter Rules."

Twitter recently made their code open source so that users could see and understand the algorithms employed, make suggestions, and develop tools to use on the platform. But Substack, apparently, was downloading the code wholesale and using it to create a competing social media product.

That the code was made open source, however, was not an invitation to wholesale theft, which is what Musk has alleged Substack basically did.

Matt Taibbi, one of the journalists who broke the Twitter Files and then posted news about those files first on Twitter before running stories on his Substack, reported to his followers via email that "Substack links were being blocked on Twitter."

Taibbi's understanding was that Twitter was "upset about the new Substack Notes feature, which they see as a hostile rival." In fact, that Notes feature seems to be a duplicate of a feature running on Twitter called Community Notes.

Brett Weinstein responded to the concern, saying that Musk should not allow a disagreement with a rival to create a hostile environment for free speech on Twitter, which was one of the main reasons Musk got involved in the purchase of the company in the first place.

Weinstein said: "you know that thing where the left eats its own? We mustn’t let that happen to the emerging western-values/free-speech coalition. Many of us who have backed your Twitter play and taken substantial heat for it are thrown by this move. The public square isn’t a monopoly."

But Musk shot back, saying that this wasn't a free speech issue at all, but one where a competing company was going out of its way to use Twitter's own tools to replicate Twitter, then compete with it. "1. Substack links were never blocked," Musk wrote. "Matt’s statement is false. 2. Substack was trying to download a massive portion of the Twitter database to bootstrap their Twitter clone, so their IP address is obviously untrusted. 3. Turns out Matt is/was an employee of Substack."

Weinstein then asked Musk to take the conversation to DM and discuss it privately. Christopher Brunet, who runs the Karlstack blog on Substack, then shared a link to one of his articles on the platform to test it out. 

Clicking on that link revealed a warning, but the article was still accessible past the warning.

A look at Substack shows that they are indeed using many of the same features, and icons for those features, as Twitter does. The function to share a Substack on that platform looks almost identical to the retweet function on Twitter.

As can be seen just from Karlstack's Substack piece above, along with Weinstein and Taibbi's assumptions, those who first embraced Musk's takeover of the platform now appear to be coming for him as he doesn't make Twitter everything everyone wants it to be and tries to run a profitable business.

He's already revealed that the company is worth half as much as he bought it for, and has been making staffing changes, programming and advertising adjustments, all while doing his best to maintain and open platform that is the worldwide marketplace of ideas.

Musk now faces critique from all sides of the partisan bickering on social media, from leftists who claim that he is hindering their speech, and now from conservatives who claim he is hindering theirs. 

However, as many like to say, when your taking arrows, that means you're directly over the target, and that is likely exactly where Musk wants to be.

Image: Title: twitter substack


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