While many people were turning to Twitter on Sunday to watch the World Cup finals unfold, the company introduced a new policy banning "free promotion" of competing social media websites. Twitter said it would remove links to Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Tribel, Post, Nostr and Donald Trump's Truth Social from accounts whose "main purpose" is to promote content on those platforms.
Users were told they could no longer use their Twitter bio to link to their other social media profiles, nor post tweets that invite their followers to follow them elsewhere. Additionally, the company restricted the use of third-party aggregators like Linktree and Link.bio. Twitter warned that users who attempt to bypass the new policy using technical means like URL cloaking or less advanced methods will be found in violation of the policy.
However, as the Twitter community came to terms with the rule change, its CEO had another change of heart. Within hours, tweets announcing the new policy, plus the support page outlining the specifics of its enforcement, were deleted and replaced with a poll asking: "should we have a policy preventing the creation of or use of existing accounts for the main purpose of advertising other social media platforms?" At the time of writing, the "No" option had a commanding 86.9 percent share of the vote.
Should we have a policy preventing the creation of or use of existing accounts for the main purpose of advertising other social media platforms?
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) December 19, 2022
Before the deletion, the support page outlined two exceptions to its new rule. "We recognize that certain social media platforms provide alternative experiences to Twitter, and allow users to post content to Twitter from these platforms," the company said. "In general, any type of cross-posting to our platform is not in violation of this policy, even from the prohibited sites listed above." Additionally, Twitter said it would continue to allow paid promotion for any of the platforms on its new prohibited list.
According to Twitter, accounts that violated the new policy would be temporarily locked if it was their first offense or "an isolated incident." The company may have also deleted the offending tweets. "Any subsequent offenses will result in permanent suspension," Twitter added. The company indicated it would temporarily lock accounts that add the offending links in their bios. Multiple violations "may result in permanent suspension," it added.
— AlexisOhanian7️⃣7️⃣6️⃣ (@alexisohanian) December 18, 2022
Twitter quickly began enforcing the policy shortly after it was announced. At 2:17PM ET, Paul Graham, the founder of startup accelerator Y Combinator and someone who came out in support of Musk's takeover, said he was done with Twitter following the rule change and told his more than 1.5 million followers to find him on Mastodon. Twitter then suspended Graham's account, only to bring it back not long after.
The policy comes following another messy week at Twitter. On December 15th, a handful of notable journalists, including NBC's Ben Collins and CNN's Donnie O'Sullivan, found they could not access their Twitter accounts. Most of the accounts had either talked about Jack Sweeney or his ElonJet account, which was banned for breaking the company's recently announced policy against public location sharing. While Twitter later reinstated the accounts of those reporters, on Saturday it abruptly suspended the account of Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz. At the time of her suspension, Lorenz only had three posts to her name, one of which was a tweet to Musk asking him to comment on an upcoming story. Another one of her posts linked to her YouTube channel, but at that point Twitter's policy against linking to competing platforms didn't exist and nowhere in its new rule does it mention Google's video service.
Update: 12/19 at 4:02am ET: Article updated to include the reversal of the policy change.