X is slowing down links to websites Elon Musk has publicly feuded with

It seems Elon Musk is, once again, punishing websites run by his perceived enemies.

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It appears that Elon Musk is, once again, punishing websites run by his perceived enemies. The website formerly known as Twitter seems to be interfering with links to The New York Times, Mastodon, Bluesky, Threads and Substack to make them load noticeably slower.

Clicking links to those websites from within X causes a significant delay in loading the web pages compared with navigating to the links from another browser or website. The delay, which seems to be about 5 seconds, was noticed by users on the Hacker News forum and later reported by The Washington Post.

It appears to be widespread and only affecting a handful of high-profile websites that Musk has publicly attacked in the past. The user who first reported the issues on Hacker News estimated the inexplicable delay first cropped up on August 4th, noting that it’s “so consistent it's obviously deliberate.” That's the same day Musk called the paper a "racial genocide apologist" in response to its reporting on South Africa.

For now, it’s unclear if there is a cause for the delay other than Musk’s personal grievances with these companies. But the lag only seems to be affecting websites that Musk has previously retaliated against. He previously blocked links to Substack, Mastodon, Threads and other competitors. Musk has also publicly attacked The Times, revoking the publication’s verified status shortly before the rollout of Twitter Blue (now called X Premium). The owner of X is also currently feuding with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg over his launch of Twitter competitor, Threads.

In a statement, a spokesperson for The New York Times said the publication was aware of reports about the delay and had "made similar observations" of their own. "We have not received any explanation from the platform about this move," the spokesperson said. "While we don't know the rationale behind the application of this time delay, we would be concerned by targeted pressure applied to any news organization for unclear reasons."

Substack founders Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi also criticized the move. "Substack was created in direct response to this kind of behavior by social media companies," they wrote in a statement. "Writers cannot build sustainable businesses if their connection to their audience depends on unreliable platforms that have proven they are willing to make changes that are hostile to the people who use them. While we hope that Twitter will reverse its decision to institute a delay on Substack links, our focus is on building Substack."

As usual, X didn’t respond to a request for comment. The company has largely stopped replying to press inquiries since Elon Musk fired its communications staff shortly after taking over the company.

Update, August 15th, 2023, 1 pm PT: This story has been updated to include responses from The New York Times and Substack.