Hobbit Business Review

Elon Musk Accused of Deliberately Slowing Down Links to News Outlets and Competitors on X

Tests by major news outlets revealed approximate five-second delays when accessing targeted websites.

Key Takeaways

  • Elon Musk’s X platform, formerly Twitter, has been accused of deliberately slowing links to news outlets and competitors.

  • Musk has been associated with similar traffic-sabotage practices in the past.

Elon Musk is under fire over allegations that his social media platform X (formerly Twitter) engaged in deliberate slowdowns of links leading to websites like The New York Times, Reuters and news outlets that have been ridiculed by Musk in the past, as well as X competitors like Bluesky, Instagram and Facebook, The Washington Post reported.

When clicking on a link to one of the targeted websites, users had to wait approximately five seconds for the page to appear, confirmed by tests conducted at the Post and later the Times and Reuters.

The Post published an article detailing the delay around 1 p.m. on Tuesday, and the outlet later reported that “hours after” the story was published, loading times returned to normal. X confirmed to Reuters that the delay had been lifted but did not provide further detail.

The timeline of the link slowdown and interference, also called “throttling,” is unclear. However, a user on the tech forum Hacker News wrote early Tuesday that the delays of links to Times articles began as early as August 4, Reuters reported.

Although a five-second delay is relatively minor, data from analytics firm Littledata found that in September 2022, sites with loading time under 2.9 seconds are typically shown in the top 20% of search results, with anything under 2.2 seconds appearing in the top 10%. This implies that a five-second delay could hurt the targeted websites, Gizmodo reported.

Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” has in the past openly ridiculed news outlets like the Times and suspended journalists from X. Musk has engaged in similar practices of sabotaging traffic to other platforms and outlets since he acquired the social media platform in October 2022.

In December of last year, Musk temporarily banned X accounts that were promoting rival social media platforms like Mastodon and Post. Then, in April, a day after Substack announced it would launch a Twitter competitor, Substack writers were prohibited from including tweets in their newsletters, and the circulation of Substack newsletters on X was blocked the following day.

Substack was also among the group of sites affected by the recent throttling.

“While we hope that Twitter will reverse its decision to institute a delay on Substack links, our focus is on building Substack,” Substack founders Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie and Jairaj Sethi told the Times. “Substack was created in direct response to this kind of behavior by social media companies.”

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