Twitter appears to be going to war with Substack

It appears that Twitter is currently in conflict with newsletter platform Substack.

Substack editors started noticing that they were no longer able to embed tweets when creating a post on Substack yesterday. Although this could only have been a technical issue, possibly related to Twitter’s switch to its new much criticized API plans, now it looks like something more is going on here.

Twitter now blocks likes, retweets, and comments on tweets that include a link to a Substack newsletter. Additionally, Twitter users cannot pin a tweet that includes a Substack link to their profile.

The timing of these issues, which seem to only affect Substack links, is peculiar. Just a day before these Twitter errors started popping up, Substack announcement a new feature called Substack Notes. It basically brings a social media-like feed with tweet-like posts to the newsletter platform. It’s not exactly a Twitter competitor, as it exists in the newsletter platform ecosystem, but it certainly looks like one.

Yesterday, when Mashable contacted Substack regarding the tweet embedding issue, a spokesperson provided us with the following statement.

“We are investigating reports that Twitter integrates and authentication no longer works on Substack,” the Substack spokesperson said. “We are actively trying to resolve this issue and will share updates as additional information becomes available.”

Today, however, when Mashable reached out to blocked interactions on tweets that include Substack links, we received a statement from Substack founders Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi.

“We are disappointed that Twitter has chosen to restrict writers’ ability to share their work,” the Substack founders said in a statement provided to Mashable. “Writers deserve the freedom to share links to Substack or anywhere else. This stark change reminds us why writers deserve a model that empowers them, rewards good work with money, and protects the freedom to the press and free speech. Their livelihood should not be tied to platforms where they don’t own their relationship with their audience and where the rules can change on a whim.”

Researcher Jane Manchun Wong, an expert in uncovering upcoming and never-before-seen features hidden in application code, first REMARK(Opens in a new tab) Twitter’s latest decision last night.

“Server errors with either: Permission: engagements are limited on tweet [id] or Authorization: Some actions on this [username] Tweet have been disabled by Twitter. (425),” Wong tweeted from her @wongmjane account, describing what she saw in the inner workings of Twitter.

Mashable’s own attempts to interact with tweets that included a Substack link have all failed.
Credit: Mashable screenshot

Twitter users who attempt to like, retweet, or reply to a tweet see a message that reads “Some actions on this tweet have been disabled by Twitter.”

Twitter screenshot

Credit: Mashable screenshot

As readers can see in the above screenshot of the test tweet posted by Wong, users cannot like or retweet a tweet containing a Substack link. As Twitter is recently released recommendation algorithm source code showed, these interactions greatly affect the distance a tweet travels on a platform. As can be seen, the lack of interactions on Wong’s tweet has significantly decreased the number of views on his post.

One of the first to notice the integration issue was Garbage Day newsletter creator Ryan Broderick, who shared a screenshot(Opens in a new tab) Thursday from the invite he received on Substack.

Twitter’s decision to block Substack links is certainly bizarre. Twitter itself has already run a Substack alternative called Revue. However, the company close the newsletter platform shortly after Musk took over. Twitter and Substack share the same tech VCs as investors. Many Twitter users that Musk interacts with frequently post Substack newsletters. The Musk-endorsed Twitter files were primarily distributed via writer Matt Taibbi’s own Subtack newsletter.

Elon Musk has repeatedly touted that his reasons for acquiring Twitter were to help level the playing field, making it a more “free speech” platform about what he considered(Opens in a new tab) to be the “de facto place of the city”.

However, that only seems to be the case if you don’t also offer Twitter users an alternative platform.

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