This probably slots into the ‘not at all surprising’ basket, but new reports have indicated that X has been throttling links to the New York Times of late, which is one of many publications that X owner Elon Musk has publicly criticized in his many, many rants about the bias of mainstream media.
As reported by Semafor:
“Since late July, engagement on X posts linking to the New York Times has dropped dramatically. The drop in shares and other engagement on tweets with Times links is abrupt, and is not reflected in links to similar news organizations including CNN, the Washington Post, and the BBC, according to NewsWhip’s data on 300,000 influential users of X.”
Based on NewsWhip’s investigation, links to The New York Times are generating way less reach than they had been previously, with recent shares of NYT posts by former President Barack Obama only reaching a tiny fraction of his audience. By comparison, other links shared by Obama are still seeing millions of interactions.
X, which has no press office, has unsurprisingly not offered any comment on any possible restrictions, but as noted, the NYT is one of many publications that Musk has taken aim at of late.
This was in reaction to the publication’s reports on South African politics, which Musk has a vested interest in, given his South African heritage. But it’s not the only time that Musk has vented his anger at the publication, or indeed, many others, with Musk also taking aim at Reuters, The Guardian, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC, in just the last few months.
Indeed, since taking ownership of the platform formerly known as Twitter, Elon has ramped up his anti-mainstream media rhetoric, regularly portraying journalists as corporate stooges, and/or political puppets, who are actively seeking to deceive the public.
That stance has gained Musk huge popularity among right-leaning audiences, but it’s also alienated many of the most active X users, with most media organizations now weighing whether it’s even worth maintaining an X presence due to Musk’s persistent attacks.
In this respect, I do feel like Musk is underrating the value of media organizations to his business. In Musk’s view, X will eventually become a bigger source of “citizen journalism”, enabling regular people to share their thoughts and insights, without the filters of the mainstream media. This, in Musk’s view, is a path to more truth in media, but that also understates the value that journalists provide, while additionally questioning the integrity of virtually all media outlets.
That’s why journalists have been so keen to jump into Threads, despite it being owned by Meta, which has its own history of cozying up to the media when it suits them, then turning its back on them when it doesn’t.
This is the key reason why Threads remains a distinct threat to X’s business, because if enough influential former tweeters migrate someplace else, their audience, eventually, will follow, which could spark a mass exodus from Musk’s app. Then it’d just be Tesla fans talking among themselves, and posting AI-generated images of Elon as a deity into oblivion.
Which could be what Musk really wants, and already, the reply section on every tweet, which now ranks responses from paying subscribers higher, is dominated by Musk fans and conservatives.
If that’s the platform that Elon wants X to be, then he’s certainly on his way, though I do think that if journalists move on from X, that would be the first step towards its obsolescence.
Maybe Elon doesn’t care, maybe he’s happy to take the blowback for restricting certain publications based on personal whims, and maybe his audience of free-speech-loving electric car fans just don’t see the contradiction when restricting certain speech that suits him.
Whatever it may be, it’s no surprise that Elon might be limiting the reach of certain publications. The longer-term impacts, however, may be more significant than anticipated.