Big Tech Censorship? Very Subtle, Mr. Musk.

big tech censorship, Twitter, X, Elon Musk,

The Washington Post reported that X, formerly known as Twitter, engaged in Big Tech censorship throttling traffic to websites its CEO didn’t like.

  • Users trying to access sites like the New York Times, Facebook, and Reuters faced a delay resulting in blank pages for a few seconds.
  • Critics argue that these actions compromise the platform’s commitment to unbiased content distribution and raise concerns about Big Tech censorship.

On August 15th, The Washington Post reported that X, formerly known as Twitter, added a five-second delay when a user clicked on a shortened link to its competitors and news publications known for their critical reports on its CEO, Elon Musk.

The Washington Post observed this practice, known as throttling, in a series of tests on Tuesday. Users who attempted to access sites such as the New York Times, Facebook, Instagram, Blue Sky, and Reuters via links on X experienced an unexpected delay, resulting in blank pages for several seconds.

The delayed access seemed specifically linked to links, which X uses to process and shorten URLs posted on the platform. The affected sites included competitors to X as well as news outlets that had reported critically about Musk. Notably, the delay only affected certain sites and was not consistent across the entire platform. However, the issue was swiftly resolved by Tuesday afternoon. Let the record show that other sites such as The Washington Post, Fox News, and YouTube were unaffected by the delays.

Marwan Rachid, Chief Marketing Officer at Mind Matter, explained to Inside Telecom that “this is the age of fast access to information. Any delay, let alone a five-second one, will cause a significant loss of traffic for a news publication. And considering that [X] has over 300 million users, that type of traffic is CRUCIAL to a website’s growth.”

If Elon Musk is anything, it’s that he’s vocal. And this latest incident echoes his ongoing feud with various news outlets and social media companies as it’s not his first Big Tech censorship rodeo. Earlier this year, the microblogging platform labeled BBC and NPR as ‘state-affiliated media,’ sparking controversy and leading to NPR quitting the platform. The platform also marked links to Substack, an email newsletter platform for writers, journalists, and content creators, as unsafe, following its introduction of a feature similar to the (now dead) bird app.

X has remained silent. Go figure. But this incident adds to the growing list of instances where Musk’s influence over the platform has raised concerns. Critics argue that these actions jeopardize the platform’s commitment to unbiased content distribution and are indicative of a broader pattern of Big Tech censorship. Add to that the sudden reversal of the throttling following media reporting, and you have questions about the platform’s intentions and its susceptibility to external pressures.

Musk, who describes himself as a staunch advocate of free speech, has previously utilized X’s technical capabilities to exert influence over the platform. This includes banning accounts and imposing limits on user activity. These incidents, combined with Musk’s ongoing disputes with media and online competitors, raise concerns about Big Tech censorship and biased content distribution.

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