X platform slows down access to targeted websites, raises concerns

The move targeted websites that have been subject to Musk’s criticism in the past.

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The company, previously known as Twitter, has been intentionally slowing down the loading speed of links to news organizations and online competitors such as Facebook and others. This action appeared to target websites that have faced criticism from its owner, Elon Musk. When users clicked on links to these targeted websites from Musk’s new platform, X, they experienced a delay of around five seconds before the page loaded, according to a test conducted by The Washington Post.

This delay affected various sites, including Facebook, Instagram, Bluesky, Substack, Reuters, and The New York Times. After some backlash, X started to reverse these delays on some sites, though it’s unclear if this restoration applied to all affected websites. The slowed-down loading was implemented through a link-shortening service called t.co that X uses, allowing them to track and control traffic to these websites. This action potentially impacted the traffic and ad revenue of businesses Musk believes negatively about. The delay did not affect all sites equally; some, like The Washington Post, Fox News, and certain social media services, were unaffected.

Despite requests for comments, Elon Musk and the company did not respond. The targeted companies expressed concerns about the intentional delay, with some stating that they were reviewing the situation and urging X to reverse these decisions. Online companies prioritize fast website loading times, as even minor delays can lead users to abandon the site. It was noted that traffic from X to The New York Times had decreased since the delays began.

This situation reminded some observers of Twitter’s previous actions, like banning accounts and blocking content based on personal grudges. The person who first noticed the delays reported that they began on August 4, coinciding with Musk’s negative remarks about The New York Times. The delays also affected X’s competitors, such as Facebook and Bluesky, and Substack, which had been established as an alternative to such behavior by social media companies.

Why does it matter?

This situation sparks worries about platform misuse and owner influence, compromising information access and establishing concerning manipulation possibilities. These actions also contradict Elon Musk’s “free speech absolutist” claims, underscoring the necessity for transparent, accountable platforms for online unbiased information sharing.