Flickr/ Alpha Photos

Across the political spectrum, news sources and pundits have shown concern that Twitter has censored links to Substack, a popular platform among independent writers.

On April 7, Twitter users started to notice that Twitter was marking tweets with Substack links as unsafe. It also began to disable likes, replies, and retweets for tweets with Substack links. Twitter users are speculating that Twitter is preemptively censoring Substack due to Substack’s new Substack Notes feature being a competitor to Twitter.

Matt Taibbi (Center), was one of four journalists given access to the Twitter Files earlier this year. He left Twitter after the Substack controversy, saying, 

This isn’t the first time Twitter has received criticism for purported censorship in recent months. 

Is Elon Musk More Transparent? 

Before Musk took over, Twitter was not transparent about its speech policies. The Twitter files have shown that censorship decisions were sometimes made at the request of politicians on both sides of the political aisle. Musk has claimed to be more transparent by exposing the Twitter files and by often responding to criticism in real time. 

Some, like Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, say that radical disruption can be a positive thing for many companies. But some users, such as actor Mark Ruffalo, have said that Twitter’s changes have resulted in more misinformation and caused Musk to lose credibility. Both sides have called on Musk to be more conscious of the effects of his censorship decisions.

Criticism from the Left

HEATED (Not Rated) Editor-in-chief Emily Atkin voiced concern that the censorship of Substack pages would hurt those trying to educate others about the impacts of climate change. 

Back in December, Oliver Darcy at CNN Business (Lean Left) criticized Twitter for banning a number of high profile journalists who critiqued Musk. “The bans also raise a number of serious questions about the future of the free press on Twitter, a platform that has been referred to as a digital town square. Will news and media organizations remain on the platform, while Musk hastily bans their reporters without explanation?” Darcy wrote. 

In January 2023, Twitter faced backlash for removing a BBC documentary which was critical of India’s government. Left-rated sources covered the censorship of the documentary far more than outlets on the right. 

Criticism from the Right

Left-rated sources aren't typically fans of Musk, and he's often associated with the political right. But in this case, right-rated sources have also criticized him.

The Media Research Center (Right) conducted a study of Twitter that found censorship has risen under Elon Musk. They found that after Musk’s mass layoffs, the punishments were also harsher — 84% of “censorship” cases resulted in locked accounts, vs. 60% under Twitter’s former management. Furthermore, they said, 62% of cases under Musk “involved users being censored for speech critical of the left’s woke ‘transgender’ narrative.”

The study was covered by other outlets such as the New York Post (Lean Right).

On April 13, a top headline on Fox News's (Right bias) homepage read, "Elon Musk, self-described 'free speech absolutist,' limits free speech since buying Twitter."

Both Sides Align

Writers on the right, left, and center have been skeptical that Musk is upholding his “free speech absolutistposition when it comes to Twitter. While one side is concerned about censorship of journalists, the other side is concerned about censorship in general as being anti-free speech, with some being concerned about specific issues such as opposition to LGBTQ+ perspectives or policies.

Even though the concerns are different, it’s useful to see both sides call out Twitter when it declines to live up to its new owner’s purported mission. 

It’s up to you to decide whether Musk’s choices have been good for Twitter. Is it a much-needed disruption after the unjust censorship of the Hunter Biden story, or is it a false sense of transparency on the same black box, just with a new face? Regardless of where you fall, hearing the criticism of both sides of the aisle can help improve Twitter’s policies long-term. 

Clare Ashcraft is the Bridging and Bias Assistant at AllSides. She has a Center bias.

This blog was reviewed by Editor-in-chief Henry A. Brechter (Center bias), Daily News Curator Joseph Ratliff (Lean Left bias), CEO John Gable (Lean Right bias), and Research & Content Intern Johnathon Held (Lean Right bias).