Twitter will no longer allow users to promote their accounts on at least seven other major social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram and Truth Social, it announced Sunday.
The new policy comes after many users recently began posting links to their accounts on other sites following Elon Musk’s takeover as CEO of Twitter and its subsequent reinstatement of far-right accounts, suspension of journalists and mass layoffs.
“We recognize that many of our users are active on other social media platforms. However, we will no longer allow free promotion of certain social media platforms on Twitter,” Twitter Support tweeted Sunday.
“Specifically, we will remove accounts created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms and content that contains links or usernames for the following platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Nostr and Post,” the post continued.
The policy will also ban third-party link aggregators, including linktr.ee and lnk.bio, it said, adding that it will also seek to remove users who try to circumvent the rules by spelling out “dot” and sharing screenshots of their handles on prohibited platforms, among other means to get around the restrictions.
The policy, the most significant change to Twitter under Musk, is among the most restrictive of any social media platforms’ policies in how it limits what users can post. Other social media companies have few, if any, rules about users’ posting links to their accounts on other platforms.
A few hours after the policy was announced Sunday, Musk appeared to contradict it in a tweet that said, “Casually sharing occasional links is fine, but no more relentless advertising of competitors for free, which is absurd in the extreme.”
Musk also apologized for the abrupt policy change that followed weeks of tumult since his Oct. 27 takeover. Since then, Twitter has laid off or seen the exoduses of thousands of employees, more than half its workforce, botched introduction of paid verification for users and suspended a half-dozen journalists. They were reinstated late Friday.
“Going forward, there will be a vote for major policy changes,” Musk tweeted Sunday. “My apologies. Won’t happen again.”
It wasn’t clear whether Musk was referring to the results of Twitter polls, which he cited when he reinstated the account of former President Donald Trump and ended the suspensions of the journalists’ accounts.
The polls are straw polls, meaning they are informal and not akin to scientific public research into the wishes of a defined population.
Twitter has never released an estimate of the number of inauthentic and malicious automated accounts (or “bots”) on the platform. Those accounts can vote in polls.
Twitter did not immediately respond to questions.
The CEO of Post, Noam Bardin, tried to draw users to the site after the announcement.
“We make it easy to add all your social media links to your profile since none of us only use one platform,” Bardin tweeted, adding “Freedom = Choice.”
The other companies subject to the new policy also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Twitter’s rule changes left out some major social media platforms, most notably TikTok. TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance and is ultimately controlled by the Communist Party of China, according to company insiders and critics. Musk has been increasingly called out for his cozy relationship with China ever since he took over Twitter.
Reddit, Twitch, Telegram, WhatsApp, WeChat, Weibo and the right-wing platforms Parler and Gab are also exempt from the new policy.
Twitter announced the change during Sunday’s final of the World Cup, which Musk attended and tweeted from. He was pictured sitting near Jared Kushner, a son-in-law of former President Donald Trump, who founded Truth Social, which was part of the rule change.
The new rules add to what has been a particularly chaotic stretch for the company and its new owner, with Twitter having suspended and reinstated some journalists over the past few days after a sudden rule change that targeted the dissemination about the flights of private jets.
The rule could come under governmental scrutiny, including from the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees potential anti-competitive company actions, and the European Union, which has rules about how tech companies compete with one another. A spokeswoman said the FTC had no comment on Twitter’s new policy.
First-time violators of the new rule may be required to delete tweets or may have their accounts locked, and “any subsequent offenses will result in permanent suspension,” Twitter said. Users who violate the policy by linking or mentioning other social media accounts in their bios or account names will have their accounts suspended and will be required to remove the mentions to be reinstated.
The new rule will still allow users to cross-post content from other sites, as well as links or usernames to social media sites that are not subject to the ban, the company said. Users who believe their accounts have mistakenly been suspended or locked can appeal, Twitter added.
Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey questioned the move, responding to the thread explaining the new policy with “why?” In another tweet, he said the policy “doesn’t make sense.”
Others in the tech industry also criticized the move. Aaron Levie, the CEO of the cloud storage company Box, tweeted, “This is just sad.” Benedict Evans, a London-based tech analyst, tweeted that the move was “absolutely pathetic.”
The director of Stanford University’s Internet Observatory, Alex Stamos, a former chief security officer for Facebook, tweeted that the new policy is “the clearest declaration of weakness I’ve ever seen from a major US tech platform, and a transparent declaration of anticompetitive intent.”
Paul Graham, a well-followed venture capitalist, said the rule change had pushed him to leave Twitter. “This is the last straw,” he tweeted, noting that a link to his account on Mastodon was on his website. “I give up.”
Graham’s account was suspended hours later.
Taylor Lorenz, a Washington Post tech and online culture columnist who was suspended from Twitter on Saturday night after she tweeted at Musk seeking comment for a story and has since been reinstated, said she “cannot imagine a worse policy if you want content creators to come on your site.”
“People don’t want to be locked in a jail and that is what Musk is doing,” she told NBC News. “He’s closing the doors and trying to keep people in.”
Lorenz previously had a tweet pinned to her profile promoting her accounts on other sites, including some that are now banned. But as soon as she was reinstated, which was right around the time the company announced the new policy, she took the tweet down, she said.
Musk had not yet addressed the change as of Sunday afternoon, but many users were passing around previous tweets from him that could be seen as criticizing the new policy.
Most notably, one of his tweets from June read: “The acid test for any two competing socioeconomic systems is which side needs to build a wall to keep people from escaping? That’s the bad one!”