Skip to main content

Twitter abruptly bans all links to Instagram, Mastodon, and other competitors

Twitter abruptly bans all links to Instagram, Mastodon, and other competitors


Then seemingly reverses the decision with an apology from Elon Musk. It’s been a wild 48 hours.

Share this story

A black Twitter logo over a red and white background
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Update December 19th, 2:45AM ET: Twitter has deleted @TwitterSafety’s tweets and a webpage detailing its new policy after Elon Musk apologized and said major policy changes would be put to a vote. The story that follows reflects the policy as of Sunday evening.

Twitter will no longer allow users to promote their presence on certain social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Nostr, and Post. In a post outlining these changes, Twitter says it will take action against users that violate this policy “at both the Tweet level and the account level.”

This means users can no longer include links to their profiles on other social networks in their Twitter bio, nor can they send out tweets directing users to check out their Instagram or Facebook accounts. The policy doesn’t just include links from other platforms, either; it even extends to posting usernames or handles from competing platforms without URLs.

While Twitter’s support page implies that users can no longer tweet out posts from banned platforms unless it’s cross-posted to both platforms, a tweet from Elon Musk appears to contradict this policy. “Casually sharing occasional links is fine, but no more relentless advertising of competitors for free,” he explains.

Twitter may also suspend accounts “used for the main purpose of promoting content on another social platform” and will no longer allow users to link to third-party link aggregators, like Linktree or Lnk.Bio. Despite all of this, Twitter is still fine with the paid promotion of these banned platforms (although this feature doesn’t seem to be available yet):

We recognize that certain social media platforms provide alternative experiences to Twitter, and allow users to post content to Twitter from these platforms. In general, any type of cross-posting to our platform is not in violation of this policy, even from the prohibited sites listed above. Additionally, we allow paid advertisement/promotion for any of the prohibited social media platforms.

Twitter says it will remove any tweets that contain violations of the policy and could temporarily suspend users with links to banned social platforms in their profiles. It will also take action against users who try to get around this policy by cloaking URLs to other platforms or “spelling out ‘dot’ for social media platforms that use ‘.’ in the names to avoid URL creation, or sharing screenshots of your handle on a prohibited social media platform.”

Other platforms, like Telegram, TikTok, YouTube, Weibo, and OnlyFans remain safe from the Twitter ban for now, and the motivation behind banning links to certain networks and not others isn’t clear. “Twitter should be easy to use, but no more relentless free advertising of competitors,” Musk writes on Twitter. “No traditional publisher allows this and neither will Twitter.”

Twitter already blocks links to Twitter competitor Mastodon at a platform level. Trying to tweet out a link to several Mastodon servers or the site itself results in an error message, stating: “We can’t complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful.” We don’t know whether Twitter will eventually disable links from the banned platforms in a similar manner, but at this time of writing, it seems users are still able to post links from these networks.

In response to Twitter Support’s thread about the new policy, former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey replied “why?” Dorsey recently donated around $245,000 to the development of the decentralized social network Nostr, which is included in Twitter’s ban. Dorsey says Twitter’s block on the network “doesn’t make sense” and currently has his Nostr username listed in his Twitter bio, potentially putting him at risk of suspension. The Verge reached out to Twitter for more information about its new policies but didn’t immediately hear back.

This all follows a chaotic week for Twitter that saw the suspension of numerous journalists — including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan and The New York Times’ Ryan Mac — after they tweeted about @ElonJet, a now-banned Twitter account that tracked the location of the billionaire’s private jet. Musk claims the journalists “doxxed” his location and later had Twitter implement a policy that bans “live location information” as well as “links to 3rd-party URL(s) of travel routes.” While Musk later reinstated most of the banned accounts after polling users on whether Twitter should lift their suspensions, he briefly suspended The Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz for “prior doxxing action.”

Update, December 18th, 2:39PM ET: Updated to add Dorsey’s response and additional context surrounding his investment in Nostr.

Update, December 18th, 4:40PM ET: Updated to add Musk’s comment on the new policy.

Update, December 18th, 5:35PM ET: Updated to add Musk’s clarification on sharing links from other platforms.