X, formerly known as Twitter, was throttling traffic to websites that the social network’s owner Elon Musk publicly dislikes. The platform slowed down the speed it takes when accessing links to a handful of websites, including The New York Times, Instagram, Facebook, Bluesky, Threads, Reuters and Substack. The platform appears to be reversing the slow access to news sites on Tuesday afternoon.
All of these websites have been publicly attacked by Musk in the past. When clicking on links to these websites on X, there was a five-second delay in loading the web pages. The delays were noticed by users on the Hacker News forum and were first reported by The Washington Post.
By delaying traffic to these websites, Musk and X were potentially taking away traffic and ad revenue from these companies. Delays, even small ones, can affect a website’s traffic as users can grow impatient when content doesn’t load within a second or two.
A quick test showed that other major news organizations and websites, such as YouTube and Fox News, are unaffected. As far as we can tell, the delays only impacted websites that Musk has previously attacked or ridiculed.
Twitter’s former head of trust and safety posted on Bluesky that the delays appeared to be “one of those things that seems too crazy to be true, even for Twitter, until you see it inexplicably take 5 seconds for Chrome to receive 650 bytes of data.” He went on to note that “UX research on web performance suggests that even a 1 second delay is enough for people to start to context switch, which increases bounce rates and decreases time spent on the linked site. Delays are annoying enough, even subconsciously, to drive people away.”
Additionally, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded with a “thinking face emoji” to a Threads post referencing the throttling issue earlier today. Musk is currently feuding with Zuckerberg, and threatened to show up to Zuckerberg’s residence for a cage fight that the two previously discussed but never formally scheduled.
This isn’t the first time that Musk has let his personal grievances affect the social network, as he previously blocked links to Substack, Threads and other competitors. Earlier this year, Musk called the New York Times “propaganda” and took away the news organization’s verification check mark.
X did not respond to comment, which isn’t a surprise, given that the social media has stopped responding to press inquiries ever since Musk took over the company last year.
Update 08/15/2023 5:05 PM ET: The article was updated to indicate that X started reversing the slow access to news sites on Tuesday afternoon.