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Elon Musk's climate censorship
With Musk's new policy, climate publications like HEATED can no longer effectively share their work on Twitter.
If you still believe Elon Musk is a benevolent savior for the global climate, I’ve got some bad news for you.
As of today, the unthinkably wealthy owner of Twitter has blocked Twitter users from liking, sharing, and commenting on Substack posts. This means that literally hundreds of independent climate publications like HEATED can no longer effectively share their work on Twitter because of Musk—who seemingly only did this out of retribution after Substack launched a Twitter-like feature of its own.
It’s hard to describe how devastating this new policy could be for independent climate writers on Substack. Twitter has historically been one of the most effective platforms for getting climate publications off the ground. HEATED is a shining example of that: When I launched this newsletter in 2019, I almost exclusively used Twitter to grow its audience. I did that because Twitter’s algorithm made it easy for climate-concerned users to find and share my climate-focused articles.
Now, not only has Musk made it almost impossible for climate-concerned Twitter users to find climate articles from Substack, he’s made it hard for them to find climate articles at all. Last week, Musk posted part of the source code for Twitter’s algorithm, which revealed that Twitter de-prioritizes tweets that include links to other websites. So even if you don’t have a Substack, Twitter has become a less effective place to share articles.
Musk’s new policy will, of course, harm more than just climate-focused publications and readers. But its stifling effect on climate information is worth highlighting on its own, given the media’s love of portraying Musk as a climate champion. We tried to throw some cold water on that portrayal back in the early days of Musk’s Twitter takeover, noting that his public advocacy for a Republican government would undo any climate gains made by his electric vehicle and clean energy company, Tesla.
In the months since then, the climate case against Musk has only gotten stronger, as he’s continued to dismantle the site that researchers have demonstrated is an essential tool for studying, fighting, and responding in real time to climate change. For what it’s worth, Musk also recently mocked the Biden administration for daring to tweet about climate change during the Silicon Valley Bank meltdown. Multitasking: the horror!
The good news is that Musk’s ban on Substack links doesn’t seem to be working on HEATED, at least for now. A few hours ago, I tweeted our November article outlining the climate case against Musk, and people were able to like and share it. This is likely because our domain name doesn't include the word "Substack" (I bought an original domain name when I started HEATED).
But given Musk’s Trump-like love for making huge decisions in the name of retribution without regard for how those decisions affect other people, I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes in the coming weeks. Banning links with the word “Substack” in them is easy, low-hanging fruit. Banning links that are routed from Substack but don’t contain the word “Substack” is a bit harder, but I’m sure they’ll figure out how to do it eventually.
We’ve seen the implosion of Twitter as a marketing platform coming for awhile. That’s why we’ve been experimenting with other ways to spread HEATED’s articles, so we can keep attracting readers who will choose to support our journalism.
We’re doing OK on that front: we have nearly 10,000 followers on Instagram, and over 1,000 on TikTok. But if my experience is any indication, it’s going to take a little while to make those platforms truly effective. With Twitter, it took me about 10 years. I’m pretty sure I can make it a bit shorter than that, but it’s not going to happen overnight.
I wish we didn’t have to rely on superficial algorithms to spread HEATED’s journalism. But this is how we keep it going. And if Musk’s policy winds up affecting HEATED in the future, we will completely lose our number one source of readers who fund this publication.
This is why I am asking for your help. The more people who choose to support this publication financially, the less I have to worry about the whims of right-wing billionaires, and the more time I have to actually do the work of holding those billionaires accountable.
So if you have the resources, and you value this publication’s reporting, I hope you will consider joining our paid subscriber community. Your subscription helps us invest in alternative growth strategies—but more importantly, to produce more groundbreaking accountability journalism and analysis.
In conclusion: fuck Elon Musk.
Have a great weekend.