The short message service X (formerly Twitter) has for days delayed calls to various media and social networks by seconds via its own URL shortener t.co. The Washington Post first reported that the behavior was discovered by an anonymous user of the Hacker News platform. According to this, it took almost five seconds for links to the New York Times, Reuters and the platforms Facebook, Instagram, Bluesky and Substack to be opened. heise online was able to reproduce the strikingly consistent pause of around 4.5 seconds; links to other news sites in the USA, but also to heise.de, for example, were not affected. X has confirmed to Reuters that the delay has been removed.
No explanation from X
If links are shared on Twitter, they are automatically shortened to a length of two dozen characters by the short URL service t.co. Twitter has explained that this protects users from malicious sites because shortened links are checked against a list of such sites in order to issue a warning if necessary. In the case of certain sites against which the new owner of X (formerly Twitter) harbors personal grudges, this detour was apparently used to build in a delay. If you opened such links, it took about five seconds until they were really loaded. In the meantime, some of the readership may have lost interest again.
The behavior was discovered by a Hacker News user who says he has been observing it since August 4th. After he posted it on the platform, others were able to recreate it, including the New York Times and Reuters, whose links were affected. In the meantime, the delay has apparently been removed, only links to the blog platform Substack, which competes with X, and to the Twitter alternative, Threads, now have a repeatable delay of 2.7 seconds. Only fractions of a second are normal. So far, there has been no explanation for the behavior from either X or Elon Musk himself, but the removal of the delay has been confirmed, writes Reuters.
If it is indeed a deliberate delay at the expense of news sites and some competitors, it would not be the first time that Musk has changed his platform’s technology for personal feuds. Since the winter, links to competitors on Twitter have been completely blocked several times, and Substack was also affected. Musk has also repeatedly attacked media such as the New York Times, most recently for the newspaper’s coverage of a dispute in his native South Africa. He proved that the billionaire does not shy away from making changes to the platform itself when he had various public broadcasters defamed as state media and equated with propaganda channels in China.
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