Twitter now disables likes, replies and retweets if a tweet has Substack links

Authors trying to embed tweets in their Substack stories get a rude surprise: after pasting a link to the site, a message pops up saying “Twitter has unexpectedly restricted access to embed tweets in Substack- post”[ads1]; and explains that the company is working on a fix.

After these reports emerged, between Thursday night and Friday morning, Twitter apparently began restricting advertising and visibility of tweets with links to Substack posts. New tweets linking directly to can still be tweeted, but trying to retweet or like those tweets via Twitter’s website results in an error message saying, “Some actions on this tweet have been disabled by Twitter,” while doing the same from within the apps or TweetDeck seem to work while failing silently.

The founders of Substack Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie and Jairaj Seth provided the following statement to The Verge in response:

We are disappointed that Twitter has chosen to limit authors’ ability to share their work. Authors deserve the freedom to share links on Substack or elsewhere. This abrupt change is a reminder of why writers deserve a model that puts them above responsibility, that rewards great work with money, and that protects the free press and free speech. Their livelihood should not be tied to platforms where they do not own the relationship with the audience, and where the rules can be changed at a whim.

The Twitter error message appears when you try to interact with a tweet that has a link to Substack.
Image: Twitter / The Verge

Trying to reply to a tweet with a Substack link causes another error, which reads: “Something went wrong, but don’t worry – let’s try again.” There are some new tweets we’ve found that link to Substacks that don’t show this error, but it seems that several authors have started working around the problem by obfuscating their links with redirection services like ShortURL to avoid Twitter blocking.

The unfortunate situation comes on the heels of Substack announcing Notes, a Twitter competitor.

There are no public statements about the issue from Twitter or its owner/CEO Elon Musk; However, it is a reminder of the day in mid-December when Twitter temporarily blocked links to all competitors, such as Instagram, Facebook and Mastodon. Before you lift the ban, Musk tweeted that “Twitter should be easy to use, but no more relentless free advertising from competitors. No traditional publisher allows this, and neither will Twitter.”

The problem of embedding tweets in Substack posts can cause problems for writers who want to talk about what’s happening with Twitter in their newsletters or about things that happen on the platform. While screenshots of tweets can work in some cases, they are less reliable because they do not provide a direct link to the source. Screenshots also won’t help you if you’re trying to embed, say, a video that someone posted on Twitter. (And Twitter seems to be at least somewhat interested in becoming a video platform, given that several blue-chip benefits are tied to making the video upload experience better.)

As an example of how useful embedding tweets can be, here’s Substack’s official announcement that it’s looking into the issues:

When I asked Substack spokesperson Helen Tobin on Thursday if the problems with embedding tweets were caused by changes to Twitter’s API, she didn’t comment, instead sharing the same statement tweeted by the company. If they are, however, it would be far from the only platform affected by Twitter’s new API policies, which were announced a week ago.

Since then, various companies have notified users that they will have to cut off or wall off certain features that interacted with Twitter, and many people who have been running bots on the platform have posted about how they can no longer post like they used to. Here are some of the apps and bots that have been broken:

  • Feedbin’s developer was told the app “violated Twitter’s rules and guidelines” by allowing people to access tweets in their RSS reader. Another RSS app, Inoreader, got the same message.
  • TweetShift, a Discord bot that lets you interact with Twitter via the chat app, says it was “accidentally suspended from the Twitter API” on Wednesday.
  • TweeseCake and TWBlue, apps meant to create Twitter easier to use for blind usersis no longer works (at least on some platforms).
  • Several news bots, such as today’s gender and Possum every hourhas warned users that they may no longer be able to continue posting.
  • Botmaking tool Cheap Bots, Done Quick var suspended from Twitter API, with developer V Buckenham, who was asked in an email to sign up for one of the company’s new API levels. This will almost certainly destroy other robots that were created using the tool.

Buckenham told The Verge that the email was the only communication they had received from Twitter about the suspension and that they did not expect anything to change until the end of April based on the company’s statement that it would terminate old accounts “within the next 30 days”. “I’ll admit, I expected it to be a speed limit, not the API key that was revoked, though,” they said, before adding, “But overall, I’m not surprised that Twitter’s changes are rolling out unpredictably.”

Some developers have dismissed the new API plans as prohibitively expensive. The “Basic” tier costs $100 a month and allows your app to post a maximum of 50,000 tweets per month (with a limit of 3,000 tweets per month per user) and read 10,000 tweets per month. It’s a free tier, but it only lets you write tweets, don’t read them. It would not be useful for e.g The wire reader bot which makes rows of posts on the site easier to read.

The API transition has been bumpy, even for those who seem to be in Twitter’s good graces. Earlier this week, WordPress’ API access was suspended, preventing users from automatically sharing posts to the platform. The company was eventually able to get it restored and says it will “work directly with Twitter to ensure this service continues to run without interruption.”

There are several tools that integrate Twitter such as do still works. Embeds still work in Ghost, a blogging platform similar to Substack, as well as in The Vergeits content management system (of course). However, if these tools rely on API access to function, it’s possible that there could be problems going forward as Twitter continues to deprecate access to it.

None of this will necessarily be a surprise to those who remember how Twitter treated third-party clients. In January, the company quietly cut off their API access before rewriting the rules to ban them nearly a week later.

Update 10:50 a.m. ET: Added details on Twitter blocking of Substack links as well as workarounds.

Update 11:26 a.m. ET: Added response from the Substack founders.

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