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In Latest Attack on Journalism, Musk Removes Headlines From Posts on “X”

Since buying the platform last year, Musk has made the site increasingly hostile to journalists.

Elon Musk speaks as he visits the Vivatech technology startups and innovation fair at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, on June 16, 2023.

Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, has removed headlines from article previews in posts on the platform, placing a huge barrier on access to news and information from media outlets in the right-wing billionaire’s latest attack on journalism.

For many users, links to news articles on the website now look similar to a post with an image attached, but with small text showing the domain of the linked article in the bottom left corner. Users can still access the article by clicking on the image, but the headlines and subheadlines are now stripped from the preview, rendering many posts from news outlets, journalists, and other users confusing and without context.

Non-news websites are also affected by the change, but advertisements are still appearing in the old format, some reports have found.

Musk wrote on the platform on Tuesday that the company is trying to capture users’ attention and take traffic away from other sites, and is encouraging users to instead “post content in long form on this platform” — something that only users who pay for the subscription service can do.

This would take attention away from reputable news outlets with professional reporting, and move it onto X, where right-wing users have been heavily amplified and disinformation is rampant.

For now, journalists are figuring out ways around the change, like posting a screenshot of the article headline and subheadline and including the link in the post text. But the platform is becoming increasingly hostile to journalists after once being a valuable resource for reporters, news outlets, political organizers, and other users looking for trustworthy information before Musk took over one year ago.

Musk has been teasing the change for months, and claims that it is for aesthetic purposes. “This is coming from me directly,” he tweeted in August.

Experts have cast doubt on that claim. “Although Elon Musk has framed this as a decision informed by aesthetic considerations, it can be seen as part of a larger trend toward making Twitter/X more difficult for news organizations to use,” Cardiff University journalism professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen told The Washington Post. “It is likely to have a significant adverse impact on click-through rates, because platform users will no longer have the necessary context to understand the content of links — and therefore little reason to click on them.”

Musk has spent the last year gutting the platform, making major changes that have affected journalists’ and news outlets’ ability to operate and connect with audiences. He has removed the feature that enabled users to verify their identities, which was once useful for determining reputable sources for news. The platform now prioritizes engagement with posts, something that news outlets struggled with even before Musk took over and that is easily exploitable by bad actors and right-wing disinformation peddlers.

The right-wing billionaire, who said this week that he “almost never read[s] legacy news anymore,” has also spent a considerable amount of time feuding with and demonizing the media directly. In April, he picked a public fight with NPR, calling for it to be defunded after the website, then known as Twitter, misleadingly labeled the outlet as “state-affiliated media.” That same month, he removed the verification check of The New York Times after calling it “propaganda” for the false belief that the news outlet is biased against the right.

These personal disagreements seem to be governing many decisions when it comes to the way the social media platform serves users content. In August, the website briefly throttled traffic to websites that Musk had previously singled out as competitors or simply outlets he didn’t like, including Facebook, Instagram, Substack and Bluesky as well as Reuters and The New York Times.

As Musk makes increasingly desperate moves to regain the revenue he’s lost, users have observed other changes, like posts about breaking news no longer being served on feeds in favor of posts with more engagement — changes that some observers have said may be signaling the end of the platform as a useful tool for journalism.

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