Elon Musk strips headlines Twitter/X links because he didn't like how they looked

Users who hate the change are already weaponizing it to troll Musk.
By Matt Binder  on 
Elon Musk on X
Elon Musk's latest (bad) idea for X: Remove headlines and other context from links that are shared on the platform. Credit: Harun Ozalp/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Another day, another Elon Musk-requested change to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that everyone seemingly hates.

On Wednesday evening, users of the Musk-owned social media platform started to notice a change to the way links were displayed in posts. X now completely strips all headlines and subheader text from the embed card that shows up when a user shares a link. The platform now simply shows the header image, with just the domain displayed in a watermark-like overlay on the lower left hand corner.

To get more to the point: X users no longer see any context regarding, say, what the article they are about to click is even about, unless it's addedd in the text by the poster.

Fortune reporter Kylie Robison, who first reported about X's internal plans to make this change back in August, posted a side-by-side comparison showing how links were displayed on X previously and how they are being shown now in order to illustrate the change.

The directive to remove all context from a link posted to X came directly from Musk. We know because Musk himself took responsibility for the idea in response to Robison's article back in August.

"This is coming from me directly," Musk posted two months ago. "Will greatly improve the esthetics."

Many X users do not agree. The decision to remove all context from links has been widely criticized on the platform. 

Some users have decided to show their disapproval for the new format by weaponizing it in an effort to troll Musk and demonstrate how the change makes it much easier to spread disinformation on the platform. These users have been sharing links so that the header image from the article shows up as per the new format, and then have been adding fake headlines of their own in the post — because, again, X is no longer displaying the actual headlines attached to the link.

According to Fortune's Robison, users aren't the only ones who hate the change. X employees hate it too.

"A source at X/Twitter told me that staff really hate this update," Robison posted. "Source added that it also makes very little sense because leadership wants users to stay on the app but this getting people to leave unintentionally (clicking link thinking its an image)."

Just days ago, Musk confirmed that the platform limits the reach of posts that include links, which might explain his attitude towards the link change.

"Our algorithm tries to optimize time spent on X, so links don’t get as much attention, because there is less time spent if people click away," he posted.

As for Musk's reaction towards the critiques, Musk is beginning to defend his decision against those.

Aaron Levie, CEO of the cloud storage company Box, shared in a post on X that he didn't like the link change and that it "makes Twitter far worse for its primary value prop of getting news quickly." 

"Hope they undo it," Levie posted.

Musk soon replied that Levie's opinion on his X experience, which he went on to explain in even further detail in a follow-up post, was actually the result of him "believing the media."

"Really Aaron, really?" Musk posted. "You actually believe the media … wow. Show me a screenshot of before and after and tell me which one is better. Actually."

Musk's response makes sense when considering that this change most directly affects news media, historically an industry that makes up one of the platform's biggest user bases. Also, a user base whom Musk has also been openly hostile to since acquiring Twitter.

Just in the past week alone, Musk has posted multiple times about his dislike for the media.

"I don’t read the legacy media propaganda much anymore," he posted on September 29. "It’s a waste of time and a sadness generator. Just get my news from X – much more immediate, has actual world-class subject matter experts and tons of humor. Sooo much better!"

"I almost never read legacy news anymore," he said in a post on October 3. "What’s the point of reading 1000 words about something that was already posted on 𝕏 several days ago?"

"Traffic to legacy media websites keeps declining, while X rises," he said on October 4.

And, of course, let's not forget this meme that Musk posted at the beginning of the month.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to escape the link display change. Users who haven't updated their iOS or Android app may still see links displayed with headlines, depending on what version of the app that they have.

X users who browse via the web, the latest mobile app, or the platform's desktop applications appear to be completely out of luck as the company has rolled out the change there. 

Some are finding other workarounds. The Browser Company CEO Josh Miller shared that their web browser, Arc MAX, provides a full webpage preview when a user hovers over the new link display on X, which will provide the context now stripped from the social media platform.

Besides the workarounds, it seems the change is here to stay. That is, unless Musk comes up with yet another way to display links that is more pleasing to his eyes.

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