Elon Musk Tweeted DMs With Twitter Files Writer Amid Substack Spat

Elon Musk appears to be unhappy that Substack plans to launch its own potentially competing platform called Notes, and that has led to a confusing and somewhat bizarre public spat with one of the so-called Twitter Files writers, Matt Taibbi. Keeping track of the drama is getting difficult as the absurdity level increases, but the short version is that Substack announced Notes on April 5, describing it as a platform that will enable content creators to share short-form posts. Screenshots shared by Substack indicate the platform may be a direct Twitter competitor, though the company says it isn't. 

The day after that, Twitter suddenly turned on Substack and flagged links to the platform as possible spam, among other things. It was hard to interpret the move as anything more than petty retaliation for the company's decision to launch Notes. Following some claims made by Musk and confusion expressed by Substack leadership, Twitter reverted the changes on Sunday. However, amid all of this, Musk has been in a semi-public quibble with Taibbi, who has his own Substack newsletter — and who, the day after Twitter's restriction, said he was leaving the platform in favor of Notes.

Musk tweeted and then deleted DMs with Taibbi

In a tweet about the apparent Substack restriction on April 8, Elon Musk said, among other things, "turns out Matt is/was an employee of Substack," though it's unclear what he was trying to imply with that statement. Fast-forward two days, and in response to a tweet posted in a conversation thread under Michael Shellenberger — also a Twitter Files writer — Musk shared a couple of screenshots of DMs he had exchanged with Taibbi. In them, Taibbi described himself as a Substack employee, to which Musk asked if he was, in fact, an employee, prompting clarification from Taibbi, who said he is loyal to Substack and that his subscribers over there are collectively his "employer."

Musk has since deleted the screenshots, though there's no shortage of criticism over his decision to share them publicly in the first place. Meanwhile, Musk claimed in a tweet posted in the conversation on Monday that Substack was "illegally downloading vast amounts of data to pre-populate their Twitter clone," blaming the temporary restrictions on that. For its part, Substack publicly thanked Twitter for reversing its actions, noting in a separate tweet that it doesn't consider its upcoming Notes platform a direct Twitter competitor.