Elon Musk and one of his “Twitter Files” writers, Matt Taibbi, don’t seem to be on great terms right now, and that situation probably isn’t getting any better after Musk posted then deleted a DM conversation between the two of them.

Let me try to recap how we got to this point. I’m warning you now that it’s a bit of a mess.

Taibbi, given access to Twitter information from Musk, published the first of many editions of the so-called “Twitter Files” that Musk believed would be a shocking exposé of former leadership.Taibbi also publishes Racket News, a Substack-based publication with more than 362,000 subscribers. On Wednesday, Substack announced a Twitter-like product called “Notes.”Late in the week, Twitter started restricting tweets with Substack URLs, severely limiting how many Substack writers can promote their work on Twitter. Friday afternoon, Taibbi said he was told Twitter’s restrictions were due to “a dispute over the new Substack Notes platform.” He did not specify who gave him that information. He also said he planned to move to Notes. On Saturday, Musk claimed that Taibbi “is / was an employee of Substack,” which isn’t true. (Musk also claimed that Substack was “trying to download a massive portion of the Twitter database to bootstrap their Twitter clone,” which Substack’s CEO says isn’t true.)On Sunday, Substack said that “the suppression of Substack publications on Twitter appears to be over.”Monday evening, in an entirely separate thread with another Twitter Files writer, Michael Shellenberger, Musk shared his DMs with Taibbi as evidence of information that needed to be corrected in an article by another author. The DMs appear to show Taibbi explaining his relationship with Substack.Those DMs are now deleted, but we saved them, if you want to look:

Image: Elon Musk, in a now-deleted tweet

Image: Elon Musk, in a now-deleted tweet

Musk, in what appears to be a Signal chat, asks Taibbi: “You are employed at Substack?” Taibbi explains that his subscribers pay him and that he was one of the first “Substack Pro” writers, who were given an upfront payment for a year in return for giving Substack 85 percent of subscription revenue. Taibbi also asks if Twitter will fix an issue where his Twitter Files threads were being deleted, and Musk says that will happen.

You can see where the DMs were removed by scrolling up this thread or from the tweet below, where Musk claims that Substack was “illegally downloading vast amounts of data to pre-populate their Twitter clone.” (Best denied a similar claim over the weekend.)

Ultimately, the DMs aren’t that salacious. But it’s a worrying sign that Musk, the most-followed person on Twitter, is willing to just post what Taibbi likely expected to be private conversations. It’s also a curious wrinkle on Musk’s stated aim to make Twitter DMs encrypted. Encryption isn’t as useful for anyone who DMs him if he might just post a screenshot of the conversation anyway. On the other hand, it would mean that even the owner of Twitter can’t just peek into your private messages to grab material for his next thread.

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