Social media upheaval: A roundup

Social media upheaval: A roundup
Photo by Alexander Shatov / Unsplash

For followers of big tech, there have been no shortage of jaw-dropping moments over the past few weeks.


Whether you're on Twitter or checked today's headlines, you're likely aware that Twitter's leadership has begun suspending journalists at major outlets. How the story evolved is a bit confusing so I posted some key facts on the Truth in Common community feed earlier today:

"Twitter has been banning journalists. Here are some takeaways." -- from Truth in Common digital community

Incidentally, a member of Bellingcat's Discord server fact-checked the image Elon Musk tweeted to justify suspending @ElonJet, the feed that tracked his private aircraft (was that sentence totally confusing?):

Twitter alternatives

If you're thinking about trying a different micro-blogging option, here's an excellent tutorial on how to join Mastodon, a Twitter-like platform where many in the tech community are setting up shop in case they get suspended, Twitter implodes or the experience becomes intolerable:

(Some have pushed for this article to be free but let me know if you hit the paywall, I'm happy to send it to you separately.)

To be clear: What I'm seeing is individual reporters and researchers setting up alternative accounts; organizations and media outlets appear to be staying put on Twitter, for now. Outlets are significant Twitter advertisers; organizations depend heavily on Twitter to follow reporters, partners and experts and to build thought leadership. I suggest you check in with a nonprofit like ADL, which follows social media content closely for hate speech, from time to time and see whether and when they move elsewhere.

It's also important to understand that alternatives like Mastodon are not Twitter; by most reports, Mastodon onboarding is clunky and it can be hard to find people. This great piece by The Markup – which I trust implicitly for user-friendly tech and platform news – discusses what the Mastodon user experience is like:

"Mastodon's moment" -- Julia Angwin, The Markup

Someone has even built a solution for moving your followers from Twitter to Mastodon – According to Ben Collins – a leading voice in the disinformation space who, to the outrage of many in the tech community, is temporarily suspended from NBC properties for his comments about the Musk business – it works. Of course, it could be a data-gathering or malware scheme. Who knows?

Here's what Musk's policies have ushered in

An example of the crap that we're seeing more of, since Twitter's content moderation staff was decimated and its policies now change by the minute/without warning, is below – via tweet from the lead researcher at NYU"s Cybersecurity for Democracy:


Meta leaders, I'm sure, are thrilled that Twitter's dominating the news cycle for once given the number of lawsuits they're battling, They're being sued by the FTC over their acquisitions practices, by the DC Attorney General over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, even by Rohingya refugees over Facebook's role in the genocide there. If your interest is piqued, this podcast (or transcript) covers seven of the pending suits:

"The Sunday Show: Facebook's Legal Woes" -- Justin Hendrix, Tech Policy Press

Platforms failing to enforce their own policies

Lucky for us users, independent researchers continue to hold platforms accountable for moderating content and following their own rules. In late November, Laura Edelson's team tested how well Facebook, YouTube and TikTok had removed content containing death threats in the run-up to the midterm election. From C4D's December 8 newsletter:

"Facebook accepted 15 of the 20 political advertisements we submitted containing death threats, while YouTube and TikTok suspended our accounts for violating their policies. Read our full findings here." – Cybersecurity for Democracy's newsletter, December 8, 2022.

This is especially chilling as the researchers tested paid content, which Meta actually cares about. And the moderation team has NOT been reduced to a shadow of its former self as far as I know.

I could go on

But it's the holidays and we must shift to celebrating 🎉. And taking photos and posting them – on social media.