(TL;DR - I'm not leaving Twitter, but I'll be on it less. You can find me here: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Last night was an interesting night.
Last night, Elon Musk completed the purchase of Twitter. As someone who has researched radicalism and extremism in online spaces, I've been following the potential acquisition closely. I wasn't necessarily surprised with the immediate aftermath, but I was fairly surprised at just how bad it got in the hours after the acquisition went public.
One of the many, complex issues around social media is the discussion around platforming fascist, racist, homophobic or other anti-progressive content. After January 6th, Twitter and many other social media platforms learned firsthand the type of violence that can occur when fascists are allowed to congregate and plan violence and terror. They reacted by cracking down on calls to violence and issuing milquetoast statements and condemnations, a day late and a dollar short after activists, researchers and others had called for the disruption of fascist propaganda networks for years.
Social media is not built to withstand fascist creep. If anything, it rewards it, as outrageous and controversial content often leads to longer time on site, a metric that ranks high in the minds of VC's and institutional investors. Jack Dorsey's radical free speech approach isn't, in my mind, pro-fascist... it just isn't necessarily concerned with the issue. After all, when you're a billionaire straight white dude at the helm of one of the largest tech companies in the world, why should you care?
So, when one of the few whose free speech absolutism rivals that of Jack Dorsey (sometimes) took Twitter over, someone who has played with the idea of letting Trump back on the platform, I knew that Twitter was about to go from bad to worse. Like the above Tweet, and many others, have shown, it did. Very shortly after Elon finalized the acquisition, he fired Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's now former head of legal policy, trust and safety, alongside the CEO and CFO. The latter two firings were to be expected: leak texts showed Elon didn't particularly like the CEO, and executive turnover usually follows a takeover of this nature. The firing of Vijaya Gadde, the woman who took responsibility for banning Trump from the platform, was more worrying, and in my opinion more telling of the direction that Twitter is to take in the future.
So what about the fediverse
I've been playing with moving a lot of my traditional social media presence over to the fediverse for some time. I've played around with moving to PeerTube and Mastodon but, frankly, have always been too lazy to do so. With Twitter quickly taking a nose dive, though, last night I made the decision to hop on an instance and sign up.
The fediverse is interesting. I like the federated governance model: your experience can be governed by the instance you're a member of, and you can fairly easily curate your feed without necessarily banning or suspending someone else. You can block individual users or entire instances that are particularly problematic, and instances can federate across the net based on common causes or interests. I joined an anarchist-centric instance, but there are plenty of others with different foci, and there will probably be many more in the coming days.
The idea of the fediverse is to build applications based on a central protocol that allows federated instances of different services to communicate. So I can set up a Mastodon instance for microblogging like Twitter and a PeerTube instance for video upload and streaming like YouTube, and both of them can integrate seemlessly. I can then federate my instance with another one, so if my instance is focused on infosec, I can federate it with another infosec instance as well as a general technology instance, and the videos uploaded to each one will be shared with the others. You can create a fantastic web of federated communities with shared interests and the burden of policing content on these instances are in the hands of a decentralized group of mostly volunteer administrators.
I'm not going to say it's going to be the thing that beats Twitter and Facebook. I'm not going to say the fediverse as an idea is going to "win", whatever that means. I will say that Twitter is about to get significantly less usable, especially for those of us that are fairly political and generally leftist. I'll be sticking around on the platform, but I won't likely be using it near as much. I just honestly don't feel like dealing with what Twitter is likely to become, and I think the fediverse is an incredibly attractive potential alternative.
So, you can find me here: email@example.com.