Darn tootin'

Twitter under Elon Musk is fast turning into a MAGA subreddit, and the Fediverse is gaining users as a result.

I’ve been on Twitter for well over a decade. I was on Leah Culver’s Pownce first, which was similar, though better-featured, so of course it didn’t make it, and I joined Twitter in 2007.

I never gained much traction, though, and after the attraction of the new faded, my Twitter use went up and down used on how bored I was. (This was before having a family.) What got me addicted later was the "List" function, which I started using when I went back to school and ended up using Twitter as a news aggregator.

I’d make a list with a specific theme and add user accounts to it, without having to follow them and thus adding clutter to my home feed. So I could read interesting articles when I wanted to, but could have a low-key home feed with friends and familiars.

This was a pretty good situation for me as a user. And since I was a Twitter nobody, I never got embroiled in the stupid fights and takedowns either. But it was obvious that all was not well; Gamergate, that hateful far-right campaign, was a sign of things to come, and I won’t be surprised if it turns out it was orchestrated by one of the Russian troll farms as a test run. (That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of bad actors at home, of course)

But Twitter did alright, mostly. The team started moderating content to some degree, and if you were going to promote unhinged George Soros conspiracies, you would have to be a prominent right-wing user to avoid the ban hammer.

Nobody quite knows if Musk is destroying Twitter on purpose, or if he’s just flaming out spectacularly, but the signs are there. When he needed the funds to buy it, Saudi Arabia (and probably others) stepped up. Musk quickly gave Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss full access to internal documents, emails and the users’ private messages(!) in an attempt to shape a narrative that Twitter was some far-left tyranny censoring right-wingers. It seems very silly to assume Prince Bonesaw of Saudi Arabia hasen’t been handed everything Twitter has on Saudi dissidents.

Musk has also reinstated actual nazi accounts, is banning journalists for nothing more than reporting on his banning random accounts at will, and re-tooled the now for-pay blue checkmarks to get prioritized views, ensuring that hostile actors can drown out real voices with bot armies in no time. All while pushing Q-Anon/MAGA lunacy while The New York Times tries to figure out what his politics are.

The authoritarian right always hated Twitter, because it was the one online space it didn’t control outright. That has changed now. And it’s having global effects.

And so, the Fediverse beckons. I’ve been on there for a few years, but now that more users are moving in, it’s a lot more fun. Of course, it’s more of a free-for-all, and Mastodon is designed to discourage virality, which is a problem for many new users. To a certain extent, I see their point, but I also happen to think a lot of "activists" are just angry their follower numbers are down and that they don’t command the same attention there. And the lack of Quote Tweets, of course, without which journalists somehow can’t do their jobs.

I’m on my third Mastodon server now; I ended up moving to Vivaldi’s instance when they started one. I was happy with my previous home, but Vivaldi are privacy-minded and know their stuff. (I’d try to host something myself, but it’s too complicated.) I haven’t nuked my Twitter account, though. The list function is very useful, and many of those accounts haven’t moved somewhere else, so I still lurk there on occasion.

Regardless, it’s sad to watch the continuing decline of the bird site. The Internet held such promise, and it feels like we’ve squandered it. I suppose that’s why I enjoy the Fediverse; being afforded some basic level of control feels, well, healthy.