Dogwhistles and birdsites and walled gardens, oh my!

The phrase that bothers me personally about Elon Musk buying Twitter is "softening content moderation".

We don’t really know if Musk is more like Tony Stark or Lex Luthor [1]. So we don’t know whether "softening moderation" was meant as a dogwhistle to the extremists and crazies. (Though they’re almost guaranteed to interpret it as having free reign.)

In any community, moderation is absolutely vital, particularly when you have the ability to be anonymous. Without moderation, it is the people who shout the most often and loudest that dominate the conversation.

The larger the community, the more difficult the moderation and the more likely that the bad parts are going to be worse.

It’s just numbers. 10% of 5 people, it doesn’t exist. 10% of 10 people, that’s one person being a jerk. 10% of 100 people, that’s 10 jerks.

Let me be clear: when I say "jerks", I don’t just mean "people who disagree with me". There’s hard-to-stamp down absolutely batshit levels of behavior that are currently going on at the birdsite. I am talking about truly horrific levels of evil. Things that I have a hard time believing are real, except I’ve seen it. [2]

And those absolutely evil actors are still around on the birdsite the way the moderation exists now.

But it’s not just those absolutely evil actors that are a problem. It’s the garden-variety kind of trolls, the racists, the misogynists, the bigots all shouting their bile that has already turned people away from Twitter. Remember what happened almost instantly with Parler and Gab?

So that phrase has me concerned.

The phrase that bothers me professionally about Elon Musk buying Twitter is… everything.

For those of us who are creators, the warning signs have been there for a while now. Algorithms have a use case, sure, but they’re also being used to ensure that you buy advertising from the platform. Making it harder to share things may have slowed the spread of disinformation, but they also make it more difficult for small folks to be creators on these platforms. We’re meant to simply be consumers. And when your livelihood is in part based with reaching your audience, it’s disturbing when you can find yourself banned (and reinstated) for never-explained reasons, or without even telling you what was problematic.

All those are reasons why I have my own website. My own RSS feeds. And so on. If you rely on a business to handle your online activity, then you’re at the mercy of that business.

Both of those concerns are why I joined the Fediverse (specifically, Mastodon).

I started with federated social media four years ago ( @[email protected] ) and quite enjoy it. It’s strange, it’s weird, it’s genuine.

If you’re deciding to join the Fediverse, a couple of tips from other people (images should have alt text, and the images have links to go to the specific toot):

Hello%2C new users of the %23fediverse%3A%0A%0AYou%27re probably wondering how to find people to interact with in Fedi. On the right-hand side of your screen there are links to the Local timeline and the Federated timeline.%0A%0AThe Local timeline consists of the posts to the fedi server you%27re on in realtime. They are your fellow users wherever you are %0A%0AThe Federated timeline %28or the firehose%2C as we sometimes call it%29 is a realtime feed of all of the activity on the Fediverse that your server %28your instance%29 sees from everywhere on the Fediverse.%0A%0AThere is no rush to find people here. The Fediverse doesn%27t do content or influencing. We do community. We make friends and occasionally do weird shit.%0A%0ATake your time. You won%27t be sorry.

What is a CW and why should I use them%3F%0A%0AA CW stands for Content Warning. %0A%0AI do expect users to use these for%2C like the big things. You know%2C like sexual assault%2C graphic depictions of violence%2C transphobia in detail%2C pictures of food%2C spoilers about a movie that just came out this week and such. %0A%0ABut you don%27t have to use them only seriously%21 You can also use them for joke set ups%2C or just to make a giant rant about your fave game seem smaller.%0A%0ACWs automatically stay on posts%2C even when you add more to their thread. so you can do like a CW%27d thread about your playthrough of pokemon. Or about your cooking adventures.%0A%0AIt%27s a great tool for you to use though%2C for your ability to curate what you see. And on that note....


And even if you decide that you don’t want to join the Fediverse right now, that’s perfectly okay!

But I would ask you to consider this:
If a bunch of volunteers doing this all are able to create these kinds of features… then why don’t they exist on other kinds of social media?

Featured Photo by Christopher Ott on Unsplash

[1] And both those characters are sides of the same coin, so…
[2] Not going into detail for the sake of those already targeted by such.