You might think a social network acquired by an egomaniac billionaire that has become unsustainable after advertisers collectively ditched it would be playing nicely with others in the hope of repairing its utterly destroyed reputation.
You would be wrong.
Elon has now banned most journalists writing for major platforms that have written anything critical of his behaviour. He has also banned Ukrainian journalists of note reporting from inside Ukraine about Russian military crimes and misdemeanours.
Overnight, the administration team at Twitter classified all external links to Mastodon as malware.
If you’ve not heard of it, Mastodon is a viable community-led alternative to Twitter with no advertising, no algorithmic timeline, and a growing network of servers all over the world supporting communities, interests, groups and individuals. It champions free speech and transparency. Perhaps crucially Mastodon servers are funded by the community, for the community.
The emergence of Twitter, its evolution, and now its destruction have been interesting to witness. When the founders built it back in 2006, they didn’t set out to become “the world’s town square”, but that’s what it became.
Of course in the real world you don’t get kicked out of the town square for saying the wrong thing about the wrong person. You also don’t get your mouth taped up if you think about saying something about a given subject – or talking about another town nearby.
Perhaps as time goes by the global community will realise how well the original founders of Twitter did. With no guidebook, and no past experience they crafted a global communication platform where for the most part people were equal. In the early days it fell over. A lot. In recent years it’s been the source of breaking news all over the world – war, unrest, exploitation, racism, injustice – spread around the globe in minutes.
That’s all coming to an end – for Twitter.
An exodus has been happening. A huge variety of interesting, introspective, thoughtful communicators are re-surfacing on Mastodon – people from all walks of life, leaving the mayhem behind and starting anew.
Of course it’s not all plain sailing. Those helping to run Mastodon servers face the same problems Twitter faced a decade ago. While most people think “what can I do for others”, there will always be a minority that think “what can everybody do for me”. Dealing with a vocal, reactive, toxic minority has been one of the most intractable problems for the internet from the beginning.
Perhaps the end of Twitter serves as a “teachable moment”. A moment where we are reminded that once people have tasted freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of information, they will react badly to any potential curbs to those freedoms.
The genie is out of the bottle.