Now, at a geopolitical inflection not seen since the fall of the Berlin Wall, all that is gone. Updates are delayed, scattered, and unreliable. "Verified" accounts are just every slack-jawed yahoo with $8 to burn and no professional or reputational incentives for accuracy. 2/
— Patrick S. Tomlinson (@stealthygeek) June 24, 2023
I want to thank all the $8 fauxticks for coming out of your fever swamps to flood the replies and prove exactly what I said beyond any doubt. You crushed it. Great teamwork, everyone.
— Patrick S. Tomlinson (@stealthygeek) June 25, 2023
For all its myriad, very obvious flaws, Twitter has been enormously useful — for one thing, I’d never have been able to produce the Daily Covid Update posts without it. And until there’s a single-source platform where all the ‘real’ news media and actual scientists gather that also has an efficient embed function WordPress can handle, there won’t be a viable replacement for Original (pre-Elon) Twitter… not for me, and not for a great many other people.
Have been meaning to front-page this very worthwhile article since Satby sent me a link, but there’s never been the time and the space…
The Sabotage of Twitter Is a Disaster for Democracy
I wrote about Musk’s destruction of the virtual public square – and what democracy is losing: pic.twitter.com/hALOCKzYk8
— Thomas Zimmer (@tzimmer_history) April 23, 2023
… An egomaniacal rightwing billionaire taking over a social media company and running it into the ground – does that matter? Unfortunately, it does. Because no amount of snark or schadenfreude will change the fact that the Twitter situation is a disaster for democracy. There are some real stakes here. Twitter has always been a mess. But it’s also, at its best, been a crucial instrument to democratize the political and cultural discourse – and in that sense, help democratize America.
There are two distinct, but intertwined issues here: There is the fact that a tech oligarchy, animated by an inherently anti-democratic worldview, holds so much power; and there is, more specifically, the deliberate dismantling of what used to be the world’s most important political communications platform…
Twitter established a conversation between journalists, politicians, and public figures who are shaping the public imaginary with people who would otherwise never have had access to those levels of influence. For instance, Twitter allowed people from the academic world to share with a broader audience what they think and observe – and thereby inject their analysis and commentary into the public debate to an entirely unprecedented degree (yes, that’s people like me, a historian from Germany who, four years ago, was sitting on the other side of the Atlantic with almost zero connections outside German academia and no public platform at all).
Most importantly, Twitter has been instrumental in amplifying the voices and demands of traditionally marginalized groups. That’s where it really demonstrated its democratizing potential. Much of the moral panic over “cancel culture” – which animated Musk to buy Twitter in the first place – is a reaction to precisely this: Traditionally marginalized groups have gained enough influence and have acquired the technological means to affect the political debate.
Twitter has been crucial in this uphill struggle of traditionally marginalized groups finally making their demands heard, being able to extract a political cost for certain discriminatory speech and behavior: a tool for organizing, a platform, a global amplifier. It has enabled people with absolutely no traditional access to power, no powerful institutions to back them up, to speak to elites directly, criticize them in the public square. How valuable this has been is evidenced by the fact that many of those elites are so consistently bemoaning “persecution” – and, like Musk, wish to sabotage and destroy this instrument for public criticism. To the extent that traditional societal elites – and elite white men, in particular – face a little more scrutiny today than in the past, that they have been deprived of their supposed “right” to unquestioned deference and affirmation, Twitter has helped democratize public life.
Losing this hurts – it will hurt the attempts to finally make America live up to the promise of egalitarian multiracial pluralism, to become the democracy it never has been yet. It is a massive failure of those elected to safeguard democracy that they have seemingly cared little about this…
I am, however, also still on Twitter (although far less active than before). Why? Basically, as I see it, the alternative to Twitter, as of right now, is not “All the good, none of the bad” – it is “Less of the bad, a lot less of the good.” There is a real cost to every option still left on the table. Which is why it’s best not to lecture anyone. There are certainly very good reasons to leave Twitter behind. But I am over there not for entertainment, but for work – and Twitter still offers a lot I can get nowhere else.
For everything I do, for my own understanding of the world, I need not only the thoughts and ideas of people with whom I’m mostly familiar. I need exposure to new, challenging perspectives. At its best, Twitter has been an excellent tool for providing that. No other place offers the kind of diverse input I used to get there – information, analysis, perspective. No other place can, as of yet, provide the kind of platform for any output that results from my work.
It’s not just about my output, of course. Some of the smartest, most incisive analysis I have encountered is coming from writers, academics, and activists who a) have no or little traditional platform (through a big institution) and b) depend on Twitter to find an audience. I fully understand why people want to be done with Twitter. But let’s at least remember that the livelihoods of some really important voices out there depend on the community and platform they have built there. Once that’s gone, they simply won’t be able to keep doing their thing. In effect, many of those voices and perspectives from outside established institutions are going to perish because they won’t be able to make the transition and build anew in time. And this will disproportionately affect people who happen to be not white men. I have learned so very much from perspectives to which I would have never been exposed without Twitter. Where is that going to come from? Because if it’s not coming, my own analysis and politics will be so much worse.
I worry that we are going back to what it was like before. It was significantly less diverse, less interesting, less innovative, less daring, less challenging, less smart. It was worse…
It takes real skills to build (or maintain) something, Mr. Musk; but any two-year-old can break stuff…
Elon Musk previously said he'd make exceptions for automated accounts like these
read more on which accounts & what's happening:https://t.co/QhCh4iTlTA
— Matt Binder (@MattBinder) June 24, 2023
killing them off in an attempt to monetize them is absolutely insane, like buying central park and bulldozing all the trees because they won't pay rent
— flglmn (@flglmn) June 26, 2023
It is crazy that in less than a year a blue checkmark went from something that suggested someone was notable in some way to being a 95% chance that the person in question lacks object permanence pic.twitter.com/h5uAIouVwJ
— Ed Zitron (@edzitron) June 26, 2023