In April, the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink bought several shares in, and then proposed a deal to buy, Twitter, which they agreed to. Elon Musk attempted to withdraw from the deal in June, citing Twitter’s bot problem, but he was already in a contract, so the company sued him about a month or two later. In the end, Musk took the deal unwillingly and as of October 28, he is in full control of the company.
Here are some key takeaways:
- Musk entered Twitter HQ holding a sink (pictured above).
- He immediately fired several executives, and shortly after that laid off a large swath of Twitter’s workforce– then asked some of them to come back.
- The company’s PR department was dissolved.
- Users and app developers are flocking to a federating, FOSS1 alternative, Mastodon.
Liars Hiding Behind “Free Speech” Rejoice
“The bird is freed,” Musk tweeted on October 28. The bold dream, and false claim, of free speech is one of many issues plaguing the social media industry, which has been the biggest claim of websites like Gab, Parler, and Truth Social2. These platforms are sometimes ironically quick to ban people who disagree with them. Hate speech and outright misinformation often runs under the banner of “free speech.”
Hateful content is something advertisers are not happy to associate with. Several have stopped buying ad spaces from Twitter, which relies on these companies for its revenue.
On Saturday, November 19, Elon Musk polled Twitter on whether Donald Trump’s Twitter account should be reinstated. Shortly after, the account reappeared, and Musk announced, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” which is Latin for “the voice of the people [is] the voice of God.”
Amid the changes in management and ensuing dumpster fire, many users fled Twitter, finding new homes on Mastodon. Over 70,000 new users registered across the network, including at least 929 journalists.
The German government has created a closed-registration instance of their own at https://social.bund.de, and the European Union has a slightly-less-closed-registration server at https://social.network.europa.eu. You can follow the official government accounts hosted at these instances from any server which speaks ActivityPub (which Mastodon does), and you know it’s an official account because it’s on an official website with limited registration.
Some former (and maybe some current) Twitter employees have started the Mastodon instance https://macaw.social.
Recently, it was reported that Twitter stopped users from making posts including “joinmastodon.com”. It reportedly hosted spam in the past, and is not the official project website; that is actually “joinmastodon.org”.
I wrote an article several years ago about “the Fediverse,” the sphere of connected servers which use a protocol called ActivityPub, which include servers like Mastodon and Pixelfed. I linked to several ways you can join the Fediverse.
I have had a personal Mastodon account for a while already at @[email protected]. Posts are also visible from my personal website, blakes.dev. Misintelligence does not yet have a Mastodon account, but please tell me if you are interested.
A few hours later, Eric Frohnhoefer was locked out of his company-issued Macbook. This was after an exchange on Twitter in which Frohnhoefer publicly debunked Musk’s claims about why the Android app is currently being slow.
In a spectacular display of late-stage capitalism in action, a false Eli Lilly posted a tweet claiming “insulin is free now.” The Twitter Blue verification feature prompted impersonation galore, with paid verification on impersonated accounts like this one causing the value of companies like Lockheed Martin to plummet.
There was even a “verified” Tesla parody account.
(If you find this kind of brand impersonation entertaining, follow some of the accounts on brands.town!)
Twitterific, Tweetbot, and Other Third-Party Apps Break
At first, people would evoke Hanlon’s Razor, “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” However, it was discovered by The Information that it was truly malice, although we’re not quite sure who’s to blame yet. According to internal communications which The Information acquired, a senior engineer at the social media company said that the “Third-party app suspensions are intentional.” The article shares that they are looking for “approved talking points,” although this is taking longer than it should to express what we already know: that third-party apps are dead. I anticipate they’re looking for an excuse, however it is not going to be reversed, and third party developers have given up on developing their apps for the platform. It is unclear at this time if the automated posting services used by influencers are affected, except for Tweetdeck, which is still working.
Free (as in freedom) and Open Source Software, a licensing model under which users are permitted to read and use an app’s source code, and modify the software as they see fit. Different licenses have different permissions, including forbidding commercial use or requiring any modified software to use the same license. Read more about free software and open source, or look at the Mastodon source code! ↩
Most of these platforms are, in fact, forks of Mastodon. Gab’s source code does appear to be accessible, while Truth Social’s isn’t– which led to this legal threat from the platform’s lead developer. ↩