Political Commentary

Free speech distortion, cancel culture confusion

Speech or Cancel Culture At Boston University? by Ken White (The Popehat Review)

But are labor protests cancel culture now? Is not paying writers a form of controversial expression that we ought to hear out and react to with refined and well-moderated debate? Is the entire history of the American labor movement’s raucousness a history of woke censorship?


Or is that all cynical partisan bullshit, a way to delegitimize certain (usually left-leaning) political views while pretending to be noble and pro-free-speech?

I also think it’s notably obtuse for the president to act as though these students should have no say in their graduation ceremony. Inviting an anti-labor CEO in the midst of a writer’s strike is an implicit endorsement of his tactics, rubbing the graduating students’ noses in their university’s political stance, showing that they care more about the prestige of their speakers than their students’ opinions. To be forced to listen to some anti-union slimer would certainly ruin my graduation day — a day of celebration and achievement tarnished by someone who disrespects the value of work or creativity.

(via Dan the Clam Man)

Society The Internet

Controlling the information platforms, controlling the information

Liked The Corruption of Clarence Thomas & A Note on Censorship by Jared Yates Sexton (Dispatches From A Collapsing State | Jared Yates Sexton)

Musk’s control over Twitter, and now his attack on Substack, are examples of how this landscape is not only dangerous, but devastating. Control over Twitter and other social media hubs is just a proliferation of the same control over information and discourse methods that have existed all along, only now they are at the whims of individuals who can decide, on a moment’s notice, to effectively silence any critics or honest brokers standing in their way.

At every step the tech barons have shown both an eager willingness to work with authoritarians and a ceaseless desire to forward their own agendas through control of information. They censor and aid dictators and dictatorial regimes. They look the other way as dangerous actors spread disinformation designed to undermine elections, public health, and generally inform people. And now, Elon Musk’s roughshodding of Twitter has revealed what has lain at the heart of all of this all along: a system not only vulnerable to the whims of the wealthy and their agendas, but a system that designed explicitly to serve those whims.

It’s not just the Substack thing, it’s also marking NPR as government propaganda despite having full editorial freedom.

I am also concerned about LLMs concentrating the power of information in the hands of a few companies (one of which Musk has a stake in), moreso than they already are as referrers.

I’m thinking of (years ago) when Google told me they’d downrank my website because it wasn’t mobile friendly. When you get to decide where to source information, that gives you a lot of power over information and its presentation. Their YouTube algorithms already strongly control how videos are made, what they’re made about, and how they’re positioned as people try to game the algo. Then you have the development of algospeak to avoid saying words believed to be censored.

Activism Learning Society The Internet

Destroying a public good

Replied to Twitter is dying by Natasha LomasNatasha Lomas (

However if the point is simply pure destruction — building a chaos machine by removing a source of valuable information from our connected world, where groups of all stripes could communicate and organize, and replacing that with a place of parody that rewards insincerity, time-wasting and the worst forms of communication in order to degrade the better half — then he’s done a remarkable job in very short order. Truly it’s an amazing act of demolition. But, well, $44 billion can buy you a lot of wrecking balls.

That our system allows wealth to be turned into a weapon to nuke things of broad societal value is one hard lesson we should take away from the wreckage of downed turquoise feathers.

Society isn’t equipped to prevent the willful destruction of things that give power to the masses by the elites who wish to uphold the status quo.

Musk buying Twitter (with Saudi financing 😒) to drive out the libs and boost the incels is like LJ when it was taken over by the Russians to drive out the gays. The site may continue to exist, but any value it once had to society has been destroyed. Twitter will surely use the vestiges of its former power to do harm too.

Authoritarians and the wealthy will always use every tool at their disposal to suppress free speech by the masses, because it benefits us far more than it does them.

Activism Culture Featured Future Building The Internet

Defending against abuse, violence, and viewpoints of hatred

(I’m still working through this. There are good arguments on both sides.)

Tools and social norms shape the conversations and interactions people have online and on different platforms. But those inclined towards abusive behavior are less likely to either follow the rules of social norms or to allow themselves to be limited by tools; those motivated towards abuse will find ways to do harm. By limiting tools that can be used for good in hopes of quelling harmful behavior, is the damper put on positive uses greater than the reduction of harmful behavior? How much does depriving fascists of tools for virality also impact our ability to fight fascism?

The Internet

Twitter and social media commentary

Cleaning out some tabs…

To read:

The Billionaire and the Anarchists (Crimethinc) – 10/28

Elon Musk and the Narcissism/Radicalization Maelstrom (TPM) – 11/25

Genius Elon Musk is not so smart about Twitter (Mike’s List) – 12/6

There is no social media alternative (Ed Bott’s READ.ME) – 11/5

The Whiteness of Mastodon (Tech Policy Press) – 11/23

I don’t want to go back to social media (Lapcat Software) – 11/19

How to gain a gazillion followers online, Taco Bell Quarterly Style (LitHub) – 11/22

We Joined Mastodon. Here’s What We Learned About Privacy and Security (The Markup) – 11/21

OMG, a Right-Wing Jerk Can Buy Twitter! Media Concentration Matters (Counterpunch) – 12/1

There Is No Safe Alternative to Twitter (Yet) (Ginny.Today) – 5/13

How Web Platforms Collapse: The Facebook Case Study (The Honest Broker) – 12/4

It’s ok to feel sad about Twitter (Garbage Day) – 11/18

Social media is just a thing that happens (Garbage Day) – 11/9

Activism The Internet

Asserting the right to exist in public online spaces

I appreciate these arguments. The right to exist in a public space hits home with me personally as I have struggled with taking up space in the world, and have worked to feel more comfortable existing in public and asserting my needs. Ceding a platform to the racists and fascists and sexists amplifies their voices while diminishing mine, and skews the perception that there are more of them than there are.

Seeing Elon take an axe to Twitter has made me think more about what I want out of online spaces and my online experience, and grapple with the good in Twitter.

I’m still not sure *I* want to spend time on Twitter given its impact on my brain, considering I had already pulled back from using it several years ago. I also am reading The Shallows and it’s prompting a rethinking of how I read online. I’m still mulling over what serves me best: feeding my curiosity and delight with a wide array of topics that nevertheless hold little practical value and are fed to me by others, or prioritizing being more active in seeking out what to read with an emphasis on longform material that supports development of patience and deeper thought?

Culture The Internet

Twitter as representation of the relevance and value of “Word People” in oral culture


Via Lucy Bellwood.

It’s interesting to divide the internet into Word People and Image People because the Internet is a modern evolution of oral culture — and technological/bandwidth limitations have enabled text to serve as the leading means to transfer information online up till now, when more direct oral presentations (podcasts, video streaming, video) become a feasible way to distribute more of the pool of information.

I’m reading The Shallows, which highlighted our modern era of mass reading as an outlier that may fade away:

We are now seeing such reading return to its former social base: a self-perpetuating minority that we shall call the reading class.

— Griswold, McDonnell and Wright, “Reading and the Reading Class in the Twenty-First Century,” Annual Review of Sociology (2005)

They see two options for readers in society:

  • Gaining “power and prestige associated with an increasingly rare form of cultural capital”
  • Becoming culturally irrelevant and backwards with “an increasingly arcane hobby”

Recent Pew research on media trends:

Many Americans Get News on YouTube, Where News Organizations and Independent Producers Thrive Side by Side

Nearly a quarter of Americans get news from podcasts

More Americans are getting news on TikTok, bucking the trend on other social media sites

Who doesn’t read books in America?

Science Society

Twitter influences the outcomes of disasters


Using Twitter for crisis communications in a natural disaster: Hurricane Harvey — Vera-Burgos & Padgett, 2020

See also: What happens to activism after Twitter?

The Internet

Transformation and opportunity after Twitter

Liked After Twitter (

The internet’s town square should never have been one specific website with its own specific rules and incentives. It should have been, and should be, the web itself.

“Twitter was the island in the middle of the kitchen where we hung out, and now it’s a junk drawer of brands and nazis.”



[The web is] at its best when there’s a sense of community, and a community can benefit from diversity. Take risks and build something different.

(The Vaporwave)


What happens to activism after Twitter?


For all its failings, one space where Twitter has excelled is empowering activism: calling out injustice, community organizing, and on-the-ground reporting from dozens of protests at once. Conservatives bitch about their fascist tweets getting deleted and “misinformation” because they can’t tell you about “the ivermectin cure,” but what actually seems to be censored and misrepresented in mainstream press is disruptions to power: protesters are painted as looters, police spray children with tear gas at nonviolent protests, journalists get black-bagged and shot despite their press badges. I watched all this happening from afar in BLM protests around the country – these three particular instances were in Bellevue, Seattle and Portland. And the “terrifying” Capital Hill Autonomous Zone or whatever they called themselves planted a community garden in a public park — oh the atrocity! 😱 I could read and see accounts from multiple people at various protests, photos and videos from multiple angles, and read accounts from journalists at protests, and real community members could dispel fear mongering and scapegoating.

If Twitter collapses, where do we go for that kind of information?

If we didn’t have Twitter, would any of us have heard about George Floyd or Breonna Taylor?

Activism has adapted to make use of online platforms and advocate to a larger audience. I haven’t been going to protests in person, so I don’t know how essential that link is.

If Twitter collapses, what happens to the women of Iran right now?

Can federated / distributed spaces allow the kind of real-time information spread that has made Twitter invaluable for activism?

Mastodon only searches hashtags within your (an?) instance from my understanding. You need to already know who to follow or be in an instance where people are sharing that kind of information.

(☝️ I do not know this to be true first-hand but wouldn’t be surprised given the model)

And the IndieWeb already struggles with discoverability.

I don’t think TikTok can serve the same function — too easy in their algorithmic model to keep anything from spreading, and video is so much slower to produce and consume than text that you can’t follow as many separate accounts to get an understanding of what’s happening.

Facebook gave us genocide in Myanmar. They’re not going to be a help here. Instagram doesn’t seem built in a way that’s easy to follow trending topics. Their ephemeral posts (stories) aren’t easy to find or follow. I haven’t used it lately so I don’t know how Reels work.