Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission because victory for Louisiana requires you.
I'm your host, Lynda Woolard. We're on winter break, but still turning out mini pods.
We've talked a lot over the first four seasons about using social media, and Twitter in particular, for digital organizing. I feel compelled to acknowledge that the platform has changed under the new ownership of Elon Musk. And to date, this certainly seems to be for the worse.
That's not to say that you cannot still design actions around the platform, or reach out to press there. However, there's certainly been a move from some in the media to migrate to other social media sites, like Mastodon and Post. Personally, I'm setting up shop on some of those other spaces. But I haven't abandoned Twitter just yet, as it would take me a significant amount of time to build up the same connections on a new platform.
That said, the signs do look troubling for Twitter. And what I'll say to you is that if you're going to be organizing there, make sure you're making the effort to protect yourself. I'm not yet recommending making your tweets private, as if you don't have a big following, you're really cutting off potential reach to readers. But certainly, if you haven't set up two-factor authentication, I would recommend doing so. I would also be incredibly cautious with what you share via direct message, as tech experts have warned that there's a vulnerability there and DMs could be inadvertently made public someday. You should always operate under that assumption anyway.
And one big tip I can give you is that you do have some ability to curate what you see on your feed. If you're using the Twitter app, when you go to read tweets, you should always look above your feed and select "Following" instead of the default setting of "For You" because the default is currently set to increase your engagement by pushing tweets that are likely to outrage you. For example, the first tweet I see when opening the app now is almost always from Lauren Bobert. It's really difficult for me not to respond to her extremism. But every time you respond to someone like that, the algorithm learns that it's what you engage with, and it sends you more of that kind of content. You're not doing yourself any favors by getting into Twitter beefs with extremists and trolls. But even worse, you're actually helping their message reach more people. I can only beg you to not do that.
Some folks have suggested that they have a better experience on Twitter by using the desktop version, or even a third party service like TweetDeck. That may be something to consider if the ads get too wild, or you just want to have more control over what's showing up in your feed. My feed is certainly much better when I switch it from "For You" to "Following" in the app. Nonetheless, Musk has fired so many of the content moderators, dismantling the trust and safety team, that misinformation and hate speech are escalating on the site.
The Center for countering digital hate has identified a sharp increase in slurs against Black people, as well as homophobic and transphobic hate speech. They also report a rise in posts using disparaging terms about women. The Anti Defamation League shows an equally alarming spike in anti semitic tweets. This is Elon Musk's free speech initiative. So do be aware that this is happening and protect yourself. Block anyone who harasses you. Report and block anyone who threatens you. Just be aware that reports are said to be going unheard in many instances.
In addition to tweeting conspiracy theories himself, and welcoming back thousands of prominent domestic terrorists, white supremacists, Nazis, and violent misogynists, Musk has decided to cease flagging misinformation on COVID and plans to allow political advertising to make up for the loss of revenue he's suffering as advertisers back away from his chaos.
What's worse that we won't see here in the United States is that the deepest cuts to Twitter staff have been made outside of North America, where 75% of Twitter users live. Non English-speaking and local content moderators were already a company weakness, and these moves by the new Chief Twit are exponentially exacerbating that problem. It's no surprise then that we saw Brazil's own far right stage a similar coup attempt to Trump's January 6th insurrection. And entire teams monitoring Asian countries are now gone or nearly gone, causing political disinformation and strife to increase in real life.
Whether Tesla stakeholders will reel Musk in or force him to ditch the platform is, of course, an unknown, as is his ultimate goal for buying the site in the first place. But as long as he's at the helm, think of all the ways you need to protect your safety, your privacy, your data, and your mental health. Additionally, make sure you have an "in case of emergency break glass" backup plan, and prepare to find another digital organizing home if the site becomes too toxic or just outright fails. I'm holding out some kind of hope that Twitter will pull out of its nosedive, but I'm definitely packing a parachute.
Thank you for listening to Louisiana Lefty. Please follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Thank you to Ben Collinsworth for producing Louisiana Lefty, Jen Pack of Black Cat Studios for our Super Lefty artwork, and Thousand $ Car for allowing us to use their swamp pop classic "Security Guard" as our Louisiana Lefty theme song.