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On the censorship of journalists on Twitter

First published on Substack (Opens in a new window).

Controlling Love, Internet-Style

This morning, I woke up to find a substack in my inbox from Taylor Lorenz in which she notified readers that Elon Musk banned her on Twitter (Opens in a new window). If you don't know Taylor Lorenz (Opens in a new window): She's maybe the globally most well known journalist covering netculture for all kinds of mainstream news. She coined “OK, Boomer”.

Just yesterday I wrote about how the Twitter Files show a corporate cabal controlling viral streams on the central meme hub (Opens in a new window), surpressing conservative opinions, following a woke ideology, and the dilemma in the face of democratized media manipulation tactics. Now, the new billionaire owner arbitrary kicks journalists off the platform. I have bad taste in my mouth.

When asked by the journalists publishing those Twitter Files about why Musk bought the platform, he answered: "I thought this was important to the future of civilization (and) to protect the expansion of consciousness."

He's right about this: Viral streams, the memetic distribution of ideas, for more than ten years now form our collective imagination and our world, with all the good and bad that comes from it. Both the Obama- and Trump-eras were different outcomes of this new, sped up, democratized, frictionless, highly viral and visible formation process of the public opinion.

Clay Shirky in a famous speech once declared coordinating on the web as "love, internet style (Opens in a new window)". Memetics and virality back then when Shirky talked about this at Supernova 2007 just started to become a thing, after a "memetic winter" and a first wave of memetic thinking in the beginning 90s. Here's a transcript of that part of that talk:

What is happening in our generation right now is that we have a set of tools for aggregating things that people care about, in ways that increase both the scope and the longevity in ways that were unpredictable even a decade ago. The coordinating tools we now have -- and I'm not talking about anything fancy, I'm talking about mailing lists and Usenet and web logs and wiki's -- those tools turn love into a renewable building material. (...) Until recently the radius and half-life of that affection has been quite limited. With love alone you can get a birthday party together. Add coordinating tools and you can write an operating system. In the past we would do little things for love, but big things required money. Now we can do big things for love.

Taylor Lorenz just lost access to the maybe most crucial coordination tool for arbitrary reasons. In Shirky's vein, she lost access to the tool crucial for spreading "love, internet-style".

I have history with Twitter, as some of you might know. Good times, bad times, yada yada. I loved Twitter, and I still do. It's the closest thing we have to a hive mind, processing information in real time on a global scale, hilarious jokes and beautiful imaginary side by side with erratically chaotic and outright disturbing or violent thoughts followed by insights that give you a pause. You might even call it human.

Twitter, and social media as a whole, is the real world, and the old digital dualism of the digital as a seperate sphere of human existence as stated in the declaration of independence of cyberspace (Opens in a new window) does not hold. This stance is broken for a very long time now, without many people noticing. Hackers and trolls gonna have a hard time with this; anachronisms pop up in the weirdest places sometimes. And because this is the real world, it also contains all of the irrationalities and weird shit that make us who we are.

Controlling the viral streams -- controlling "love, internet-style" -- means controlling real life, what we see and care and talk about, the stuff that makes our world.

All those banned (and sometimes reinstated) journos have the biggest platforms elsewhere and they are not "silenced" by any stretch of the imagination. But Musk is surely exposed as the clown of free speech, and I do think that banning journalists from the collective hive mind is akin to censorship, private company or not. I’m looking forward to the day he bans (Opens in a new window) Bari Weiss for posting this (Opens in a new window).

Twitter still is the closest thing we have to a hive mind and banning people from the collective consciousness should not be done on a whim. Not for stating that "women are not men", not for reporting on the location of Elon Musks private jet.

I don't care if it's a secret cabal of activist employees controlling viral streams to influence the process of public opinion formation, or a rich free speech clown, or coordinated mobs colluding behind the scenes.

I want a banning process that follows the law, period.

Neither the old "woke" Twitter, nor the new "fake-libertarian" Twitter, provide that.

For now, I'll continue to use the platform (Opens in a new window) and cover the bad taste in my mouth with strawberry-vanilla-vape.

In any case, here's my Mastodon: (Opens in a new window).

Abigail Shrier (who also is/was part of the Twitter Files reporting) has a good piece on this with some other angles and perspectives: Real-Time Doxxing and the Littlest Musk (Opens in a new window).


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